Based on a thorough study of Greek life and civilization, of Greek literature, philosophy, and art, The Greek Way interprets their meaning and brings a realization of the refuge and strength the past can be to us in the troubled present. Miss Hamilton's book must take its place with the few interpretative volumes which are permanently rooted and profoundly alive in our literature.
©1958 Edith Hamilton; (P)1994 Blackstone Audiobooks
I heard of this work in a quite different audible book, Landslide by Jonathan Darman, about Reagan and LBJ in the mid-1960s. In that book it was related that, after JFK was shot, brother Robert found much solace in The Greek Way. (I'm fascinated by the whole Kennedy saga, though by no means a fan of the main characters.) What the heck, thought I, I can always use a bit of solace, and a bracing visit with my western heritage, etc., by an unapologetic author, as a contrast to the cheap shots constantly heard nowadays. And I suppose this fills the bill. It is in its way probably a mirror of the sort of Homeric, heroic tone one might have heard directly from these intensely enthusiastic Greeks. And there is much artistry and beauty in it, if a big helping of that is what is desired. It depends on what a listener wants. Edith Hamilton was no slouch at composing a sentence or bringing some uplifting sentiment or sparkling and inspiring image to these scenes. I guess I am spoiled at present though, preferring a less strident ease of declaring what is what (and leaving out various troubling facts known better to more modern scholarship); I want the whole story and a balanced one, and I like a more patient scholarship that builds its case with implacable logic.
But I do consider it vital that, in my own university days, I had at least a few great professors of this sort. Because that energizes everything else, all the later paths that can open to a person who has exulted in these sorts of things. A LOVE of scholarship, I owe to earlier exposure to people like this.
I like to read Edith Hamilton. However, if your annoyed by the "compare and contrast" method of scholarship (I think its very outdated myself) you wont like this. Mrs Hamilton has a strong need to compare cultures and thus extract the truth shes looking for from the contrasts. The problem is that the generalizations she must inevitably make for this type of approach can be wide sweeping and fairly wild, and thus the conclusions she reaches based on these generalizations become merely subjective. Often you may find yourself disagreeing with her.
One area in particular I disagree with is Hamilton's conclusions regarding Ancient Egypt. Explaining the Egyptians preoccupation with death (as she puts it), she attributes this to the fact that Egypt was mostly a place of misery and toil, thus producing in the culure a certain yearning for the next life and a certain salvation in death. Whereas, on the other hand, you have Hamilton's Greeks, portrayed here as a youthful, playful and life affirming culture, centered on the here and now.
This is wildly inaccurate. The Greeks themselves -Solon, Euclid, Pythagoras, Plato, Herodotus-who traveled there at different times, and acknowledged Egypt as the richer, deeper and more profound culture in every case. The Greeks who made their way to Egypt returned to "revolutionize" their respective fields of science. However, they were merely translating the knowledge of the Egyptians. The Greeks saw themselves more as children when they compared themselves to the Egyptians. All of her sciences had their origins in Egypt, the Greek Gods themselves had their origin in Egypt. Egypt was several thousand years old by the time the Greeks came into their ascendancy. Far from misery and toil, the Egyptian land was abundant, the society was rich and vibrant. Why do you thing Egypt was the breadbasket for the entire Mediterranean even into Roman times? She was the hub of Mediterranean trade. The view of slaves toiling to build the pyramids is so outdated to be comical now days. Egyptian concepts around death were not the attempts of a desperate people to escape the chains of misery, but a highly developed science of the soul which revealed a deep understanding of the nature and immortality of the soul and the possibility for perfection in this life and the next.
Anyway, sorry for the rant, but that's one example that I can provide to show the dangers of this type of compare and contrast history. Still, its a fun listen. Nadia May is great, the book is immersive, and there is still a lot of great info in here.
Shes great always
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being a person profoundly interested in the history which resulted in the oposing directions that eastern foundational world view and the western christian mysticism world view had come about,this book is a treasure..let me explain....Our world today labels anyone who publicly compares one culture[if western] as being higher or more true or correct IN TRUTH over another ,as a bigot and uncompationate...If the comparison is IN FACT correct then this political correctness actualy destroys any acces to TRUTH..it may be kind to someones feelings but the hight of cruelty to all who seek reality...this being said,I simply could not understand why the eastern religions all have at root this terrible world view of non cosmic reality and the evil of personality and so forth,,I know these men and women are not bad or evil people..so Why give in to this wretched view...my attempts in modern writers to find the history of these nations resulted in there cowardly hiding any comment at all on this.....until edith Hamiltons great histoical books...Being she wrote before todays tyranical political correctness and her obvious love of western attitudes,clear and honest insights flow wonderfuly.I have found this and her other books the finest written on early western civilisation as compaired to the poor eastern civilisations.please understand,it is all the countlesss people who have had to live in these fatalistic civilisations that my heart weeps for.thank God they are begining to be freed from the terrible spiritual bondage that pantheism inevitably results in..For all the westerners who Chose to run to the east for spiritual reality I can only say enjoy the fruits of your choices.....Anyway, all who love the joy of creation and personality and life lived to its full with all its colors,you will love this and all this writers books....enjoy
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