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Publisher's Summary

Best selling history writer Thomas Cahill continues his series on the roots of Western civilization with this volume about the contributions of ancient Greece to the development of contemporary culture. Tracing the origin of Greek culture in the migrations of armed Indo-European horsemen into Attica and the Peloponnesian peninsula, he follows their progress into the creation of the Greek city-states, the refinement of their machinery of war, and the flowering of intellectual and artistic culture. Cahill credits the Greeks with creating Western militarism, shaping Christianity, and giving us the intellectual foundations on which we base everything from dictionaries to filing systems. Cahill ably demonstrates the fascinating uniqueness of ancient Greek culture, but also shows its startling reincarnations in contemporary contexts.
©2003 Thomas Cahill (P)2003 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"He writes in an easy, relaxed vernacular. And he enjoys himself.' (The New York Times) "In this elegant introduction to Greek life and thought, Cahill provides the same majestic historical survey he has already offered for the Irish, the Jews and the Christians...Cahill gracefully opens up a world that has provided so much of Western culture's characteristic way of thinking." (Publishers Weekly) "Extraordinarily knowledgeable, informal in tone, amusing, wide-ranging, smartly paced....A rich, lively presentation." (New York Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Mike
  • Seattle, WA, USA
  • 04-13-04

Really enjoyed this Audiobook; a good model

I have read the other Cahill books (the Jews, the Irish) and I've been very pleased with this one as an audiobook. The audiobook alternates between recitations from Homer and other epic Greek poets (Sapho, Euripedes), and Cahill's explanatory and contexual material. For an audiobook, this is excellent, since the poetry of Homer really deserves to be heard. As an audiobook format, this is nearly perfect material. This is not a hard core academic treatment; Cahill is very eclectic and undiscplined, sort of the Stephen Ambrose of the ancient world. I'm looking forward to the film 'Troy' in a few months, and this book is good background for the film.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Richard
  • Cologny, GenevaSwitzerland
  • 12-28-03

Super super

This is a really super summary of ancient Greek history. While thoroughly entertaining and educational, it allowed me to put into perspective all the scattered information I had gathered through a lifetime about classical Greece. Finally, I understood the mythology and the Greek writers and philosphers. All the bits of information I had never really understood came together and made enjoyable sense in Cahill's terrific book.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

If Homer and Olive Oil make you think of cartoons

....then this is probably not the book for you.

But for the serious student of any of the liberal arts( philosophy, politics, history, literature, sociology, fine arts, ect.) this is a must read. Another of his series of histories, Cahill has an encyclopedic grasp of the evolution of modern western society. Lively and at times risque, he gives a persuasive arguement for the study of the classics.

It's a good read.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Linda
  • Longview, TX, United States
  • 07-21-12

crossing the void of time

I've always wondered about the Greeks, the ancient world, the ways that humans have lived and interacted. I found this book a very credible interpretation of the distant past, well researched and thoughtfully presented.

Some parts of the book are easier listening than others but I found the listening to for the most part interesting and engaging. It seems to me to be a montage of views into the distant past, views that have enriched my understanding of the ancient world.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Niall
  • Boise, ID, USA
  • 05-07-06

I liked it!

Since I gave such a cranky review of Don't Know Much About Mythology...I need to express my enjoyment of Cahills Sailing the Wine Dark Sea. You know the juicy parts of Greek history you were sure your teacher was not discussing? They were tucked away here in Cahills book. No, I did not find the book enjoyable for it's more salacious chapters. I found it enjoyable because it was written with the passion of someone who really enjoys history and sharing. I thought the reader was pleasant to listen to also.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

The title: concrete. The approach: not so much.

The author implies in his title that he is going to answer the question: Why do the Greeks matter? And then he doesn't really answer it directly. For that reason, I was disappointed with the book.

In the Introduction, he writes, ". . . I assemble what pieces there are, contrast and compare, and try to remain in their presence . . . and then I try to communicate these sensations to my reader. So you will find in this book no breakthrough discoveries, no cutting edge scholarship, just, if I have succeeded, the feelings and perceptions of another age."

And that is exactly what you get. In my opinion, the worst thing about the book is the title.

That being said . . . he organizes his material in an interesting way: warrior (the illiad), wanderer (the odyssey), poet (other poetry), politician (drama), philosophy, and art & architecture. He begins each section with a myth that he feels embodies the points he wants to illustrate. Then he shows his reader how each artform is a reflection of the ancient greeks and their culture. It's all broadbrush strokes, very impressionistic.

It's a review of everything you already know. It's just a new way of organizing it. I think his quote from the Introduction says it all.

It is very well written, and it is very interesting. I was just looking for something with bullet points. There were no bullet points in this book.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

From theater to politics, Ancient Greece establish

If you could sum up Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea in three words, what would they be?

wine. sex. art.

Any additional comments?

The book also answered those questions that keep us all up at night, like "what's up with all the naked statues?" lol. This was the first book I'd read by Thomas Cahill. I appreciated the manner in which he presented the history of he Greece and the impact of Ancient Greek culture in modern times.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lacy
  • Houston, TX, USA
  • 07-11-06

Decent introductory material

This is not the book to listen to if you are looking for an in-depth review of Greek history and culture. If, however, like me, you are looking for a refresher on the Greeks before diving into serious history (or if you're a beginner looking for a good starting point to delve into the Greeks) then this is the book for you. I enjoyed the narrator.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mary
  • Madeira Park, BC, Canada
  • 12-10-05

Greek history without tears

I chose this one to atone for all the fun I had listening to Elmore Leonard's latest, but believe it or not, I had just as much fun with this saucy update on the ancient Greeks. How do you update the ancient Greeks? Well, by considering the extent to which they were homosexual. (Quite a bit.) By Showing how Lincoln and Kennedy borrowed their best ideas, and the Bush administration their worst. And yes, I got out my old copy of Jansen and it's true--Adonis does have a tiny penis. Cahill editorializes more than he analyses, and this is a very quick romp, but he knows his stuff and puts the big picture together in a very vivid way. My only complaint is that they chose a reader who rolls every R and declaims Cahill's colloquial and modern text like old-time Shakespeare.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • L
  • 03-30-08

Enjoy history

I've loved Cahill's books. History that's interesting and very readable.