Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill

Should you read or listen to Sailing the Wine Dark Sea by Thomas Cahill and fall under its spell, here is what you should do:
  • Book a flight to Athens.
  • Read the Iliad and the Odyssey in the days before the trip.
  • Read the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes on the plane.
  • Visit the Agora below the Acropolis to walk where Socrates walked.
  • Catch a bus to Delphi. Read Herodotus as you speed through the plains and hills. Take lots of pictures out your window.
  • Stand at the center of the universe listening for the Delphic Oracle.
  • Take a cruise of the Greek Islands. Read the lyric poets in the Greek sunshine.
  • Like Odysseus, take the long way home.

Cahill loves his subject, and his enthusiasm is infectious. I loved hearing about all the Greek gods, heroes, poets, sculptors, philosophers, dramatists, and politicians. I also enjoyed learning stray facts. Did you know that "symposium" means "drinking party?" Did you know the Athenians had to remove a peak and level the Acropolis before they built its campus of sacred buildings? Cahill peppers the book with interesting stories and observations.

He also tells you the bad stuff. Slaves and women were treated horribly. War was brutal. Citizens were ostracized. As centuries passed, the civilization declined

Because the Greeks laid the foundation for the educational, political and cultural institutions we have today, and our ways of thinking are much like theirs, we should learn as much as we can about them. This book is a good starting place.

Cahill, Thomas. Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter. New York : Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, c2003. ISBN 0385495536

1 comment:

Nonanon said...

I LOVE Thomas Cahill. I'm not a huge history reader but he really makes it come alive for me--I have very fond memories of painting my living room while listening to "HOw the Irish Saved Civilization." And I could just repeat the title of this book to myself all day long...I love the picture that "sailing the wine dark sea" conjures. Beautiful.