Each of the ten chapters visits a different Greek community at a different moment during the twenty centuries of ancient Greek history. In the process, the book makes a powerful original argument: A cluster of unique qualities made the Greeks special and made them the right people, at the right time, to take up the baton of human progress.Read more...
Each of the ten chapters visits a different Greek community at a different moment during the twenty centuries of ancient Greek history. In the process, the book makes a powerful original argument: A cluster of unique qualities made the Greeks special and made them the right people, at the right time, to take up the baton of human progress. According to Herodotus, the father of history, what made all Greeks identifiably Greek was their common descent from the same heroes, the way they sacrificed to their gods, their rules of decent behavior, and their beautiful language. Edith Hall argues, however, that their mind-set was just as important as their awe-inspiring achievements. They were rebellious, individualistic, inquisitive, open-minded, witty, rivalrous, admiring of excellence, articulate, and addicted to pleasure. But most important was their continuing identity as mariners, the restless seagoing lifestyle that brought them into contact with ethnically diverse peoples in countless new settlements, and the constant stimulus to technological innovation provided by their intense relationship with the sea.
Expertly researched and elegantly told, Introducing the Ancient Greeks is an indispensable contribution to our understanding of the Greeks.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-04-14
- Reviewer: Staff
British classicist Hall (The Return of Ulysses) has composed a panorama of two millennia of Hellenic history, depicting Greeks as sea lovers who “felt trapped when they were far inland.” Starting with the Minoan and Mycenaean thalassocracies (a political system based on sea domination), Hall embarks on an odyssey toward the four long poems of Homer and Hesiod that offer “unforgettable scenes of fighting, sailing, and farming,” pausing to appreciate the three essential crops—“grains, vines, and olives”—at the heart of Greek identity. The meandering tour features a Who’s Who of Greek thinkers: scientists Thales and Anaximander; Heraclitus, first philosopher; Xenophanes of Colophon, “first skeptic”; Parmenides, founder of ontology; Zeno and his paradoxes; atomic theorist Democritus; comparative anthropologist Hecataeus; and Herodotus, historian and “Father of European Prose.” Greece’s “apex of creativity” in democratic Athens during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. segues to the marching Argeads of Macedonia under Alexander the Great, who bequeathed his world empire “to the strongest.” Hall limns how the Greeks “colonized the minds of their Roman masters,” since “cultural hegemony has more lasting effects than political dominance.” The prose is fluid and lambent, and though chapters are lengthy, readers will welcome the volume’s accessibility. Maps & illus. (June)