And no wonder they were so obsessed with the sea: She is especially good on the nuance that thrives in every corner of the Greek world. The humiliation is so complete that it provokes the entire family to commit suicide. Hall covers her subject in such detail that we even discover the impact Milesian geography might have had on its philosophy. Topics History books The Observer. Greece Europe Classics and ancient history reviews.
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I started the first chapters, then jumped to the greats - The Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer - I re-read Politics by Aristotle and The Republic by Plato, I added the rest of the dialogues to my to read list and got introduced to The Literature of the Golden Age, great books to be read. From the rise of Crete, The Troy war, the Legends, the story of Athens, the Greek mythology, the democratic experience, the Persian wars, Sparta and its great history, Macedonia and Alexander the great!!! The rise and fall of the Civilization. And from history to philosophy and dialectic To Science, Math, Geometry and Astronomy.
Till the coming of The Roman Empire! Our Greek Heritage Civilization does not die, it migrates; it changes its habitat and its dress, but it lives on. Our state is pregnant, shortly to produce A rude avenger of prolonged abuse. The commons hitherto seem sober-minded, But their superiors are corrupt and blinded. The rule of noble spirits, brave and high, Never endangered peace and harmony.
The supercilious, arrogant pretense Of feeble minds, weakness and insolence; Justice and truth and law wrested aside By crafty shifts of avarice and pride; These are our ruin,! Idealism offends the senses, materialism offends the soul; the one explains everything but the world, the other everything but life. The excess of liberty, whether in states or individuals, seems only to pass into slavery.
Deforestation and the abuse of the soil, the depletion of precious metals, the migration of trade routes, the disturbance of economic life by political disorder, the corruption of democracy and the degeneration of dynasties, the decay of morals and patriotism, the decline or deterioration of the population, the replacement of citizen armies by mercenary troops, the human and physical wastage of fratricidal war, the guillotining of ability by murderous revolutions and counterrevolutions. I took a long break from Will Durant after finishing Volume I: About 40 pages actually.
So I went to read The Iliad. That took me a long time on the 10 page a day plan. I intended to read The Odyssey, but kept putting it off. I must credit Kazantzakis for giving me a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the Greek people and I suppose I should also give a nod to Eugenides and Middlesex. My personal reading odyssey finally led me back to The Life of Greece. I buckled down, reading a small section a day for months with frequent breaks and finally got to the end. It was worth all the work it took to read it.
I feel I could not complete my quest to be truly well-read without reading at least some history. Because of Durant's self-professed goal to approach history by covering the entire expanse of civilization from government, religion and philosophy to the arts, daily life and commerce as well as the progressions of wars and leaders these volumes have given me a broad overview that now informs my reading and my understanding of current events. He has unlocked for me the old conundrum: At some point in my schooling I was forced to read The Golden Fleece.
I did not get it at all. All I remember is some guys called argonauts and "rosy fingered dawn. Just as a small example, I learned that Aristotle was tutor to Alexander the Great during Alexander's teen years. I understand why we were made to learn about Greece, Plato, Aristotle, etc in school. The template for modern civilization was formed in Greece, a true crossroads of East and West. Mankind is still playing on that stage. I have begun Volume III: Caesar and Christ and am determined to press on until I get through the series.
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Sep 13, Nick Gibson rated it really liked it. Eminently readable - Durant's prose is clear without being repetitive and imaginative without being purple. I'm sure specialists can find enough faults in his narrative, maybe even generalists armed with the discoveries of the intervening eight decades. But Durant's strength is as a whetstone. The reader cannot help but be fascinated by what he reads. This is mesmerizing history in the tradition of Herodotus and Paul Johnson, not Thucydides and Gibbon.
It helps to have a solid set of worldview ch Eminently readable - Durant's prose is clear without being repetitive and imaginative without being purple.
The Life of Greece
It helps to have a solid set of worldview chops before reading Durant, though. He and his wife? It's hard to tell on these early volumes before the double credit are a tricky blend, combining staunch Jesuit traditionalism with socialist sympathy, comparative religion, and proto-feminism. Many times he criticizes and repudiates only to - begrudgingly, in the final analysis - admit that the conservative old institutions and standards had it right all along.
As far as the book's content, I was relieved and thankful to at last digest a well-styled general history of the Greeks after piecing together an image of the civilization through endless classical references in other books and essays. I was also amazed at just how much of our modern day life is inherited in one way or another from the Greeks. There are distinctions and differences, naturally, but to read Greek history is to walk through a hall of mirrors.
Can't wait to follow Durant to Rome. Nov 02, Kendra rated it it was amazing Shelves: This series is a long one, and I haven't made it very far, but the journey has been wonderful. This book was an incredible adventure into one of the most fascinating civilizations to have ever existed - one that we see the influences of strongly to this day. Durant ends the book by saying, "Civilization does not die, it migrates; it changes its habitat and its dress but it lives on.
The decay of one civilization, as of one individual, makes room for the growth of another; life she Wow. Greek civilization is alive; it moves in every breath of mind that we breathe. Dec 11, Steve R rated it it was amazing. Another monumental work from Durant, this time covering the history, politics, philosophy, literature, science, economics and art of the Greeks down to their subjugation by the Romans just before the time of Christ.
The dominant impression is one of the intense variety: The emphasized individuality as in their independent city states but also united in numerous Leagues or Confederacies, and allowed a Another monumental work from Durant, this time covering the history, politics, philosophy, literature, science, economics and art of the Greeks down to their subjugation by the Romans just before the time of Christ. The emphasized individuality as in their independent city states but also united in numerous Leagues or Confederacies, and allowed an Alexander to become the closest thing the world had then seen to an all powerful emperor.
They developed philosophy in its epistemological, political, ethical and scientific realms, building on the legacies of Plato and Aristotle to the hedonist but internally logical ideals of Epicurus and the stoicism of Zeno. Their colonies stretched from Spain to India, from central Europe to northern Africa. Their literature was dominated by the drama, especially those of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes, but also branches out to include the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides. Its art includes the architecture of the Parthenon and the delicate pottery that inspired Keats.
Unfortunately, little of their pictorial art survives, a fate shared by their music. Its science includes the geometry of Euclid and the practical inventions of Archimedes. With so many eminent thinkers and so many significant developments, it is little wonder that one can claim that no sphere of human endeavor in the modern world was not initiated or experienced mature growth in ancient Greece.
In a sense, the book is actually too long: Such multifaceted richness of human development has rarely if ever been achieved by any people or peoples in the history of the world and its civilizations. Feb 23, Joy rated it really liked it. The historically sensitive traveler stands appalled at the antiquity of these living towns; but today's residents, engrossed in the tasks of their own generation, are undisturbed by the depth of the centuries that lie silent beneath them. Pheidias excused himself, doubtless with a twinkle in his eye, on the ground that the gods could see it; but the gods were dying while he carved.
He gathered about him scientific observations sufficient for an encyclopedia, and then tried to force them into the Platonic mold in which his scholastic mind had been formed. He refuted Plato at every turn because he borrowed from him on every page. We get sections on the spread of Greek colonies, and then the collisions of the various Greek empires with Egypt, Persia and Rome.
My favorite chapter analyzed the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides and how they fit into their culture as it changed. Apr 13, Bob Nichols rated it really liked it. There's history and there's history. Those who read history have their favorite historians. So much so, I went out and purchased the full eleven volume set, despite my recollection when he completed it many years ago that "that was a lot of history" i.
In the West, we start with Greece, but Durant provides a fuller historical context, providing the various cultural streams that preceded Greece and made Greece, Greece. For example, Durant writes, "The Greeks took elephants as well as mysticism from India. Thank you for your unseen but ever felt companionship. Feb 08, Jp rated it really liked it. I learned a lot about the origins of certain words and basically got a good enough overview of Greek History that I could probably call someone out if they were talking about it and being totally ignorant.
The only thing I don't like is when he conjectures about day to day life. Also, this book is probably a little dated, I'm sure there have been new archaeological discoveries or rediscovered works hopefully. One of the coolest things you learn about is how class struggles have always been aro I learned a lot about the origins of certain words and basically got a good enough overview of Greek History that I could probably call someone out if they were talking about it and being totally ignorant.
One of the coolest things you learn about is how class struggles have always been around and follow a pattern. I think Will Durant's purpose is to show us that nothing is truly new When I read the first book in this volume he said that even the Egyptians, who were as old to the Greeks as the Greeks are to us, thought this. The first volume of Durant's Story of Civilization was a disappointment, except perhaps for the brief coverage of Gandhi, but here, with volume two, the series takes off and maintains its quality throughout the remaining volumes.
Durant's background interest appears to have been philosophy. He is particularly strong on that, but otherwise this serves as a very good introduction to ancient Greece, its history and culture. Apr 04, Mister Jones rated it really liked it. It took me more than a year to slog through it. I'm astonished that a human being could actually write a tome chock full with information about such a great and fascinating time and culture. Admittedly there were times that I thought I would give up in some of the less interesting parts, but I feel I am a better man and reader for not doing so.
Almost want to read it again, but I'll wait until I turn Mar 30, Cliff Merrill rated it it was amazing. I have not read a more brilliant book about history. And I was hesitant to start reading this great work because, at this stage of my life, I avoid lengthy books filled with details.
However, Durant's excellent presentation of the cornerstone of our Western civilization, and his artful use of language, make this book an essential if you are interested in history. I have always been fascinated with the ancient Greeks, and reading this book rekindled that fascination. Durant describes their profou I have not read a more brilliant book about history. Durant describes their profound influence, that surrounds us today, in reference to philosophy, politics, virtually every science or academic subject math, biology, anatomy, medicine, astronomy, geography, engineering, architecture , and all the arts sculpture, painting, drama, literature and more.
And after the Greeks were conquered by the Romans, their great achievements were maintained and spread further through the Roman Empire. It is ironic that, during the "Dark Ages," much of what the Greeks had given would have perished if not saved by the great Islamic academics during that age. Durant describes the origin and reasons for these contributions by the ancient Greeks.
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Much of Greece is segmented by mountains and the sea, with numerous islands as part of their living space. Various city states evolved, each with their own ideas about how to live.
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Yet they were also united in their common language, love of health, art, beauty, civic engagement, participation in governance, love of debate, courage to defend themselves, willingness to unite in the face of grave danger Persia. Maybe their most significant characteristic was curiosity and their willingness to challenge superstitions. By nature of their geography and often lack of agricultural resources, they were often traders and great sailors, looking for economic opportunities.
So they were exposed to many other peoples and cultures. They were willing to absorb and use what they learned. Their accomplishments were even more amazing when considering almost constant conflict and war between Greek city states, and wars with external enemies. It may be that it was the internal conflict, more than anything, that led to their demise, even before they were conquered by the united Romans.
Durant does not paint a totally rosy picture of the ancient Greeks. They were not without serious and ongoing faults. Slavery was an accepted institution, as well as the subordinated role of women.
Extreme cruelty, eugenics, and labeling of many foreigners as "barbarians" was widespread. Conquest, piracy, and slaughter was often justified. And hypocrisy in applying their lofty standards was not uncommon. Our admiration for the Greeks does not overshadow the accomplishments and debt we owe to the many other great and small cultures, from the rest of the world, throughout the history of humankind.
They are many and we are learning more and more about those contributions. It's just that we know so much about the Greeks and have used them as a model in the Western World, and that model has spread through much of our planet. I guess we could also say that the Greeks were some of the greatest self promoters of all times.
And I think they would take that as a compliment. May 23, Patsy rated it it was amazing. I wish I could remember more of what I read in this book, this marvelous contribution to knowledge. The main thing I gained from this reading is summed up in the preface and the epilogue, both of which point out our debt to Greek civilization. We know its defects [he lists some, such as slavery, treatment of woman, wars, lack of moral restraint, corrupt individualism, failure to unite liberty with order and peace]. But those who cherish freedom, reason, and beauty will not linger over these blemishes.
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Mar 16, Henry Demond rated it really liked it. Life of Greece, vol. That way, I could most likely keep my SEO ranked high. Instead, alas, a busy schedule only succeeds at keeping me rankled. The name of the book is Life of Greece, and it was written 80 years ago by a fellow most any historian would perk his ears up at the mere mention: And it just so happened that a couple of months ago, I was craving me some Ancient Greece Take some olive pesto, feta, a little Socrates mixed with Demosthenes, some Ouzo, you get one free-thinking mouthful.
Now, before I tell you how credible and fascinatingly engaging Life of Greece is, let me stand on my anti-Progressivist soap-box for just a New York School-minute. It is an academically sound ethic to leave the personal stuff out of criticism. Will and Ariel were Socialists insert [inhalation sound of incredulity]! Will Durant, per the Will Durant Foundation website, was originally matriculated through seminary school, as his parents had every intention of turning him into a Jesuit.
So Will became somewhat active in Socialist circles, turning his criminally young wife in that direction, and teaching Philosophy wherever he could get paid. The writing and story-telling are colorful and engaging enough, yet one can draw their own conclusions about impact and cause-and-effect of the presented historical events. I hope to talk more about Will Durant and his History of Civilization series for future shows. In the meantime, I have to live out my own personal and private histories and just keep marching on.
Apr 15, Shawn rated it liked it. This is the second of eleven volumes that cover The History of Civilization , which I have been listening to intermittently during the commute to and from work. These volumes are exceedingly long. There are more than 32 hours of audio in this volume alone, which is of such meticulous detail that one has to take periodic breaks from the monotony.
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Nevertheless, there is much to gain from this invaluable historical overview. It was about two years ago when I finished the first volume Our Oriental He This is the second of eleven volumes that cover The History of Civilization , which I have been listening to intermittently during the commute to and from work. It was about two years ago when I finished the first volume Our Oriental Heritage ; and with 9 more volumes to go I may be an old man before I finally conclude all the volumes. I leave this study of Greek history with the realization that Greece marks the beginnings of the major East-West conflicts.
Listening to both Our Oriental Heritage , and now The Life of Greece , has illuminated the vast cultural differences between these two geographies. These cultures remain in conflict to this very day, both seeking dominance and imposition of its way of thinking ahead of the other. The terrorism of Xerxes and the rampages of Alexander are still going on today, just with new heads of state and frighteningly devastating modern technology. For Westerners, Greek history is the bright morning of its civilization and the Hellenic influence is still strong among us today, even in many ways that we never imagine.
The Greeks are the precursors of western intellectual thought and from them arose profound revelations in philosophy, art, medicine, literature, theatre, etc. People are still reading Plato and the other Greek philosophers to this very day. The recognition of the Logos emerged in Greek thinking, before it became integral to early Christian philosophy. Similarly, Greek intellectuals provided the seeds for the later emergence of Enlightenment thinkers. I can only recommend this for someone committed to getting through it. Its sort of like golf.
Occasionally you laugh out loud when you hear a particularly amazing historical revelation, like hitting a good golf shot. Other times, you find yourself struggling just to keep your head out of the rough and cognizant of the direction the fairway is leading. But, like golf, you keep coming back again and again, because the value of suddenly profound and insightful revelations make it all worthwhile.
Jul 21, Gary rated it really liked it. Durant is history for those who do not like history. He covers the topic mostly by using a thematic approach tied with an overriding narrative. It takes the author a while to get into his own voice, but when he does the book comes alive and the history and the wisdom of the Greeks will live within the listener. He muddles his way through the first six chapters by speculating about pre-Homeric Greece and than using Homer as an authoritative source for history.
It's worth wading through those eight Durant is history for those who do not like history. It's worth wading through those eight or so hours to get to the real story.