New Book in Sea Library:

bbnb_thomascahill_1“Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter”
By Thomas Cahill in 2003
Anchor Books, 2004      

Since I read Homer’s epics one year ago, I’ve been hooked on Greeks. Part of my growing Sea Library mirrors that well. Latest addition is this superb research about Ancient Greek culture, their bodies, minds and souls. Historian Thomas Cahill writes so well, that the whole text, filled with lots and lots of profound knowledge, pours in you like a silky red wine.

I really love the way how Cahill organizes his book and names chapters.


No wonder Los Angeles Times called this book “The best introduction to classical Greek culture yet written. .. Learned, stylish and inspiring. … Well-informed, insightful and on the whole written in a sparkling style.” Seems it is hard not to use some wine related descriptions when conveying the feeling of this great book.

This ancient poem is one of many examples how fun the Greeks would be.

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea is one of many books written by Thomas Cahill under the title The Hinges of History. Series starts with How the Irish Saved Civilization, and my new book is Volume IV.

From the back cover of the book:

“In “Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea”, his fourth volume to explore “the hinges of history,” Thomas Cahill escorts the reader on another entertaining – and historically unassailable – journey through the landmarks of art and bloodshed that defined Greek culture nearly three millennia ago.

In the city-states of Athens and Sparta and throughout the Greek islands, honors could be won in making love and war, and lives were rife with contradictions. By developing the alphabet, the Greeks empowered the reader, demystified experience, and opened the way for civil discussion and experimentation – yet they kept slaves. The glorious verses of “Iliad” recount a conflict in which rage and outrage spur men to action and suggest that their “bellicose society of gleaming metals and rattling weapons” is not so very distant from more recent campaigns of “shock and awe”. And, centuries before Zorba, Greece was a land where music, dance, and freely flowing wine were essential to the high life. Granting equal time to the sacred and profane, Cahill rivets our attention to the legacies of an ancient and enduring worldview.”

Once again a joy to open a used book. You never know what traces of past readers you will find. This time a sheet of paper with vocabulary. It reminded me that I decided to learn Greek so I could read Homer’s epics in original one day. Maybe I should try?…
…As if reading my thoughts, Thomas Cahill in this book writes: “Though ancient languages are notable for their modest vocabularies (the world still being young and the phenomena to be named far fewer than what we face today), Greek is an exception: the abundance of words in a dictionary of ancient Greek is staggering not only to the student but to the expert. (..) Unlike the Jews, the Greeks could never stop talking, and as is always the case with such people, their favorite subject was themselves. (..) Greek proceeds in a naturally discursive style, constantly turning this way and that in elegant riffs and delicate variations, like a spring river running to tributaries, curling into rivulets, bubbling into pools. (..) No wonder that when Virginia Woolf went mad, she heard the birds singing in ancient Greek, the language her father had taught her; and when she heard them, many years later, singing again in the same tongue, she knew it was time to depart and, filling her pockets with stones, walked into the Ouse.” Oh, well…

Is it about the sea and sailing? Yes and no. It’s about the flesh and bones of Greek identity, including the Mediterranean sea, of course, wandering Odysseus who wants to get home and many other hints that I found very helpful for my own voyage. I also loved how Thomas Cahill writes about James Joyce’s works “Ulysses” and “Portrait of a Young Man” and weaves in many other references from literature of 18th, 19th and 20th century. He is such a good story teller that you feel like having a great night with a good friend and talks that make time fly by. And you realize once again that those ancient beings are the same people as we are just in old school clothes, that’s all.



“Whatever we experience in our day, whatever we hope to learn, whatever we most desire, whatever we set out to find, we see that the Greeks have been there before us, and we meet them on their way back.” 

Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea

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