All About: Glorious Greeks (All About... Book 2)

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The Greeks invented virtually every literary form, from history and biography to tragedy and comedy. They perfected ships with multiple banks of oars and began to ask questions about the nature of the world and our role within it. There is much here to entertain and inform the most enthusiastic classicist as well as the general reader, at whom its title suggests it is aimed.

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.

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.

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The Life of Greece (The Story of Civilization, #2) by Will Durant

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.


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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. 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. 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. Mar 16, Henry Demond rated it really liked it.

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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. 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.

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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. At about BCE, he starts talking about Sparta and contrasting that with Athens, and the author develops his real theme, "individualism leads to the destruction of the group, but gives creativity and progress".

This is when the book comes alive! Sparta gives perfect order, Athens gives birth to the individual's growth at some expense to the whole. This story is worth telling. The story of Greece is a metaphor for this dichotomy Plato and the Cave verse Aristotle's knowledge through observation and the values from the individual. In two different spots in the narrative the author clues you into this dichotomy. When he talks about the Book of Ezra and how the question of evil is answered by stating that a part of the universe can never understand the whole universe and the question should never even be asked.

The second time within the book he delves into Epicurean thought and explains that for the Epicurean the individual is only part of the whole and the group must be made of the parts as contrasted with a Stoic Philosophy that the group is understandable by the individual. The book is not without flaws. The first 8 or so hours is muddled and can easily be skipped. He spends way too much detail telling me about the Greek Plays.

He makes weird statements like, "even the Jew, the least superstitious of all people uses the word Mazel tov when greeting people". When the author writes in his own voice and ties the pieces together through his narrative, nobody covers history better.

In the end, Greece with it's individual city states gave us our heritage of valuing individual thought and the Romans will give us their structure for appreciating social order.

Introducing the Ancient Greeks review – the culture that shaped our world

I'll be looking forward to listening to Durant's spin on the Romans and their History. Nov 07, Marcus rated it liked it Shelves: In second volume of Durant's "History of Civilization" I am on much firmer ground and I've got to admit that I am rather disappointing in this book. Author's method of focusing on few prominent personalities and basing foundation of his story on narratives of their lives is fascinating, but I found that it left me unsatisfied on several occasions. Perhaps it's because I already posses significant amount of knowledge about the period and thought that Durant doesn't present whole picture.

Another t In second volume of Durant's "History of Civilization" I am on much firmer ground and I've got to admit that I am rather disappointing in this book. Another thing that bugged me throughout the book is Durant's partiality toward Athens. His disregard or perhaps I should even say, disdain for Sparta is almost palpable and the result is that this rather significant factor of Greek civilization gets rather short shrift in "The Life of Greece" on the few ocassions when it is remembered at all.

By the time the book reaches to Alexander and Diadochi period, limitations of Duran'ts methodology become more evident - it is impossible to provide clear overview of the process of hellenization without a lot of space dedicated to the interaction between different geographic areas and dynasties.

Durant's 'let's talk about few artists and thinkers and let the reader connect the dots dots'-approach just doesn't work with post-Alexandrian Euroasia and Africa. Thus in later part of the book, the reader without previous knowledge is subjected to a lithany of short biographies and tidbits of information that will probably provide little insight into the period. In one respect my admiration for the author is unchanged his skill in language and ability to express complex thoughts and ideas in simple and accessible way is simply superb. It is also rather refreshing to read a scholar of history who, being unfamiliar with concept of 'political correctness', isn't afraid to tell the reader his personal opinion about the discussed subject.

Based solely on its literary merits, it's a beautiful work of art and I would totally recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good book. Sep 14, Earl Grey Tea rated it liked it Shelves: Will Durant continuous he epic march through western history by tackling Ancient Greece. Like in his first book, the author goes into great details about people, events, social structures, literature, arts, science, philosophy, and other topics for different regions and time periods from the foundations of Greece to the deterioration of the Hellenistic Period.

There is a plethora of information and it can be extremely overwhelming. Many times, especially in the parts of literature or the arts, I Will Durant continuous he epic march through western history by tackling Ancient Greece. Many times, especially in the parts of literature or the arts, I got a general idea of what was happening in that time period in Ancient Greece, but I really could grasp or truly absorb all the details that Durant presented. I know every reader has their biased, but I felt that too much time was spent on the literature, arts, plays, and poetry of Ancient Greece and major events, people, and aspects of society could've been fleshed out more.

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I feel learning about the culture of Ancient Greece could've been better achieved - at least for me - with plenty of visual aids to reinforce what the author was explaining. Since I was listening to the audio book version of this book, I am not sure if these were present in the corporeal form of the book. One final thing that I enjoyed about the author was his quirky little comments throughout the book. When talking about non-religious people, he referred to them at one point as "people to industrious to be pious".

Overall Will Durant remains very objective in his work, but these little tidbits add a nice flare to his work. For the first time I read through one of Durant's voluminous volumes. A bit old fashioned now, this one was published in , it takes a "tsk tsk" attitude toward sexual liberties of the Greek world and is unashamedly a Eurocentric narrative. However, on the scale of the effort and breadth of subject I think it is a fantastic book almost an encyclopedia. It is mind boggling how much of what we know about Greece is through second-hand or even many-hand accounts.


  1. The Life of Greece;
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  4. Then again much of what we kn For the first time I read through one of Durant's voluminous volumes. Then again much of what we know about anyone else is through the Greeks. When you combine that with a not so hidden tendency of the Greeks to spun long tales, it makes you wonder if we know anything much at all. So much was lost to the vagaries of time and the prejudice of the classically minded scribes, but apparently a good deal of what survived went to the bonfires of a Christianity that had plagiarized most of its philosophy off of pagan Greece.

    History is as much as an affront to religion as science why do you think ISIS bulldozes the past? One of the most fascinating topics is the limited democracy of Athens. It was so hands-on and so impractical: Durant starts where he left off in the first book with the death of Alexander but he also goes back to pre-history and talks again about the roots of the Greek civilization. The Greeks originally were pirates and warriors. They also seemed to be the original Mafia, because they demanded protection money from farming communities to protect them.

    My favorite part is the story of Pericles and Aspasia. These two people are my favorite Greeks and I love learning more about them. Each section of history is broken down into the culture, people, religion, arts and architecture. We owe so much to the Greeks. They gave us Democracy and Dictators. They gave us our sentence structure, paragraphs, biography, history, and drama. They taught us mathematical properties and scientific solutions. They gave us medicine and oratory.

    Without the Greeks, we would have a very different world today. Jan 26, Shawn Thrasher rated it it was amazing. In used book stores, yard sales, or on some of the dustier shelves of libraries, you can often find them: It's often moldering way, which I always think is a shame, because every one of these books that I've read - I will admit I have not read them all - is excellently written and completely enjoyable. I can't authoritatively speak for the research; these are old books; The Life of Greece was published in , and surely s In used book stores, yard sales, or on some of the dustier shelves of libraries, you can often find them: I can't authoritatively speak for the research; these are old books; The Life of Greece was published in , and surely some new discoveries have happened in archaeology of ancient Greece since