It's All Greek to Me: From Homer to the Hippocratic Oath, How Ancient Greece Has Shaped Our World

Overview

Why is ancient Greece important? Because, quite simply, if we want to understand the modern Western world, we need to look back to the Greeks. Consider the way we think about ethics, about the nature of beauty and truth, about our place in the universe, about our mortality. All this we have learned from the ancient Greeks. They molded the basic disciplines and genres in which we still organize thought, from poetry to drama, from medicine to philosophy, from history to ...

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It's All Greek to Me: From Homer to the Hippocratic Oath, How Ancient Greece Has Shaped Our World

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Overview

Why is ancient Greece important? Because, quite simply, if we want to understand the modern Western world, we need to look back to the Greeks. Consider the way we think about ethics, about the nature of beauty and truth, about our place in the universe, about our mortality. All this we have learned from the ancient Greeks. They molded the basic disciplines and genres in which we still organize thought, from poetry to drama, from medicine to philosophy, from history to ethnography.

Packed with useful facts, including a timeline, a "mythology for dummies," a who's who, a guide to Homer's epics, and a handy map for those struggling to know their Lemnos from their Lesbos, It's All Greek to Me is an entertaining and insightful tour through the world of the ancient Greeks. Why are some laws Draconian? What is an Achilles' heel? Why were the Spartans spartan? Charlotte Higgins provides these answers and more, arming average readers with the knowledge they need to understand the Greeks and their tremendous contributions to our lives. This book aims to unlock the richness of a fascinating culture and place it where it should be—in the mainstream of life.

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Beard
“In It’s All Greek to Me, Charlotte Higgins does a great job in conveying the heart of Greek culture to a general audience. Perfect for the stocking.”
Phillip Pullman
“[It] is so readable, with a directness and clarity that’s enormously engaging. Every generation needs to rediscover the Greeks: and Charlotte Higgins has provided this one with a wonderful map of the territory and all kinds of help on the way. . . . What an excellent book.”
A.N. Wilson
“A completely excellent guide to Greek poetry, drama, philosophy, history and culture. Philip Pullman has said that he would put it into every school and every teacher-training course and I’d echo that. . . . Highly entertaining as well as informative.”
Sunday Times (London)
“A highly entertaining bluffer’s guide to Greek culture, philosophy, and politics.”
The Telegraph
“Higgins delivers digestible précis and peppy plot summaries. . . . A love letter to ancient Greece.”
The Guardian
“With a marvellous display of knowledgeable enthusiasm and a keen talent for compression, (Higgins) shows just precisely why the Greeks matter.”
Time Out London
“Higgins’s sparky style makes her subject matter so palatable that… her readers may not feel the need to seek out the classics because she has distilled them all too well.”
Scotland on Sunday
“Higgins takes on classical Greek, covering politics, barbarians, love, epic and ethics, all done with panache and sly wit.”
Kirkus Reviews
An animated, sometimes breathless, hyperbolic cruise across the Aegean of ancient Greek history and culture. The Guardian arts correspondent Higgins (Latin Love Lessons, 2007), whose enthusiasm for the classics began at Oxford, presents an effervescent text that's initially affecting but eventually becomes affected. "Homer is a rip-roaring read," writes the author, Oedipus the King is "the greatest detective story" and Herodotus' Histories "one of the most wonderfully entertaining, enlightening, exciting books you could have the good fortune to pick up." Still, the book has plenty of useful aspects, perhaps most notably in the rich back matter, comprising an alphabet, map, timeline, key to important Greek gods and notables and a sampling of Greek sayings and words (and root words) that still inhabit our language (tantalizing, Draconian). Anyone reading The Iliad or any other of the Greek classic texts for the first time would do well to keep the section bookmarked. Higgins covers Homer, the playwrights, the historians, the nascent scientists and the philosophers, and she gives special attention to the warriors, wars and other aspects of the ancient world that continue to make us uncomfortable-e.g., homosexuality, women's rights, slavery. Periodically, she pauses to offer mini-disquisitions on topics as varied as the plots of The Iliad and The Odyssey, the architecture of the Parthenon and the uneven verisimilitude of the 2007 film 300. Higgins wisely notes that speaking collectively of "the ancient Greeks" is misleading because there were hundreds of independent city states in the region at the time. Wars and invasions temporarily unified them; civil wars bloodied and weakened them.Though the author praises the Greek thinkers effusively, she also notes that they got quite a bit wrong-as when Aristotle confidently described how bison spray pursuing dogs with projectile dung. A primer, lavish lecture and love song. Agent: Peter Straus/Rogers, Coleridge & White
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061804007
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/9/2010
  • Pages: 229
  • Sales rank: 392,550
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Charlotte Higgins read classics at Balliol College, Oxford. She has worked for the Guardian newspaper for over a decade in various guises, from 2001 as classical music editor and from 2008 as chief arts writer. She began her career in journalism at Vogue. She is also the author of Latin Love Lessons. She lives in London.

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