Wooden Horse: From Odysseus to Socrates

Wooden Horse: From Odysseus to Socrates

by Keld Zeruneith
     
 

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The Wooden Horse is a powerful, provocative, and engaging new work-by perhaps the world's most insightful and acclaimed historian of the ancient world-that establishes the foundation for the Western world's conceptions of society, philosophy, and poetry by tracing the processes by which consciousness evolved from its roots in the mother cults of Ancient Greece, with… See more details below

Overview

The Wooden Horse is a powerful, provocative, and engaging new work-by perhaps the world's most insightful and acclaimed historian of the ancient world-that establishes the foundation for the Western world's conceptions of society, philosophy, and poetry by tracing the processes by which consciousness evolved from its roots in the mother cults of Ancient Greece, with its attendant matriarchal mode of thought, to be replaced by a patriarchal world of laws with a religious counterpart in the Olympian gods.

By examining Homer's great epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey-the West's most comprehensive picture of the heroic age, which document the fact that the Trojan War stalemate was resolved through strategic thinking (via Odysseus's invention of the wooden horse) rather than brute physical superiority-Keld Zeruneith explores this fundamental paradigm shift, which constituted nothing less than the liberation of the modern mind.

With his close analyses encompassing the poetry, drama, philosophy, and history of the ancient world, Keld Zeruneith casts new light on our cultural ballast and provides startlingly original insight into the psychological forces behind the genesis of European culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Danish literary critic and historian Zeruneith sets out to explain how conscious thought for Western civilization emerged in ancient Greece through the works of certain poets and philosophers. His examination begins with Homer, includes poets and tragedians such as Hesiod and Sophocles, and ends with Socrates. According to Zeruneith, it is important to start with Odysseus because it is through him that Homer presented a character relying on intellect rather that heroic strength. After Homer, writes Zeruneith, poets such as Archilochus began to move away from mythical subject matter to a style of poetry expressing internal thoughts. Also, pre-Socratic philosophers began to rely on empirical analysis rather than myths to explain the world. This emphasis on internal thought reached its culmination in the philosophy of Socrates, the highest goal of which is a life dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom. Overall, Zeruneith successfully combines historical analysis and philosophical reflection to show how the ancient Greeks' emphasis on intellect and rationality influenced our understanding of history and philosophy. Recommended for academic libraries.
—Scott Duimstra

Kirkus Reviews
A sweeping, accessible inquiry into what the makers of classical Greek literature were thinking about. Danish literary critic Zeruneith's mentalites approach is a bit old-fashioned; first-generation Freudians such as E. R. Dodds and mythologians such as Jessie Weston were worrying about the ancient mind decades ago, and even such comparatively recent studies as Julian Jaynes's The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and Bruno Snell's The Discovery of the Mind are 30 and more years old. Unlike many others, Zeruneith reads the original Greek sources and can make sense of etymologies; like them, though, he works from the anthropologically problematic assumption that it is possible to "read" another culture across not just space but time. The premise may be faulty-or it may not be-but the author's view that the Greeks had the same concerns as ours and that their literature was made up of "concrete interpretations of experience" has the virtue of making, say, Euripides' worries about reason's slide into "the chaos of the unleashed instinctual world" more comprehensible, the tale of Prometheus as a peacemaker punished for breaking the cycle of violence that much more affecting. Zeruneith pays attention to the smaller concerns of classical scholarship: the meaning of dolos, metis and ate; the structure of tragedy as trilogy; the parallel crises (in the Greek sense) that drive The Iliad. But he also works larger themes, such as the development of Greek thought from the Ionian epic to the comparatively modern works of Aristophanes and Plato-in the second of which we, to follow Zeruneith, must wonder just what those voices Socrates heard in his head were. A readable,vigorous survey-if a touch overlong-of a piece with modern works of classical scholarship such as Roberto Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (1993) and Anne Carson's Eros the Bittersweet (1986).

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590200414
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
09/30/2008
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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