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Book review- Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea

I had heard a lot about this book before I bought it, both positive and negative; how the author made many assumptions, it was a fun romp through early history, drew parallels and causality between ideas in history not previously connected. Seeing it at a book fair for a really low price I figured whatever the experience of reading it turned out to be, it was worth the cost.
 Turned out to be a good investment. I started this book at the beginning of the year, and the only reason it took me so long to finish it is that I have a habit of reading multiple books at a time; recently, however, I have been trying to finish all of my half-read books before starting any new ones, and once I got back into Wine-Dark Sea I couldn't put it down. The author, Thomas Cahill, reads like a lecture from a favorite professor, one who is passionate about his subject and wants to share what he loves with his students. It's not just a straightforward history, he breaks it up with categories like "The Warrior: How to Fight", and "The Artist: How to See".

There's also more source material than the writings of philosophers and early historians; there's poetry, sculpture, funeral orations, plays, and at times Cahill's own words take on a mesmerizing kind of cadence not unlike poetry themselves. Even when quoting the usual philosophers he doesn't stop there and includes lesser-known writers and thinkers of the time. So packed with information is the book that the reader, upon finishing, may find themself wondering how it was all contained in such a relatively slim volume, because while it is a sort of "Ancient Greek History for Dummies", it presents more than just the bare-bones essentials.

Quick in pace, broad in scope, easy to read without any condescension (you may still find yourself looking up a word or two), the experience of this book is like sitting at the feet of a beloved family friend, and hearing a great story, that just happens to be true. The only criticism to be made is that at times the author's own opinions about modern politics, culture, and belief show through rather forcefully, but that is also in the nature of storytelling. By the end you feel like you know him, and the Greeks, personally.


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