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review 2017-03-30 00:40
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea (Hinges of History #4)
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter - Thomas Cahill

The foundations of what we call Western culture today seemingly sprung from one place, Greece, yet that is not the entire truth.  Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, the fourth volume of Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History, examines and explains the structure of Greek society and ideas as well as the reasons why it has permeated so much of what we know of Western culture.  But Cahill’s answer to why the Greeks matter is two-fold.

 

Over the course of 264 pages of text, Cahill looks at all the features of Greek culture that made them so different from other ancient cultures.  Through the study of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Cahill examined the Greek’s view of war and honor in their grand war epic then how the same man expressed how the Greek’s expressed their feelings.  The contradiction of the Homeric works is part of a larger theme that Cahill explores in Greek poetry beyond Homer, politicians and playwrights, philosophers, and artists.  Throughout each chapter, Cahill examines what the Greeks did differently than anyone else as well as relate examples that many will know.  Yet Cahill reveals that as time went on the Greeks own culture started to swallow itself until stabilized by the Romans who were without the Greek imagination and then merged with newly developing Christian religion that used Greek words to explain its beliefs to a wider world; this synthesis of the Greco-Roman world and Judeo-Christian tradition is what created Western thought and society that we know today.

 

Cahill’s analysis and themes are for the general reader very through-provoking, but even for someone not well versed in overall Greek scholarship there seems to be something missing in this book.  Just in comparing previous and upcoming volumes of Cahill’s own series, this book seems really short for one covering one of the two big parts of Western Civilization.  Aside from the two chapters focused around the Homeric epics, all the other chapters seemed to be less than they could be not only in examples but also in giving connections in relevance for the reader today.

 

For the Western society in general, the Greeks are remembered for their myths, magnificent ruins, and democracy.  Thomas Cahill’s Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea does reveal that ancient Greece was more than that and why a culture millennia old matters to us today.  While not perfect, this book is at least a good read for the general reader which may be what Cahill is aiming for but for those more well read it feels lacking once finished.

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review 2017-03-07 06:34
History of Ancient Britain by Neil Oliver
A History of Ancient Britain - Neil Oliver

A well-written, easy-going, entertaining book that covers the history of Ancient Britain from the earliest humans, the Ice Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age and to the Roman occupation in broad strokes. There is not a great deal of technical language. The author discusses significant archaeological finds with passing mentions of such things as genetics and linguistics. I would have liked to read more about the languages, technological developments (other than the arrival of bronze and iron), changes in farming techniques, changes in human physiology over time etc. But, I suppose this type of information is rather difficult to glean from a small collection of bones and artifacts. The book includes two sections of colour photo inserts. It would have been helpful if the author had also included a map indicating the sites he discusses. None the less, I found the book to be interesting and informative.

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review 2017-01-01 14:17
Chronicles from Pre-Celtic Europe by Alewyn J Raubenheimer
Chronicles from pre-Celtic Europe: (Survivors of the Great Tsunami) - Alewyn J Raubenheimer

Chronicles from Pre-Celtic Europe takes a look at the contents of the Oera Lind Book and matches this up with modern archaeological, paleoclimatological, linguistical and genetic findings.  The book is well written and extremely interesting.  It provides food for thought and hopefully some additional research.

 

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review 2016-12-14 06:38
Suspected Ancient Celtic Paths by Graham Robb
The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe - Graham Robb

What Graham Robb needs is an independent researcher to verify his hypothesis. I can't determine if he is just being optimistic or if he has found proof of a continental wide pre-Roman, Celtic civilization road system. In any case, this book is interesting and provides a fascinating look at Celtic Europe civilization.

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review 2016-11-20 16:57
DNF - After the Ice by Steven Mithen
After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC - Steven Mithen

I picked up this book in the hopes of learning about what mischief humans got up to on all the continents after the ice age (20 000 BC) until the event of civilization (5000 BC) via archaeological, genetic and linguistic evidence.  Well, this book just didn't do it for me.  I read approximately half the book and had to stop.  Instead of a science/history book, the author wrote an annoying historical fiction novel with the odd bit of archaeological findings thrown in.  

The author has a habit of describing what he thinks life might be like at various places at various points in history, but he isn't always clear to differentiate between the information based on archaeological evidence and what is essentially the author's speculation.  In addition, the presence of an extremely annoying, silly and distracting fictional, time-travelling anthropologist ghost gimmick acting as eye-witness is included everywhere.  This fictional character was amusing int he first two chapters, but after that I kept hoping some neolithic shaman would exorcise him.

This annoying fictional character wonders around the prehistoric world in no particular order, other than dealing with each continent at a time.  This random wondering in time and space makes for jumbled and confusing reading, especially since no additional timeline diagram was provided.  In addition, many of the sites discussed in the book have similar findings and everything eventually blurres into one big smudge.  Pictures or diagrams would have been useful to differentiate these sites from one another.

In between the historical fiction accounts are jumbled-up, brief and rather vague archeological descriptions of selected sites, but genetic and linguistic evidence is mostly ignored, or currently outdated (the book was published in 2004).  

What facts I managed to pick out of what I read of this book were interesting, but the writing style was confusing, messy and after a while, rather boring.  I just couldn't keep my interest in this book going any further and decided to find something else to read.

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