Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization
Bruce Thornton
$24.95 / Hardcover
 

 

 

ISBN 1893554031
Encounter Books
History / Classical Greece

In Greek Ways, Bruce Thornton has written a book that is for our time what Hamilton’s was for a prior era—a reassertion of the Greek’s crucial role in creating Western civilization and in developing the core concepts that continue to shape our assumptions about human identity and human good.  Why must the Greeks be defended anew, particularly when their ideas about personal freedom, the ideal of consensual government, and the rational pursuit of knowledge have been so clearly vindicated by recent history? In contrast to Edith Hamilton, who educated generations of readers about the debt we owe the handful of Greek city-states that developed the “spirit of the West” some 2500 years ago, a coterie of contemporary academics, following the fads of multiculturalism and postmodernism, have subjected the Greeks—and Western civilization itself—to a wholesale reinterpretation.  Didn’t the Greeks oppress their women and keep slaves—though the position of a Greek slave might be preferable to that of a modern wage earner—even while talking about liberty and equality?  Didn’t they perfect the art of war while talking about the art of politics?  Didn’t they explore the dark Dionysian side of experience while extolling the primacy of reason?  Thornton responds that the crimes of the Greeks were the crimes of humanity everywhere, but that their ideals, still alive today, were unique to them.  After all, it was the Greeks who first began to recognize a common humanity that was more important than gender or social status, more profound than local or tribal affiliations.  “Without that recognition of common humanity” he writes, “slavery [still being practiced in certain forms] might have never been abolished, women might never have been granted equality, and the liberal notion of innate rights possessed by all humans merely by virtue of being human would never have existed.” “…the course the Greeks charted for humanity is the one that has the best likelihood, on this earth and in this life at least, of leading us to our highest fulfillment as human beings.” His achievement in Greek Ways is to hold a steady mirror up to Greek culture and allow us to see ourselves.