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Hardcover The Life of Greece: Being a History of Greek Civilization from the Beginnings, and of Civilization in the Near East from the Death of Alex Book

ISBN: 0671418009

ISBN13: 9780671418007

The Life of Greece: Being a History of Greek Civilization from the Beginnings, and of Civilization in the Near East from the Death of Alex

(Part of the The Story of Civilization (#2) Series and Kulturgeschichte der Menschheit (#3) Series)

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Book Overview

The Story of Civilization, Volume II: A history of Greek civilization from the beginnings, and of civilization in the Near East from the Death of Alexander to the Roman Conquest of Greece. This is the... This description may be from another edition of this product.

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Ancient Europe Greece History World

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

A Masterpiece of History and Prose

My set of Durants The Story of Civilization was purchased at a garage sale. Poor fools, they did not know what they were selling. Their loss is my gain. Volume Two, however, was missing, a situation that was remedied when I wandered into a used bookstore and there, on a shelf was Volume Two- The Life of Greece calling my name. I immediately forked out eight bucks and headed down to the local coffee house and began a fascinating and enjoyable read. Having read through Volume 5, The Age of Faith, this has to be the best volume thus far- I could hardly put it down. To be sure there are areas that one has to plow through, that is to be expected of a work of this scope; but Durant has filled my world with the genius, history and drama of ancient Greece.What made this book so fascinating is that, over and over again, Durant brought us into the lives of these men. We are not merely dealing with historical figures, but real people who lived, made love, made war, wrote masterpieces and who could act with courage, fall to cowardice or just make stupid mistakes. By far my favorite chapter was The Suicide of Greece. It told how a great civilization could fall. The story of Alcibiades was absolutely riveting. Both a brilliant leader and a scoundrel, he pushed Athens towards destruction by his fraternity style pranks that doomed his invasion of Sicily contributing significantly to the downfall of Athens as a power. Consistent with all his volumes, Durant again shows us the cycle of civilization. He shows us again that the life of thought endangers every civilization that it adores. He writes: As civilization develops, as customs, institutions, laws, and morals more and more restrict the operation of natural impulses, action gives way to thought, achievement to imagination, directness to subtlety, expression to concealment, cruelty to sympathy, belief to doubt the unity of character common to animal and primitive men passes away; behavior becomes fragmentary and hesitant, conscious and calculating; the willingness to fight subsides into a disposition to infinite argument. Few nations have been able to reach intellectual refinement and esthetic sensitivity without sacrificing so much in virility and unity that their wealth presents an irresitble temptation to impecunious barbarians. Around every Rome hover the Gauls; around ever Athens some Macedon.I hope that Durant has not just written our epitaph as a great nation.

The house that the Durants built...

...was Simon and Schuster. It was the Durants' 11 volume, bestselling series that put Simon and Schuster on the map, making it one of the biggest publishing houses in the US.It's impossible to find an American library that doesn't have at least one or two of "the Story of Civilization" and more likely has the whole set.So I'm surprised that the entire 11 volumes aren't as cherished in the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world as they are in the US. After all, the Durants Anglophilia is undisguised (not that they let this affect their judgement). In many ways, they were the last of a breed. Born and raised in a time when the echoes of the great Catholic-Protestant struggle had not yet vanished, the Catholic-raised Will and the Jewish "Ariel" (nee, Ida Kaufmann) don't allow their prejudices to get in the way of the truth (and admit it when they can't separate the two; how many contemporary historians would do that? Plagirism, perhaps? I'm sure Doris Kearns Goodwin and the late Steven Ambrose could tell us...).And, I can't go without mention the beauty of the language. The Durants clearly loved languages, the lovingly quote long passages of, especially, French, Italian, and Latin (which they fortunately translate!).Will Durant represents an archetype that is extinct: the gentleman scholar who pursued knowledge to enlarge his understanding of Man and to spread the amazing story of our civilizations rise from "mudhuts on the Rhine" to the greatest, wealthiest and most powerful in history--all without the almost unconscious prejudice which mars many other historians of their generation (e.g. the chest-thumping nationalism of the Germans).The books aren't perfect. Errors are made (in a work of over 10,000 pages it would be impossible not to!). Older naming conventions are still there. The most obvious to early 21st century eyes are the terms "Mohammedan" and "Mohammedism" instead of Muslim and Islam. This was how Muslims were quite commonly referred until recently. It derives from the ancient confusion of Christians about exactly what Islamic beliefs were. The assumption of an analogous role to Christ's for Mohammad is not so farfetched. If you are a Muslim, don't let this small matter of nomenclature put you off. The Durants devote large sections to Islamic Civilization and frankly admit with the pendulum had swung the other way (briefly tho' it was).All books reccomended with high praise. They stand on their own as well as making a coherent series.I'm rereading "The Age of Reason Begins" for little more reason than the beauty of the prose. Other than Gibbon, how many other historians are read simply for the art of their words?No hands? I didn't think so....(Still, it is funny to think that Carly Simon's inherited millions derive largely from the Durants' work...)

Remarkably Readable

As someone who had read virtually nothing about ancient Greece, I found this book to be the perfect comprehensive introduction to the subject. Will Durant's concept of offering up an "integral" (as opposed to "shredded") view of history ("in which all the phases of human activity are presented in one complex narrative, in one developing, moving picture") is just what I wanted. It tells the story of the people, culture (art, architecture, music, literature), politics, religion/mythology, philosophy and, of course, war.While somewhat daunting at 700 pages, Durant's user-friendly (almost conversational) writing style makes the going very pleasant. I won't go so far as to say that it reads like a novel---there are parts that drag a bit---but it's well worth sticking with it. The people, culture and philosophy sections were the most fascinating to me, but because the political and war bits were not overly drawn out, I read them as well, and am glad I did.I was so impressed by this book that I wanted to learn more about Will Durant, so I read "Will and Ariel Durant: A Dual Autobiography" directly afterwards. They are an interesting and admirable couple and their autobiography is a good read. I look forward to furthering my education most enjoyably by reading the other books in "The Story of Civilization" series.

Beautifully Done!

As an avid history buff I have heard all my life about the series of books by Will Durant. I started reading them only recently and I can't believe what I have been missing.Durant writes beautifully and even though some of these books were authored over 50 years ago they still hold up. He doesn't just cover the political activity of the time but includes much on the way that people lived, loved and died. His sections on the development of art are extremely interesting.After reading this book, I had a much greater understanding of the Athenian culture and especially the idea of democracy and how it developed. His sections on the great philosophers of the time have led me to read several others books about this topic and to me that is the sign of a great book...when it makes you interested to read even more. I would have never attempted Plato's Republic without reading this book.
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