The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once said that all of Western philosophy was "but a series of footnotes to Plato." By the same token, one could argue that all of Western civilization is but an extension of the ancient Greek cultural legacy. The Greeks invented tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, history, philosophy, and democracy. They also made remarkable advances in science, medicine, and mathematics. In the author’s view, what ties this wide-ranging intellectual ferment together is a restless search for wisdom.
The author looks at ten outstanding examples of Greek wisdom, offering fresh and engaging portraits of the epic poets (Homer, Hesiod); dramatists (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes); historians (Herodotus, Thucydides); and philosophers (Plato, Aristotle) against the background of Greek history. In each case he asks what the author has to tell us— regardless of genre—about our place in the world and how we should live our lives.
By surveying some of the highest peaks of ancient civilization, the author argues that we gain perspective on the historical terrain that lies below. This book presents an eloquent and convincing case that a study of the Greek classics, as Gustave Flaubert explained, makes us "greater, wiser, purer."
"A wonderfully accessible introduction to the Greeks, one that eloquently reminds us why these works stand at the fountainhead of the Western tradition."
-Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University, author of The Origins of Political Order
"Ten Greek authors of antiquity set out to capture, in the logic and art of human language, the essence of human nature, society, and dialectic thought. Michael K. Kellogg’s insightful readings and lucid, elegant prose do full justice to [these] timeless texts. . . . In an age of torrents of sound bites propelled by digital machines, his book reminds us that the rigorous pursuit of logic itself began in a civilization inspired by the words of men who were captivated, above all, by the ineffable complexity and beauty of the human spirit."
-Peter Huber, Senior fellow, the Manhattan Institute, and, most recently, coauthor of The Bottomless Well
"This elegantly and engagingly recounted set of stories, biographies, histories, and epitomes from the ancient Greek poets, playwrights, historians, and philosophers gently and without undue insistence teaches us lessons in how to live. Kellogg is that rare person, a learned author who wears his learning lightly and so can make an impression on his nonspecialist fellow seekers after wisdom."
-Charles Fried, Former solicitor general of the United States and Beneficial Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
"Kellogg offers an accessible, engaging review of the masterpieces of Greek literature—in their ancient cultural, political, and historical contexts—as part of a larger argument about why we need to consult them, for both guidance and pure enjoyment. . . . An ideal introduction to the origins of Western culture, both for students and for anyone interested in making sense out of the frequent nonsense of the present."
-Victor Davis Hanson, Senior fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University