Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization

By Bruce Thornton | Go to book overview

Reckless Eros, great curse, greatly loathed by men, from you come deadly strifes and grieving and troubles, and countless other pains on top of these swirl up.

—Apollonius of Rhodes1


ONE

Eros the Killer

IN 1998, PRESIDENT CLINTON was impeached for actions he allegedly either took or ordered in an attempt to keep secret certain sexual improprieties he had committed with a White House intern. In the reams of analysis that attended the daily drama unfolding in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate trial, our culture's received wisdom and unspoken assumptions about sexuality were readily apparent. Defenders of the president dismissed the sexual activity as a private matter of no concern to the citizenry, with no implications for his political ability to lead the most powerful nation on earth. They dismissed Clinton's critics as repressed Puritans whose morbid fascination with his private behavior revealed their own unresolved sexual conflicts and fears. No one interpreted the affair the way an ancient Greek would have: as an example of the destructive power of Eros, a turbulent and potentially pernicious force that overthrows the mind and judgment and threatens the social and political orders that make human life possible.

To the popular imagination, such a statement might sound odd. Weren't the Greeks those jolly hedonists, those liberated

-15-

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Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Greek Ways - How the Greeks Created Western Civilization *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction - Seeing with Greek Eyes i
  • One - Eros the Killer 15
  • Two - The Best and Worst Thing 37
  • Three - The Roots of Emancipation 61
  • Four - The Father of All 84
  • Five - The Birth of Political Man 109
  • Six - The Birth of Rational Man 139
  • Seven - The Birth of Freedom 162
  • Conclusion - The Critical Spirit 188
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Notes 200
  • Bibliography 226
  • Index 234
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