The Greek Way

ISBN: 0393310779

We think and feel differently because of what a little Greek town did during a century or two, twenty-four hundred years ago. What was then produced of art and of thought has never been surpassed and very rarely equaled, and the stamp of it is upon all the art and all the thought of the Western world.


None of the great civilization that preceded them and surrounded them served them as a model. With them something completely new came into the world.

Very little ancient Greek art and writing has survived, but what has been found still surpasses so much of what has been created since then. This book attempts to answer why the Greek people were able to achieve such monumental feats of knowledge and production in a relatively short time span, an accomplishment made even more amazing when you consider that they were the first Western thinkers who focused on the ideas of self and freedom. Once their time drew to a close, it took several hundred years for it be resurrected again with the European Renaissance. To put things in perspective, the ancient Greeks existed during the time where it was not known how far west Europe went.

The way we think, reason, and see the world is owed to the ancient Greeks. The DNA of our mentality was born with them, in a seemingly spontaneous explosion of thought the world still values over 2,000 years later. Preceding them was a wretched and miserable human existence, of those who believed in spirits and magic and where knowledge was possessed only by the priestly classes who used it as leverage to retain their power alongside the king.

A noble, who had for years enjoyed the royal favor and then had lost it, was invited to dine with the [Persian] king. After he had feasted on the meat placed before him, he was presented with a covered basket. Lifting the lid he saw the head and hands and feet of his only son. “Do you know now,” the king asked pleasantly, “the kind of animal you have been eating?” The father had learned the lesson slaves must master, self-control. He answered with perfect composure, “I do know, indeed—and whatever the king is pleased to do pleases me.” That was the spirit of the East from time immemorial.

Why did the Greeks operate differently? Why did Greek thought happen? The author believes it’s simply because they valued intellect and the mind above all else, shifting their resources to feed that value. What a society most values will define what that society will be like. She goes on to describe the most influential thinkers and creators of the time.

This book starts off strong but degrades into blustering analysis that reads more like a graduate thesis (it seemed to be a contest in how difficult she can construct a sentence without saying much). While there were strong sections, I questioned whether or not to continue it after a powerful start that caught my interest. The author spends way too much time on poetry and theater and not enough on philosophical thinkers, war, and the ways of Greek rule and empire.

The strongest chapters are on Xenophon and Thucydides, especially the latter:

Thucydides wrote his book because he believed that men would profit from a knowledge of what brought about that ruinous struggle precisely as they profit from a statement of what causes a deadly disease. He reasoned that since the nature of the human mind does not change any more than the nature of the human body, circumstances swayed by human nature are bound to repeat themselves, and in the same situation men are bound to act in the same way unless it is shown to them that such a course in other days ended disastrously.


Power, Thucydides wrote, or its equivalent wealth, created the desire for more power, more wealth. The Athenians and the Spartans fought for one reason only—because they were powerful, and therefore were compelled (the words are Thucydides’ own) to seek more power.

I was eager to read analysis of how ancient Greece left its mark on the West, but I was mostly disappointed. It’s not a bad book, but you have to slog through many pages to get to the occasional gem. I reluctantly recommend this book to those who have a strong interest in ancient Greek, but your time is probably better spent going directly to the source instead of reading the author’s analysis.

Things were simple in days of old when the single man had no right at all if a common good conflicted, his life taken for any purpose that served the public welfare, his blood sprinkled over the field to make the harvest plentiful. Then a new idea, the most disturbing ever conceived, dawned, that every human being had rights. Men began to question what had been unquestioned since the world began: a father’s authority, a king’s, a slave-holder’s. Perplexity and division came where all had been plain and simple. The individual had made his appearance and nothing was to be plain and simple again.

Read More: “The Greek Way” on Amazon

39 thoughts on “The Greek Way”

  1. The Scots did the same thing with the Scottish Enlightenment. Open-mindedness, curiosity, valuing the intellect, men getting together in clubs to discuss whatever they wanted…that is no longer a modern value.

    1. 🙂 ur trying to drag Scottish pubs up to the level of the ancient Greeks ?

      1. They both had drinking in common! Lots and lots of drinking!
        Seriously, check out the Scottish Enlightenment. It was amazing what a few dozen men accomplished.

      2. They both had drinking in common! Lots and lots of drinking!
        Seriously, check out the Scottish Enlightenment. It was amazing what a few dozen men accomplished.

        1. A handful of men in Edinburgh does not reflect the country as a whole.

        2. Pedant.
          Nor does a handful of men in Ancient Greece reflect the remainder of its population.
          The point is that in both of these cases, a small group of men in one specific locale were able to come up with ideas which radically altered the course of human history.

        3. Indeed. As with Rome, there were many more proles than there were educated.

        4. Fucking gross. Ancient Athens and Ancient Greece had thousands of elite tier philosophers, artists, leaders, and innovators. They *founded* western civilization for cunt’s sake. Comparing Classical Greece to David Hume and Adam Smith is like comparing a high school chess club to the national football league.

    2. The way things panned out for Scotland are akin to the decline of Greece in modern society.
      Once the birthplace of modern capitalism, Protestantism and its associated work-ethic and a launchpad for a disproportionately high share of the inventions which defined the 1800s – it’s now a pretty grim place, ravaged by an all encompassing welfare state.
      Once the smarter Scots fled to the new world, I guess those left behind valued less noble things…

      1. I know, it is pathetic what happened to Greece and Scotland. From the heights of achievement….to this.

  2. Eh, the Greeks were ahead of their time but to say that nothing that has come since compares to them is just hype.

    1. When broken down, I would say what happened up to 1940 from Ancient Greece might almost be a fair assessment. When you do the math to allow for technological advancement…it is a fair thought that we did not really take advantage of a time of great learning and human intellect. We just went back to our more primitive ways.
      The Romans did much to capture what was left of Greek culture and writings, but they were so much like them. After the fall of Rome, there was a terrible period for the accumulation of knowledge (The Dark Ages). However, I think a more fair assessment is made there. There was not much improved upon after the fall of Rome. At least for hundreds of years in the Western World. Charlemagne is said to have taught himself how to read and write, and he was royalty. Almost conquered all of Europe back then. Using the thoughts of the Ancients.

      1. They’re called the European dark ages for a reason: it was mainly in Europe. Elsewhere, civilization was thriving. The Muslims, for example, had a golden enlightenment age from about the eighth to the thirteenth centuries (up to the Moghul conquest and the burning of the library of Baghdad). Afterwards, they too fell into barbarism and religious fundamentalism, and in many ways you could say that Muslims are still in their ‘dark ages’, with the Arab spring being maybe the first light at the end of this long tunnel (though probably not).
        Granted, the Islamic Golden Era was mostly started by the translation into Arabic of ancient Greek texts. But they definitely added stuff to it, they didn’t just blindly follow. Actually, almost all we know of ancient Greek math and philosophy comes from Arabic – the original Greek writings have been largely destroyed (they were mostly housed in either the libraries of Alexandria or Baghdad, both of which were burned to the ground).

        1. No question that the Arabs had a brilliant civilisation centered at Baghdad, but it’s a common misconception, (not your fault, really) that the Arabs “saved” the knowledge and wisdom of Greece and Imperial Rome.
          The treasures of Greekk philosophy, mathematics, Roman law, government, engineering, etc, were saved as much as possible by the Byzantine Greeks who saw themselves as the continuation of the Roman empire in the East. A truly brilliant civilisation at times, when not consumed by theological controversies or defending itself against invading hordes of Arabs, Slavs, Turks, etc.
          It’s from the Byzantines that the Arabs received their knowledge of antiquity. They had also conquered the once great Persian Empire, and had many contacts with India as well which added greatly to their store of knowledge.
          Byzantium is so often overlooked or treated with disdain, which is primarily the fault of Edward Gibbon. But it was a vital civilisation in the development of the West.
          For a good overview, I’d recommend Lord Norwich’s three volume set ,”Byzantium”

        2. And how would the Arabs know it if the library burnt down? The destruction of the library in Alexandria took place in Julius Caesar’s time.Those scrolls were then reconstructed from memory by scholars at the time.

        3. The ancient civilisation of India was Aryan. Even Sanskrit is related to Latin. The people today do not speak Sanskrit.

  3. “My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher.” – Socrates 469 BC

  4. Hamilton also wrote a companion volume called “The Roman Way”. Her books are mostly meant as introductions to classical studies, and lack critical depth. Since Roosh already knows a great deal of Greek history, it is easy to see why he would find this volume somewhat wanting. The serious student would find more value in Will Durant’s “Life of Greece”, for answers as to what made Greek civilization unique.

    1. There are many more, and better commentaries out there along with the sources. In my view, to truly dig deep into the subject of the influence of Greece and Rome, you have to set aside time to learn some Greek and Latin, art, history, philosophy, etc. Then, see how it changed over the centuries to the Renaissance.

  5. It amazes me how much we don’t get. Although we benefit from the mass of knowledge left behind by our forebears these past 10,000 years, we still fail to learn anything. We commit the same stupid mistakes over, and over, and over again.
    I hate hearing stupid proles of today speak. They act like if I built a times machine, they could go back to a prior time and be a God with what “they know.” Nothing could be further from the truth. They would have been figured out, brought to the local ruler, and enslaved for whatever they knew. I think many ancestors would be amazed at the stories the idiot would tell; but furious that they don’t personally know how to manage or build any of the great things they speak of. If the time traveling idiot could even learn to speak the language where they traveled back to.
    Anyways, about the Greeks of that era, it was said that the stupidest amongst them was a genius. I seriously doubt that, but the point is they had more geniuses in a hundred years per capita then any other nation in human history. All of them homegrown. The United States came close to this in some ways after WW2, but we largely imported our talent from refugees and scientists of renown who defected at great personal cost. Thanks to our wondrous educational system, we may never have anything close to that.
    I use to drive by the tomb of Hippocrates (Father of Modern Medicine) of whom every doctor still practices his oath (Hippocratic Oath). Pythagoras lived around that time, the discoverer of the Pythagorean Theorem (A^2 + B^2=C^2). I saw the place of Thermopylae where the battle between Leonidas, his 300 bodyguards, and 12000 Greeks, and Themistocles and his 250 Triremes faced off against an Persian invasion force of at least 350,000 men with 1200 Triremes. The Parthenon, the sculpture, the history, the theatrical plays, the writing, the science hundreds of years before it’s time, the strategies, the culture was an incredible experience.
    The sad thing is, the claim that Sparta was somewhat backwards is true; their is nothing left of the ancient city. To where you can see almost everything of what was ancient Athens if you dig it up. They still have the grand market discovered, the Parthenon, and numerous other buildings including what is left of the Temple of Zeus.
    Many who live in today’s democracy don’t have a clue how much of a Tyrant ancient Athens was.

    1. Pythagoras wasn’t the first to discover this relationship. The Egyptians had known it for a while.

      1. True, however I think you might mean they knew some trig. I think there is a potential argument that the people of the Hindus Valley who traded with the early Sumerians may have discovered it first. Not sure though. However, Pythagoras was credited with the work.

  6. Our society seems to value fascist corporate greed, mindless entertainments, and the entitlement mentality. Not everybody, but enough people have feasted on the above to excess (hey, even I like a little mindless entertainment form time-to-time). This has led to a societal degeneration over two to three generations, that has occurred partly by design of the elites and partly by circumstance, as many people have decided to follow such an agenda.
    Where are we to go from here? In our modern age, have we opened a Pandora’s box of technology that is used to spy on us and restrict our liberties; technology that also takes away our jobs, and may even come to redefine what it means to be human…
    At least the Greeks liked to stop, smell the flowers and THINK. Some folk nowadays do not have the time to do this; others are arguably not capable of it. Most of us feel the rot in society that runs deep. I think the answer lies in developing your own philosophy in life. sharing ideas with other like-minded men, and saturating modern culture with such ideas (blogosphere etc…), so that such ideas eventually become more mainstream and then the norm.

  7. Roosh, while Greek intellectual endeavor is a vital basis of our scientific and political success, please also research their “Eleusinian Mysteries” and add “The Alphabet vs. the Goddess” to your list of books to review. There is an element of Greek life – that of their sacred rituals – intentionally missing from mainstream education and ‘approved’ history books because it runs counter to the paradigm of control that Western science and Christianity want to exert on their subjects. Exercising mind without knowledge of the Other creates a juggernaut. Terence McKenna speaks about the Mysteries (many Youtube videos available on his talks), as does Graham Hancock in ‘Supernatural’, which is also an exceptional and vitally important book to understand the development of human potential and how our DNA is actually a language.

    1. Terence McKenna and Graham Hancock write the sort of stuff that women like — pseudoscientific, ‘spiritual’, romantic, mystical rubbish.
      Not everything the Athenians did was of enduring cultural value. They were intensely religious, and therefore capable of wasting tremendous amounts of time and energy with nonsense like Eleusinian mystery cults
      If you want a mature, Western, sober, rational assessment of the dark side of the Greeks, read Jacob Burckhardt’s “The Greeks and Greek Civilization” which has been in print (in one form or another) since 1872.

  8. That story of the noble being fed his own son by the king comes from Herodotus. The king wasn’t a Persian, he was a Mede named Astyages, and the episode is part of the fantastic story of how Cyrus the Persian overthrew him to begin the eventually enormous and glorious Persian Empire, which came within a hair’s breadth of erasing Greece before Greece reached the peak of its own world-shaking achievements. Once again I remind you to read your Herodotus! (The audiobook version from Blackstone Audio is unabridged and could not possibly have had a better reader, by the way.)

  9. Sorry but the European Renaissance came out of the Middle Ages, not out of the Greek or Pagan Romans. It is a common misconception.

    Don’t get me wrong, we were highly influenced by the Greeks (and this doesn’t
    devalue their intellect), but all most all of the good things came out of the Medieval.

  10. Seeing all these posts about “scenically breakthrough, inventions and progress” in ancient Greek era, and i see many people don’t have a clue about ancient times. Greece was a cradle of philosophy and thought, but not of science and technology. In fact, most Greek states were backward agricultural or mining military states. Which is no wonder, since all kind of labor in ancient Greek eras was considered unworthy of free men.
    And guess what. Even Rome was not that advanced. Yes it was in relation to barbaric tribes from the north. But just as Greece, Rome too was too much held back by heavy chains of tradition. Changing traditions in ancient Rome took way too much authority and power. Rome needed hundreds of years to introduce archers in their military because they were certain their old ways of using pillum was the best. Of course, in many aspects Rome was ahead of their competing empires.
    In fact, western hemisphere today, much more resembles ancient empires, which relied on trade, labor, vast territories and plenty of resources to amass, and multi-national armies, rather then ancient Greek which was characterized by typical small town game sort of feeling, with restrictive citizenship, local patriotism etc…
    Anyway, hope to see more from Rush on ancient times.

    1. Look to the Arabs for more on science and technology. They were among the first to translate the ancient Greek sources when they were lost in the West.

      1. They were lost in the west because the Arabs conquered all the old Roman cities and burned the libraries. Somehow a few intelligent Arab generals decided to keep a few of the last copies of the great thinkers like Aristotle and Plato, who were then given to Arab scholars.

  11. Whoa, the Greeks very much believed in spirits and magic. Making sacrifices to the gods, interpreting omens, oracles, etc were extremely important and matters of life or death. Just ask Socrates. Also life probably wasn’t very pleasant in material terms for the overwhelming majority of Greeks, it was not a prosperous region with its rocky soil and broken terrain. I do agree that we owe much more to the Greeks than pretty much any other civilization, but let’s not get carried away with the romantic nostalgia!

  12. “The Greeks,” by H.D.F. Kitto is a much better short introduction to the essence of Greek civilization.

Comments are closed.