Graziosi’s easy style and focus on the history of the world as told by the gods of Olympus make this a book to savor.




Graziosi (Classics/Durham Univ.; Inventing Homer: The Early Reception of Epic, 2002, etc.) celebrates the longevity of the “cruel, oversexed, mad, or just plain silly” Olympian gods, “the most uncivilized ambassadors of classical civilization.”

The author leaves aside the secondary gods, demigods and Roman household gods but not the soi-disant gods such as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, who spread the word. This is a study of how the cult of Olympus flourished in ancient Greece and spread through conquest. Alexander was the prime catalyst as he conquered lands from India to Africa and brought his gods along to marginalize the local gods. The library at Alexandria allowed the educated to read and learn from the writings of Homer, Hesiod and other thinkers. Plato first challenged the divinity of the gods, envisioning a single, good, everlasting God as opposed to the radical, cruel gods of early literature. He opened a debate that continued through the Stoics, Epicureans and beyond. When the Romans took Greece, they translated the entire pantheon to Rome. They adopted the Greek culture for the simple reason that it was predominant in the regions they conquered, and they tended to maintain local rule. The leaders of Christianity tried the hardest to topple the Olympians, wooing believers away with promises of eternal life and the resurrection of the body. Ultimately, the gods were turned away but not forgotten. It was during the Renaissance that their presence was felt again, resurrected by poets and taken up by artists and sculptors. Even today, a complete education is based on classical Greek writings, and “thinking about humanity,” writes the author, “must include at least some consideration of the Olympian gods.”

Graziosi’s easy style and focus on the history of the world as told by the gods of Olympus make this a book to savor.

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9157-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet