I am not sure which was my favorite chapter. I think they were the first and last essays, on Homer and Aristotle, plus the antepenultimate one on Aristophanes. These chapters firmly anchored their authors in their genres, provided biographical data and some information about their writing. The chapter on Homer, while short, is a careful overview of the epics. About the Iliad, Kellogg writes:
This dispute [between Achilles and Agamemnon] may seem almost childish on both sides. Yet at stake are nothing less than kleos (honor) and time (the marks of public esteem), which are the ultimate values of the homeric hero. Achilles demands that his superior fighting skills be honored and recognized through the award of greater prizes and other indicia of public esteem. Agamemnon insists that his superiority as a king and leader be afforded the first place, and he disparages Achilles as a mere 'spearman.'
Summarizing its sequel, Kellogg writes:
The chapter on Aristotle shows how relevant his political philosophy is for even today. In describing Aristotle's view of democracy, Kellogg writes:
The Odyssey is a natural continuation of the Iliad. The IIiad's theme of the heroic ideal and its destruction of civilization and domestic life is transmitted into the Odyssey's story of one exceptional warrior's attempt to reconnect with his civilization, his family, and his home. The theme of the Odyssey is one of reeducation.
For Aristophanes, Kellogg elaborates why the comic genre relegated to second or third class by Greek philosophers is just as valid as writing that was intended as philosophy for making important observations about the life we humans lead:
The democrats believe that, because they are equal as free citizens, they should also be equal in wealth and power. The oligarchs believe that, because they are unequal in wealth, they should also be unequal in power and the perquisites of citizenship. 'For the one party, if they are unequal in one respect, for example, wealth, consider themselves to be unequal in all; and the other party, if they are equal in one respect, for example free birth, consider themselves to be equal in all.
In Aristophanes, it is the poet's job to safeguard the soul of the polis and to lead men to wisdom and the good life.
One of the chapters I liked less was on Thucydides, which was more a description of the events about which Thucydides wrote than a description of the man and his style, at least to my reading, but then Thucydides came after one of the more colorful characters, Herodotus, so he may simply have paled by comparison. Plato's section pays less attention to Socrates than I expected and a good deal of time on his Symposium, with a nice vignette on Alcibiades, a Greek character as beautiful and colorful as the late Roman Republic's Clodius the beautiful. The most noteworthy part of Kellogg's coverage of Socrates' student is his demonstration of Plato's artistic skill.
Disclosure: Prometheus, the publisher, sent me a review copy.
If you read it, please post your comments below.