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The Echo of Greece, Part 2

The Echo of Greece picks up quite a bit after the first chapter. Hamilton's style is highly readable, and when she is narrating historic events and showing the connections between them, this book is great. However, whenever she falls back into talking about the "mind" of a people, the "Greek mind," the "Roman mind," the "Persian mind," the "Semitic mind," she is always extremely reductionistic. Like Thucydides, she wants to see history as a progression of ideas and universals. Unfortunately, one needs the balance of Aristotle who said that history is made up of "singulars." People make up history, and people rarely, if ever, conform to a certain "worldview" en masse. This is the same fallacy that occurs when theologians try to contrast "Greek thought" with "Hebrew thought," and lament the introduction of Greek thought into Christian theology. There were many Greek philosophies, some of which fit better with the theology of certain Jews than others. There is not one "Greek worldview" stretching from Homer to Plutarch. There is not one "Hebrew worldview" stretching from Abraham to Christ. There are certainly shared beliefs and assumptions in Yahweh worshippers from Abraham to modern Christians, but this does not mean one unified and unchanging "mind."

Overall, I enjoyed Hamilton's book whenever she was narrating history. She is a gifted writer and brings history alive with her lively combination of biography and historical narration. I had to cringe though whenever she picked up her grand narrative and tried to fit history into a pattern of conflict between Greek and Roman thought, and especially when she clumsily tried to explain Church history in terms of her "worldviews."