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How to Be: Life Lessons From the Early Greeks

SKU: 9780374610104

Adam Nicolson crafts a geography of the ancient world and a brilliant exploration of our connections to the past.

What is the nature of things?
What is justice? How can I be myself?
How should we treat each other?

Before the Greeks, the idea of the world was dominated by god-kings and their priests. Twenty-five hundred years ago, in a succession of small eastern Mediterranean harbor cities, a few heroic men and women decided to cast off mental subservience and apply their own thinking minds to the conundrums of life.

These great innovators shaped the beginnings of western philosophy. Through the questioning voyager Odysseus, Homer explored how we might navigate our way through the world. Heraclitus, in Ephesus, was the first to consider the interrelatedness of things. Xenophanes of Colophon was the first champion of civility. On the Aegean island of Lesbos, the early lyric poets Sappho and Alcaeus asked themselves, “How can I be true to myself?” On Samos, Pythagoras imagined an everlasting soul and took his ideas to Italy, where they flowered again in surprising and radical forms.

The award-winning writer Adam Nicolson travels with us through this transforming world and asks what light these ancient thinkers can throw on our deepest preconceptions. Enhanced with maps, photographs, and artwork, How to Be is an expedition into early ideas. Nicolson takes us to the dawn of investigative thought and makes the fundamental questions of the ancient philosophers new again. What are the principles of the physical world? How can we be good in it? And why do we continue to ask these questions? It is an enthralling, exhilarating journey.

Hardcover, 368 pages, by Adam Nicolson, measures 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.5 inches.