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Cambridge University Press
Expected online publication date:
November 2024
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Book description

The ancient Greeks were exceptional and they were consequential. This innovative, engrossingly written book addresses head-on the problematic question of the Greek Miracle. It will appeal to anyone interested in the ancient world and its modern meaning. Reviel Netz boldly argues that the traditional understanding of the Greek legacy as a store of timeless values is false to the Greek literary canon itself. The latter is in fact made up of contradictory texts, sharing no common core of beliefs. This is precisely, for the author, the canon's significance: by presenting a system of works-in-polemic, it created a template for a culture of open debate, leading all the way down to modern civil society. The most lasting result of this practice of open discourse was in science, where Greek disputations paved the way for an autonomous scientific culture and opened the door both to the scientific revolution and the modern world.


‘This is a short and punchy book on a significant and controversial topic by one of the greatest Classical scholars of our time. It is clear-headed, clearly argued and robust. The book confronts – through the prism of a great expert's command of Greek science and mathematics – a theme which was once completely normative but has now become highly contested. Its approach to the special exceptionalism of Classics in Western culture as something both necessary and problematic is superbly handled, as is the author's willingness to extend way beyond Classics into the Classical Tradition, broadly interpreted, at much later moments and to confront scholarship's awkwardness around de-colonizing the discipline, as well as the variety of insalubrious appropriations of Classics especially from the far right. It will be widely read and widely disagreed with.'

Jas' Elsner - University of Oxford

‘In Why the Ancient Greeks Matter, Reviel Netz offers a lively and original discussion, interrogating the notions of the ‘Greek miracle' and the Greek canon. As always, Netz is erudite, insightful, and engaging. Here he is also intentionally provocative, asking important and timely questions.'

Liba Taub - University of Cambridge


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