“The West”

Some years ago, amid the geopolitical turmoil following 9/11, we heard a good deal about the clash of civilizations—about the West against the Rest. 

As it happens, this opposition is still at the heart of a good deal that is going on in the world today, but it deserves to be better understood. Naoíse Mac Sweeney’s “The West” is thus well-timed. 

It seeks to show, among much else, what exactly Western civilization is—and was—and to illuminate the challenges it now faces, both without and within.

Godfrey of Viterbo, the 12th-century priest and chronicler—part of the court of Frederick “Barbarossa,” the Holy Roman emperor—traced the imperial lineage back to Rome and the Trojans, but pointedly not to the Greeks. 

A century later, Theodore II Laskaris, emperor of the Byzantine state of Nicaea, began to turn his people (the heirs to the eastern half of the Roman Empire) from Romans into Greeks, by locating the heritage of ancient Greece in nearby Anatolia rather than barbarous Europe.

Mr. Simms is the author of “Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy” and, most recently, co-author of “The Silver Waterfall: How America Won the War in the Pacific at Midway.”

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