Which GREEK CLASSICS to read?

Extollager

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It comes down, for me, approximately to this. I've read versions of the Odyssey and mean to read another one, one of these days. (I didn't manage to finish the Iliad despite more than one attempt.) I've read quite a few of Plato's works and definitely like much that I have read. I've read the Theban plays of Sophocles and revere Oedipus the King. (I've read a little more than that in Greek drama -- some Euripides anyway, but mostly don't know it.) I read the Greek Alexander Romance.

Xenophon's Anabasis I haven't read but it intrigues me.

Of course, I depend on translations entirely.

What are your thoughts about ancient Greek works you've read and truly appreciated/enjoyed?
 

Le Panda du Mal

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If you're having trouble with the Iliad, I recommend John Dolan's prose translation The War Nerd Iliad (the War Nerd is the name of his column/ podcast about history and current events, but you don't need to have any knowledge of that to enjoy the book). It really makes the epic fun and exciting.

The one translation of the Odyssey I've read is Alexander Pope's rhyming couplets version, which I loved. Actually I think rhyming couplets are a great way to bring epic poetry to English.

My Greek classics reading is pretty spotty but I've read a fair amount of Plato. Some dialogues that aren't as widely read which I found to be great include the Charmides and the Parmenides. The Parmenides in particular is quite mind-melting but someone who has read some of the more "basic" dialogues should be ready for it.
 

AllanR

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I liked the pre-Socratic philosophers. Though most of what we have is just fragments or later people descriptions, the ideas of say Democritus, Heraclitus, Parmenides are interesting
 

Bick

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About a decade ago I read Herodotus and would warmly recommend that. It’s ‘history’, not a play or pure literature, but given he goes about giant ants and such like, the real and the fictional is a little bit mixed up (in a charming way). I think you’d like it.
 

Extollager

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Thanks, Bick! I see I have a copy of an old Penguin Classics edition thereof. : )
 

KGeo777

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I like the Robert Fagles translation of the Iliad. I have read a couple of others-that one flows the best. The Homeric simile is a profound literary device to make illustrative comparisons between contrasting things. "As a fearless lion who seeks a cub stolen by a hunter, will search with desperate longing, so did Diomedes stalk the Trojan camp in search of Aeneas." Diomedes is a real bad ass. He foughttwo Greek deities (Love and War). Few can boast that achievement.

Hesiod's Theogeny and Works and Days are short reads.
 

Extollager

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This says more about my failure as a reader than about Homer, the Iliad, or Fagles' translation, but his was the one I attempted at least once or twice, but didn't stick to.
 

J-Sun

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Not being any kind of scholar, I've only read Greek works if they're available in cheap, translated form, but I've read a good percentage of those. I love the Iliad. It's probably a bad translation, but my go-to version is Ennis Rees' verse because of its speed and vigor - it really moves. Though I do also like the Lang/Leaf/Myers prose of both the Iliad and Odyssey with its King Jamesish grandeur. I'm not as big a fan of the Odyssey, but still like it (Robert Fitzgerald's verse there).

Euripides is the rare Greek I don't really like. I love Aeschylus and Sophocles, though. Only seven plays left of each (plus fragments and a satyr play (unless they've changed the attribution)) so there's little point in picking out any vs. reading them all. And Aristophanes has about eleven surviving works and has been funny for over two thousand years.

Speaking of fragments, that's all Sappho is, but she's worth seeking out individually. I like Mary Bernard's rendition which I have in this tiny Shambala edition. She and Pindar (one of Lattimore's several) are the only writers of shorter poems I have outside of anthologies. For other, longer poems, Apollonius' work on the Argo is of course not comparable to Homer, but still fun. (And it's about the Greek "hero" Jason! ;))

Oh, and I'd completely forgotten Hesiod (Thanks, KGeo777). Also not the biggest fan, but Theogony is interesting. It and Works and Days are more interesting for myth and sort of history/sociology than poetry, though, to me. Kind of like the Hippocratic writings - not a lot of fun as such, but they shed a lot of light on the day-to-day of the era. Plus, with those: early science! And then I'd also forgotten to mention the Homeric Hymns. Kind of part-Homeric, part-Theogony, part-Pindar.

Plato is the other giant Greek I don't care for, though it's hard to ignore his influence or Jowett's prose. I haven't gotten into the more complicated, abstruse Aristotle for the most part, but I love his more "humanist" works of the Nichomachean Ethics, Politics, Rhetoric, and Poetics. The first and last of these, especially, are among the greatest on their subjects of all time. The Ross set has essentially everything.

For history, I've read a few translations for a few works but, based on just The Landmark Thucydides, I enthusiastically recommend the Landmark series. (I bought the Herodotus, Xenophon's Hellenika, and Arrian's The Campaigns of Alexander on the strength of it. Herodotus is a blast and Arrian is the best ancient work on Alexander - oddly, I haven't read any Xenophon yet, though.) Plutarch also did philosophy and odds and ends, but his Lives are the most famous, and essential. The lives were written in pairs with comparisons but I read the Penguin versions which didn't include all of them, separated them, arranged them in chronological order, and ditched the comparisons - so I look forward to reading the whole surviving corpus properly arranged someday. (I have the "Dryden" translations for that.)

One of the oldest books I have is a 1900 copy of a bunch of orations of Demosthenes (plus three others by three other orators - Pericles (perhaps actually Thucydides rendition of what Pericles might have said), Aeschines, and Isocrates) which has a companion volume of Cicero (with a Caesar and a Cato). Especially given the translation, I have them more for history than oratory, but they're interesting.

Then there are odds and ends which I have but haven't read like Pausanius' Guide to Greece and Apollodorus' Library. Plus, all this and more can be found online if you don't mind older translations and scholarship. But if it was good enough for Bury, Kitto, Finley, Tarn, et al., it should be okay for anyone. (And Durant - this is mostly Durant's fault because his Story of Civilization and a copy of three random plays edited or translated by Blanche Yurka that I'd randomly run into earlier kind of made me want to dig deeper and it ended up being a kind of passion.)

By the way, if anyone knows of a book on the great English classical scholars and historians of Enlightenment-WWII era, I'd love to know about it. Seems like there has to be such a thing but I've looked and can't find it.
 

Extollager

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J-Sun, this isn't the book you are asking for, but it might overlap considerably with it:


(James Turner's Philology)
 

J-Sun

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J-Sun, this isn't the book you are asking for, but it might overlap considerably with it:


(James Turner's Philology)
Thank you! You're right - not exactly what I was looking for but related and it looks like something I'd love, regardless.

Oh, scrolling back through the thread, AllanR reminded me again that I forgot to mention the Pre-Socratics. I have a couple of books which cover the Greeks and Romans edited by T. V. Smith called "The Philosophers Speak for Themselves" and Jonathan Barnes has a better Penguin paperback (Early Greek Philosophy) on and of just the Pre-Socratics. The latter is definitely worth checking out if you have any interest in the sub-subject. Which reminds me of another weird book of fragments I have: Heraclitus of Ephesus which is "an edition combining in one volume The Fragments of the Work of Heraclitus of Ephesus On Nature translated... by G. T. W. Patrick; and Heracliti Ephesii Reliquiae, I. Bywater; with an introduction and select bibliography by Lewis A. Richards." As dumb as it was, I just couldn't resist getting a whole book of/on Heraclitus but the Early Greek Philosophy should suffice for most purposes. :)
 

Guttersnipe

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I've already promoted this, but I would recommend the Batrachomyomachy (author unknown). It centers on a war between frogs and mice.
 

Bick

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I've already promoted this, but I would recommend the Batrachomyomachy (author unknown). It centers on a war between frogs and mice.
I'd never heard of this. According to the interweb, the Romans attributed the Batrachomyomachia to Homer, but according to Plutarch, it is the work of Pigres of Halicarnassus, either the brother or son of Artemisia I, the Queen of Caria, and an ally of Xerxes.
 

Guttersnipe

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I'd never heard of this. According to the interweb, the Romans attributed the Batrachomyomachia to Homer, but according to Plutarch, it is the work of Pigres of Halicarnassus, either the brother or son of Artemisia I, the Queen of Caria, and an ally of Xerxes.
Well there's something I didn't know!
 

Orcadian

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I got to grips with the Iliad via Christopher Logue's modernist poem War Music, which I believe is still a work in progress. I've read Kings and The Husbands, both of which I found electrifying. This is not a faithful translation of the ancient Greek; rather it is Logue's own reading and his own voice. But it has something unique for me.
 
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KGeo777

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I had a teacher who said the Batrachomyomachia was written by Homer.
Actually, he recommended the mythology text The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology by Edward Tripp.
It is so useful to be familiar with Greco-Roman mythology--it gets referenced so much in Shakespeare and Romanticism.--every other line it seems.

How about that-as I was looking up my edition of that book I found a couple others on Pacific Mythology and British-Irish mythology.
I didn't even know I had them!
 

Extollager

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Here's someone's list of Greek classics to consider. Does anyone see anything there that you'd care to nominate for the present discussion, especially if it hasn't been mentioned already?

 

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