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Night Shade Books
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 02:03 am:   

So I saw Troy. It blew, but it got me interested.

So I just finished The Iliad, which I loved, but isn't what I thought. The Iliad covers the time from Achilles and Agemmemnon fighting, to the recovery of Hector's body.

So I know that Achilles dies, that there's this whole Trojan Horse thing, Paris dies, etc, etc... and Troy is sacked and Hector's wife is enslaved and his son is thrown from the city walls.

But where does this happen? I've got The Odyssey and The Aeneid sitting here to be read next. My understanding is that The Odyssey covers Odyseus' trip home, and The Aeneid covers the remnants of the Trojans founding Rome.

So what am I missing? What do I read to find out aabout the first nine years of the war, or what happens after Hector's body is recovered?
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Brendan
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 03:25 am:   

Many people believe that the Iliad and Odyssey are just fragments of a much longer work. For all the Greek stuff you need to either rely on some dull modern piece of writing, or to read a lot of the older works. Unfortunately many of these have been lost, or only exist in fragments, such as Lesches of Mitylene's "Little Iliad".

Some authors who deal with subject and whose works exist:

Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso
Propertius
Seneca - Agamemnon
Euripides - The Trojan Women

There are lots of good Greek texts available from the Loeb Classics Library.
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Mastadge
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 03:38 am:   

The end of the war -- The Trojan Horse and all that -- are covered in The Odyssey, when survivors recount those last days, and then go on to tell the story of how Odysseus pissed off Poseidon and got into his current troubles.

The Aeneid follows the adventures of that Aeneis fellow from The Iliad going off to found Rome.

For the early years of the Trojan War -- I'm not well-versed in Greek Myth, but as Brendan says, there are fragments of it here and there.
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 03:42 am:   

Any recommendations on the essential greek stuff? Like I said, I've got The Odyssey and The Aeneid sitting here. After that I thought I'd tackle Herodotus' The Histories. I've got a copy of Will Durant's The Life of Greece, but so far it's a tad dry.

Thanks for the help, this is all new to me.
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 03:45 am:   

How come nobody ever told me The Iliad was so damn funny? I mean, really, can't you picture Achilles running across the field, being chased by a river, yelling "Hey, get the hell off me! Help!"

You read about it being one of the core works of western literature, about it being a great book, etc... but nobody ever says "It's funnier than hell!"
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Brendan
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 05:24 am:   

Yeah, Will Durant is dry. Also, his stuff is essentially a hodge podge of bits and pieces he has picked up from other places without really any original thought.

Some of my favourite Greek and Latin books are:

Polybius: History
Athenaeus: The Deipnosophists (though it is very long and probably most people would find it tiresome)
Plutarch: Parallel Lives
Apuleius: The Golden Ass (very funny stuff)
Sallust: The Conspiracy of Catiline

there are lots of others too. For military stuff Polybius is by far the best. As far as I am concerned he is the best historian period. Herodotus bases most of his stuff on hear-say, but Polybius really talks about what he has personally seen. For discriptions of battles and such he is simply awesome. He also has some great writing about Hannibal.

Some of Suetonius is also very interesting, particularly his Life of Heliogabalus. But that is getting into decadent Roman terrain. A bit different.
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Al Duncan
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 06:13 am:   

//Any recommendations on the essential greek stuff?//

If you're looking for stuff like the Oddysey or Iliad, as much myth as history, to my mind the best way into those classic Greek stories are through the plays. Aeschylus's "Prometheus Bound", for example, is a truly timeless drama, with way more to the story than some guy stealing fire from the gods and getting punished for it. I remember seeing a production on tv which played up the Titan's role as Zeus's ally in the overthrow of Kronos, using a few simple props and costumes to draw parallels between Ancient Greece and Stalinist Russia; the whole thing became instantly accessable and scarily relevant.

I'd also recommend his trilogy "The Oresteia", the story of what happened to Agammemnon after Troy, and to his wife Clytemnestra and his son, Orestes - and talk about a dysfunctional family! The whole cycle is ultimately about getting beyond the bloody cycle of vendetta and actually establish legitimate justice. In fact, the myth at the heart of it was the official Athenian story of how justice was invented in the establishment of the Aeropagus - the first ever courtroom as far as they were concerned.

"The Bacchae" by Euripides is also a great story, with a bloodthirstiness matched only by its intelligence.

As for the Iliad being funny: Yeah, I just can't help but love Achilles, and I'm not sure if it's because of or despite of the fact that he's the original killer queen, pouting and petulant, throwing a big strop at Agamemmnon's insult, sulking on the sidelines for nine years and finally going completely bugshit-crazy in the hissy-fit to end all hissy-fits. I just don't think I can be bothered with Troy if it doesn't do justice to one of the greatest gay psychos of all time.
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Mastadge
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 07:45 am:   

""The Bacchae" by Euripides is also a great story, with a bloodthirstiness matched only by its intelligence."

That one's about The Furies, right?
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 12:50 pm:   

You know, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought Achilles was a queen :-)

Thanks for the recommendations everyone. I know most folks read this stuff in high school or college, but we only read three books in high school and I skipped college, so I'm coming to this stuff late.
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Brendan
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 01:19 pm:   

Yeah, but if you are forced to read that stuff like I guess they do in college, you don't really enjoy it. When you read something because you actually want to or are driven to it is much better.

I am very anti-school.
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Bob K.
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 01:30 pm:   

>""The Bacchae" by Euripides is also a great story, with a bloodthirstiness matched only by its intelligence."

>That one's about The Furies, right?

No, it's the one about Dionysus; you're thinking of the Oresteia where they put Orestes on trial.

Yeah, the Iliad is hilarious, especially the Iliad coloring book that comes with the single red crayon.
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Forrest
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 08:03 pm:   

I found Herodotus rather blah, to be honest.

You probably also ought to check out Sophocles who was, in essence, the Shakespeare of Greek drama. Or at least the Bernard Shaw of Greek drama. You can't get away without reading "Oedipus Rex" - oh, and that's pronounced "Weedy-puss," more or less. Not that I'm an expert, but we had that drilled into our head by our very "Il Duce" professor of Greek and Roman classics. He put me off from the whole subject, though I loved the books themselves (well, except for Herodotus).

And I have to agree with Brendan, for sheer humor, read "The Golden Ass".
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Brendan
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2004 - 09:56 pm:   

Truth is no one knows how the ancient Greeks pronounced stuff. Can you imagine people trying to figure out the pronounciation of the word "colonel" in 2,500 years? . . . These professors....
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Al Duncan
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 05:22 am:   

Also an excellent book - scholarly and erudite but taking a very modern (post-modern? modernist?) approach - is The Marriage Of Cadmus And Harmony by Roberto Calasso, which retells a whole load of the Greek myths in a very philosophical and digressive but entertaining way.
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Minz
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 11:05 am:   

We probably should start a new thread if we're going to get into re-telling Greek Myths, but I'll put out TILL WE HAVE FACES by C.S. Lewis as my favorite.

I agree with much that's been recommended, but I'll offer these for emphasis (note: these are works of Literature, as opposed to History):
Ovid's Metamorphoses is required Classics reading, right after The Iliad and The Odyssey. (Actually, I'd put it before those two, for the sheer range of stories/myths being told. Absolutely required!)
The Golden Ass is hilarious.
For Greek Dramatists: Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides (And Aristophanes' comedies--Lysistrata is ridiculously timeless and timely.)
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Brendan
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 11:13 am:   

Funny, I have always found Ovid very boring...and way too flowery.

Not to say a lot of the myths are not educational. I just sort of question its literary value.

Or am I just being a jerk?

Hope not.
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paulw
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 11:49 am:   

Re: Ovid (and all the others): a lot depends on the translation, obviously. I read Ovid's Metamorphoses in the translation by, if memory serves, Humphreys. Later, I was given Ted Hughes' translations, which I could admire but didn't feel authentic to me in the same way Humphreys did. As to literary value, I place Ovid very high in the pantheon of ancient poets -- his The Art of Love taught me more about the cosmopolitan nature of ancient Rome than any history book. Chacun a son gout!
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Minz
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 12:45 pm:   

Ovid's Metamorphoses is as close to a core source as we have for much of Roman and Greek myth, and therefore Western Society. Too important to ignore, as is too often the case. Everyone knows of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but all-too-few know of Ovid. (And Paul makes an excellent point about translation, though in truth, there are definitely better Classic writers, at least by the translations I've read.)
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Forrest
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 08:14 am:   

Have to agree regarding Ovid-as-reference. But I also agree with Brendan. I've only read two translations worth of Ovid, and I can't remember which, but I found both very dry.
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Gene Lass
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 09:00 am:   

I have to agree with Brendan on the point of reading the stuff when forced vs. by choice. It changes the way you read, it changes the attitude you have while reading it, and most likely, it changes the amount of time you have to read it. I was required to read the Odyssey in college and maybe in high school, but when you're given a day or two to do it and you have class all day, 3-5 hours of homework a night, a job and a girlfriend, something's gotta give. Hello speed-reading and Cliff's Notes.

I picked up another copy of the Odyssey a few years ago and read the book at my leisure. Loved it. I'm doing the same now with the Divine Comedy. Hard reading, but since I'm not getting quizzed on it or writing a paper on it, I'll get through it and not stress about it.
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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 09:44 am:   

After rooting through this thread I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Thucydides. Long, fascinating primary source concening the Peloponnesian War. Plutarch's 'Rise and Fall of Athens' is also cool.

"Some of Suetonius is also very interesting, particularly his Life of Heliogabalus." Brendan, I'm only familiar with 'The Twelve Caesars'. I'm pretty sure Suetonious lived well before Heliogabulus...a different source?
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minz
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 09:51 am:   

In the Loeb Classics line, Life of Heliogabalus was by Lampridius (sp?)

And great catch on Thucydides, Bruce. The major work on one of the great conflicts of the era.

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