Poquette Reads Loeb Classics
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Greetings! In this thread I shall report on my readings in the classics which are represented within the Loeb Classical Library.
The first question that needs to be resolved concerns what qualifies as a reading from Loeb. It turns out that there are quite a few books that are in Loeb but which I have read or will be reading in other editions. I am fluent in neither Greek nor Latin although I do have a nodding acquaintance with the latter. There are a number of reasons for choosing other editions, primarily because they may contain fuller notes, introductions, maps and other materials. The Landmark Herodotus comes to mind. I never would have finished the entire book without the wonderful resources provided there. The purist in me would like to limit credit exclusively to Loeb editions. But as a practical matter, and because I am not a scholar per se, I would like to be free to read whatever edition I choose, and use this forum to discuss classics that are represented within the Loeb universe.
At present I am the proud owner of three Loeb editions:
Theological Tractates. The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
Loeb Classical Library Reader
The Learned Banqueters, I, Books 1-3.106e (Deipnosophists) by Athenaeus
I purchased the Boethius for The Consolation of Philosophy, which I love and own in several editions, because I wanted to see the original Latin. I don't recall how I happen to have the Loeb Classical Library Reader, but I am happy to have the smattering of materials from a variety of writers. The Athenaeus I just purchased because it sounded interesting.
A Loeb Classical Library Reader (2006) 234 pages
Anyone interested in exploring materials found in the Loeb Classical Library will profit from exposure to the excerpts in this volume. Here we have an introductory sampler of what the editors call "lapidary nuggets drawn from thirty-three of antiquity's major authors including poetry, dialogue, philosophical writing, history, descriptive reporting, satire and fiction — giving a glimpse at the wide range of arts and sciences, styles and convictions" of sixteen Greek and seventeen Roman writers in five or six pages each.
Until now I have leafed through the book a number of times to get a feel for the contents but have not made a determined effort to read because I usually have two or three other books in process. But the time has come.
These excerpts are short, and I will attempt to summarize each selection as I go. The Greek samples are first in chronological order followed by the Latin. The Loeb custom of Greek-English or Latin-English facing pages is followed in this reader.
HOMER, Odyssey 9.307-414
The first selection is from the Odyssey of Homer, and it is one of the most blood-thirsty passages from this otherwise rather tame epic wherein Odysseus describes how he blinds the Cyclops Polyphemus in order to escape from his cave. First he plies the Cyclops with wine until he falls into a drunken stupor:
Then it was I who thrust the stake under the deep ashes until it should grow hot, and heartened all my comrades with cheering words, so that no man might falter from fear. But when presently that stake of olivewood was about to catch fire, green though it was, and began to glow terribly, then it was I who brought it near from the fire, and my comrades stood round me and a god breathed into us great courage. They took the stake of olivewood, sharp at the point, and thrust it into his eye, while I, throwing my weight upon it from above, whirled it round, as a man bores a ship's timber with a drill, while those below keep it spinning with the strap, which they lay hold of by either end, and the drill runs unceasingly. Even so we took the fiery-pointed stake and whirled it around in his eye, and the blood flowed round it, all hot as it was. His eyelids above and below and his brows were all singed by the flame from the burning eyeball, and its roots crackled in the fire.And it goes on. I had forgotten how graphic this episode was because I more recently read the Iliad where carnage and brutality dominate the entire work. Still, you have to love the wonderful way Homer tells a story.
Zeus is angry because humans acquired fire with the help of Prometheus. In a tit-for-tat move, Zeus creates Pandora whose name means "all gift" because all the gods contributed something to her quiver of woes to be showered upon mankind. Before Pandora "the tribes of men used to live upon the earth entirely apart from evils and without grievous toil and distressful diseases which gave death to men."
PINDAR, Olympian Odes 10.43-106
A brief account of the first Olympic Games founded by Herakles, in verse translation.
SOPHOCLES, Antigone 404-485
Antigone is charged with defying the king Creon by giving her accused brother a decent burial.
EURIPIDES, Medea 764-865
Having received asylum in Athens, Medea plots revenge against unfaithful Jason. She is determined to kill her children while the Chorus begs her not to.
I just read a different account of Jason and Medea in Chaucer's Legend of Good Women.
HERODOTUS, Persian Wars 1.1-4
The opening passages of The Histories, which I just recently finished reading in the excellent Landmark edition, wherein the initial difficulties between Greeks and Persians — involving the theft of women in all cases and culminating in the Trojan War — are laid out as a preface to what will come.
THUCYDIDES, History of the Peloponnesian War 6.19.2-24.4
The general Nicias argues against attempting to invade Sicily, but the Athenians seem even more determined to do it.
I am hoping to read Thucydides before the end of the year. Time is running out!
Cuz I've heard occasionally that one should have such a thing at the ready, with old Thuc. But who knows. I forget where I read that.
* I kid, I kid. I am, after all, a former THEATRE SCHOLAR. Woo-hoo!
ARISTOPHANES, Lysistrata 90-154
Lysistrata tries to convince Athenian women to deny their husbands sex until the war with Sparta is over.
This translation is X-rated! Calling a spade a spade.
BTW, did you know Miletus was a notable exporter of dildoes? This bit of edification I learned from a footnote!
XENOPHON, Anabasis 3.1.2-10
Xenophon tells how he was persuaded under false pretenses — despite consulting with Socrates — to accompany the Greeks on their expedition against Cyrus (the Younger).
There is no footnote to specify that this is Cyrus the Younger. But I have to admit I was confused at first because I have just read about Cyrus (the Great) in Herodotus. Xenophon's style is much different from that of Herodotus. Interesting . . .
PLATO, Phaedo 3-5
On the day of his execution Socrates ironically speaks of the pleasure incurred by having his fetters removed. He is questioned about the poetry he wrote while in confinement, and he explains he composed it because of a recurring dream.
The Phaedo was the first dialogue I ever read when I was a teenager. I have a soft spot in my heart for Plato as a result.
Aristotle, Callimachus and Josephus coming soon . . .
Origins and early development of dramatic poetry and the relative merits of various meters.
CALLIMACHUS, Hymns 6.24-117
A hymn to Demeter in which a sacrilege is punished. Why this is called a "hymn" is beyond my understanding. Much lyricism (if indeed there is any in the original Greek) is evidently lost in this prose translation.
JOSEPHUS, Jewish War 7.280-303
Fascinating description of Masada and the construction of Herod's fortress palace on the heights thereof.
PLUTARCH, Brutus 4-6
Caesar was apparently a mentor to Brutus who, according to Plutarch, may have been his own son. This gives new meaning to the words, "Et tu, Brute!"
Lucian and Pausanias will finish off the Greek excerpts from this anthology.
The Odyssey, tr. by Robert Fitzgerald
The Iliad, tr. by Robert Fagles
The Landmark Herodotus
The Landmark Thucydides
Plato's Republic, tr. by Robin Waterfield
I am currently reading Plato's Gorgias, with Symposium and Timaeus not far behind. Not a Loeb in sight. I am so sorry.
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