Classical Reading

Classical Reading

While Listening to the LRB Podcast I heard a promotion for a guided tour through some Greek and Latin. The offer cost too much. You pay for access to the podcasts and a new version of Emily Wilson’s chosen editions. The idea, however, was attractive. This page chronicles my discovering the classics. Prior to this, I knew little about their content, less about their context, and even less about their influence.

Table of Contents

  • TOC

General Knowledge.

  1. January 2023 I read Troy by Stephen Fry
  2. June 2023 I read Mythos by Stephen Fry.
  3. August 2023 I read Heroes by Stephen Fry.

Epic of Gilgamesh

May 2022 I watched Eric Lutrell’s lecture. The YouTube lecture was interesting when he discussed the evolution of our conception of an epic, but his description of the story didn’t grab me. It was too allusive. I started to read Sophus Helle’s new translation. That book’s introduction is very interesting, but the story didn’t grab me as much. Next Steps

  1. Lutrell’s Lecture on Books 6-12. Listen to John Harris’ podcast. The first episode– again background– was interesting and engaging.

Epic Cycle



Feb 2022: I began with Caroline Alexander’s translation of the Iliad and the Trojan War Podcast. This podcast covers the Epic Cycle up to the Odyssey. At the same time I read Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. (I read Circe about 5 years ago when I had no deep understanding of the Epic Cycle and my frame of reference was the Wishbone episode.)

May 2022 I read Colleen McCullough’s The Song of Troy. It is a modern retelling in the sense that there is more realpolitik rather than humans following fate’s path. Achilles for example, has visions of his mother while he has seizures. The rift between Agamemmnon and Achilles is described as a ploy to lure Hector out of Troy rather than an clash for honor. I then read Claire Haywood’s Daughters of Sparta.

Jun 2022 I read Simone Weil’s monograph, Iliad or the Poem of Force (citation). I also started Richard Lattimore’s translation and associated commentary by Malcolm Wilcox.

Jul 2022 I’m fitfully reading Lattimore’s translation and Wilcox’s commentary. I started reading Pat Barker’s Silence of the Girls

Feb 2023 I finished Silence of the Girls and read Pat Barker’s The Women of Troy. Still fitfully reading Lattimore’s translation and Wilcox’s commentary. My halting progress reflects other demands and diversions. It is not a comment on the quality of those works. Both are engaging and erudite.

May 2023 I am still fitfully reading Lattimore’s translation and Wilcox’s commentary. I read The War that Killed Achilles. The author, Caroline Alexander, wrote my favorite English translation of the Iliad.

Oct 2023 I put aside Lattimore’s translation and turned to Emily Wilson’s

Next Steps

  1. Learn about Troilus and Criseyde, one of Priam’s sons whom Achilles killed. Chaucer wrote a play about him. An example of how the Middle Ages understood the myth of the Trojan war differently because they had additional primary sources. Like the Latin accounts of Dares and Dictys



Mar 2022: I read Emily Wilson’s translation. I found the Odyssey much easier to read than the Iliad. Perhaps it’s the subject material. Perhaps Emily Wilson’s translation.

Sep 2023: I read Ithaca by Claire North, a tale of what Penelope did on Ithaca while waiting for Odysseus to return, told from Hera’s point of view.

Oct 2023: I read Ulysse from Baghdad, a modern adaptation of Ulysses told from the view point of Saad Saad, an Iraqi displaced after the Gulf War passing through Lampedusa to the UK.



Mar-Apr 2022: I read Shadi Bartch’s translation and listening to Susanna Braund’s Podcast from Stanford.I had read parts of Books I and II in Roma Aeterna and discussed it in Schola Latina. I didn’t appreciate the link between Dante going to Hell and Virgil going to the Underworld until I read the translation and listen to the podcast. The excerpts I read before didn’t cover the latter half of the Aeneid.

Sep 2022- I am reading John Dryden’s translation. I very much like its flow and his lexicon.

Dec 2023 I read Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin. It is an adaptation and extension of the last six books of Aeneid told from Lavinia’s point of view. I also bought a hard copy of Dryden’s translation.

Next Steps

  1. Read the Paideia update to Ad usum Delpinum.
  2. Read Dickinson College’s online annotated Latin.
  3. Read Hans Orberg’s annotated version of Books I and IV.
  4. Read this 1819 commentary on Virgil’s Aeneid, written in Latin. (That lead me to a nice link on his Bucolics.)

Dante’s Inferno

Apr 2022: After reading the Aeneid in English I decided to continue chronologically rather than spreading out geographically (e.g., to Indian Classical Literature). I chose Dante’s trilogy because (1) Dante invokes Virgil as his guide and (2) I understand the journey into the underworld and its context better after reading the Odyssey followed by the Aeneid. I began by reading Allen Mandelbaum’s translation. I stopped reading the book after a month. The writing didn’t grab me, although it flowed nicely. And, I dislike writing that is so allusive and referential that it is hard to get through a sentence without a commentary. To me, works of that type come off as obfuscatory or just plain showing off.

Jul 2022: I watched the Mythology & Fiction Explained summary.

De Rerum Natura

Jul 2023 I started reading The Way Things Are, an English translation of De Rerum Natura. I’m also listening to this video series that analyzes ths book.


May 2024 I started reading Humphrie’s and Golding’s translations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Humphrie’s wrote the translation to De Rerum Natura that I began to read last year. The podcast Hardcore Literature recommended the latter.

Indian Classical Literature

Paradise Lost

Aug 2022: I started reading Alaistair Folwer’s annotated version of Paradise Lost. I came to this version because Harold Bloom recommended it in Take Arms Against A Sea of Troubles.

Summary from Mythology & Fiction Explained.

Other Roman Authors (Might Not Belong in a Page on Epics)

  1. Sallustius’ Bellum Catalinae.