Lists · Personal Great Books

The Original Classics

I’m presently avoiding writing a post on Twelfth Night, so I thought instead I’d share the second project list I’d like to focus on this year. My major theme for 2012 is getting back to the basics, and in Western literature you can’t go much further back than ancient Greece and Rome. I’m somewhat familiar with the Greeks, having previously read a number of the plays as well as The Odyssey and various versions of their myths—during a high school unit on Greek plays we read a number of selections from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. (Which is an excellent starting place for anyone wanting a background in the Greek myths.)

This project is composed primarily of epic poetry and plays, which I selected based on the titles that seemed to be the best known or which most intrigued me. Looking up the various ancient writers there are actually quite a few works still available to read (although much has been lost), so I didn’t want to include everything I found, at least not at first. If you know of anything I’ve left off that’s really great, please, let me know! I’ve deliberately omitted anything in the manner of philosophy or history or other such topics (that is anything outside of poetry, play, or narrative); I may create a project of those someday but not at present. I’ve also included the Bible in this list even though it is technically Eastern literature (Middle East) as it has had untold influence on Western literature.

  1. Various: Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) (years uncertain)*
  2. Homer: The Iliad (c. 8th century BCE)
  3. Homer: The Odyssey (c. 8th century BCE)*
  4. Hesiod: Works and Days (c. 8th-7th century BCE)
  5. Hesiod: Theogony (c. 8th-7th century BCE)
  6. Anonymous: Homeric Hymns (c. 7th century BCE)
  7. Sappho: Poems (c. 7th century BCE)
  8. Aeschylus (Aiskhulos): Agamemnon (458 BCE)
  9. Aeschylus (Aiskhulos): The Libation Bearers (458 BCE)
  10. Aeschylus (Aiskhulos): The Eumenides (458 BCE)
  11. Sophocles (Sophoklēs): Antigone (c. 442 BCE)*
  12. Sophocles (Sophoklēs): Oedipus Rex [Oedipus the King] (c. 429 BCE)*
  13. Sophocles (Sophoklēs): Oedipus at Colonus (c. 406 BCE)
  14. Euripides: Alcestis [Alkēstis] (438 BCE)
  15. Euripides: Medea [Mēdeia] (431 BCE)*
  16. Euripides: Hippolytus (428 BCE)
  17. Euripides: Electra [Ēlektra] (c. 420 BCE)
  18. Euripides: Trojan Women [Troades] (415 BCE)
  19. Euripides: The Bacchae (405 BCE)
  20. Carson, Anne, translator: An Oresteia (5th century BCE)
  21. Aesop: Fables (c. 5th century BCE)
  22. Aristophanes: The Clouds (423 BCE)
  23. Aristophanes: The Birds (414 BCE)
  24. Aristophanes: Lysistrata [Lysistrate] (411 BCE)
  25. Aristophanes: The Frogs (405 BCE)
  26. Apollonius Rhodius (Apollṓnios Rhódios): Argonautica [Argonautika] (3rd century BCE)
  27. Virgil: The Aeneid (29-19 BCE)
  28. Ovid: Metamorphoses ( 8)*
  29. Various: New Testament (1st century)*
  30. Lucian: True History (True Story) (2nd century)
  31. Apuleius, Lucius: The Golden Ass (2nd century)

* Indicates a reread.

For the TBR Challenge, I will definitely be reading Aeneid and Iliad this year. I’m going to try to reread the Bible (Old and New Testaments) in approximate chronological order, which I think could be interesting, and I’d also like to read The Odyssey and maybe some of the plays which I already own. This will almost certainly be a long term, multi-year project, unless I suddenly find myself really into Greek plays!

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6 thoughts on “The Original Classics

  1. I love Greek literature. The Odyssey is probably one of my favorite books of all time. I wish I could say the same about The Illiad though. I only finished it because it was for class.
    You have a great list there, I can’t wait to see what you think of these titles.

    1. I’ve enjoyed the Greek literature I’ve read, so I have high hopes for this list! I’m also really looking forward to The Aeneid–when I read Divine Comedy two years ago, a lot of the notes referenced The Aeneid which really made my want to read it, but I’m only getting to it now!

  2. I do love your lists!! I’ll be reading Homer, Virgil, perhaps Sophocles, and the Bible this year. I think it’s so important to have that base, as we explore literature. They are the foundation upon which everything else is built.

    Cheers and enjoy, Amanda!

    1. Thanks!

      Yes, I think the base is very important. I was fortunate to have teachers who felt that way also and tried to cover at least an overview of the very basics.

      Enjoy your reading of the ancient classics as well!

  3. I’ll join you with all works from Euripides, Sophocles (whom I love dearly) and Aischylus for my private Greek Tragedies Challenge.
    So good to know that there’s another one focusing on thousands of years old plays out there!
    Let’s hope we’ll love every single one 😉

    1. It’s actually kind of hard for me to believe that these plays are as old as they are. They seem so much more recent–that whole universal human condition thing, I suppose.

      I hope we do both love every one!

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