A journey through ancient literature

Ancient literature

A while back I asked Cleo at Classical Carousel to give me a few suggestions on where to start my introduction to ancient literature. In return she offered me an amazing array of options that I think will all really suit my style of learning. So thank you very much Cleo! If any of you are interested in discovering ancient lit in the future, you might find the following information useful.

My first step was to order The Book of Ancient Greeks by Dorothy Mills from the library, as Cleo suggested. It took a while to arrive, because they had to bring it from out of town, but yesterday I finally got my hands on it. Since I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, and the physical attributes of the book are the only ones I can comment on for now, I just have to say how much I am in love with this precious chunky volume. I will probably make a post about it tomorrow to showcase its vintage beauty, so all I have to say right now is that they don’t make books like this anymore. I have only three weeks to finish it, so it’ll be moved to a priority spot on my reading list.

Next I will be turning my attention to the study of The Iliad. The epic poem has been on my TBR for the longest of times and I even tried to include it into Adam’s challenge last year. Unfortunately I didn’t get further than first three books, so I decided to have another go this year. To assist me with better understanding of the poem and the context in which it is set, I will be renting The Iliad of Homer (part of the Great Courses series) lead by professor Elizabeth Vandiver. I have to thank Cleo again for introducing me to this wonderful series, because I haven’t really heard of it before! If your library carries it and you are interested in self-learning, do take advantage of the opportunity and check it out – it carries incredible value. Parallel to viewing Vandiver’s lectures I will naturally be reading the poem and making some notes to post here on Tasseled Books.

By the way, I have also just received a notice from the library that The Epic of Gilgamesh that I ordered a little while ago is on its way. This was kind of a serendipitous coincidence, because I totally forgot about that loan and it would fit nicely into my ancient lit project.

Right now, like Odysseus, I have a clear plan to follow, but who knows what kind of hydras and cyclops might be lurking around and trying to pull me aside for an adventure or two. I might stumble on an unexpected gem somewhere and alter my course of action! I will continue my research of ancient literature once I get closer to completing the first introductory stage, but in the meantime, feel free to suggest some more amazing old books for me to indulge in.


  1. How brilliant! I hope you love the Iliad — it completely deserves its reputation. Do you know what translation you’ll be reading? If you’re still undecided, I recommend Fagles! My dearest, dearest Fagles, I love him so.

  2. I am very much looking forward to the Iliad and Odyssey. I have both books in Fagles’ translation, so I will probably end up reading that!

  3. I’m very honoured that you mentioned me, Andrea, and happy that I could be of some help! And I’m thrilled to hear that you’re so excited to begin this journey. The Iliad was an epiphany book for me; it started me reading in areas that I had thus far avoided, and I have discovered (to my complete shock) that I absolutely love epic poetry. And those ancient Greeks ……. they are pretty cool, as well! πŸ˜‰

    As for translation, I would strongly recommend Richard Lattimore’s translation (sorry, Jenny!) Fagles is great for high schoolers because he uses more modern language, but I think you lose some of the majesty and intricacies of the poetry with him. If you want more information on the three main translations (Lattimore, Fitzgerald & Fagles), you can look at this link: http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/23153-need-help-choosing-translations-of-illiad-odyssey/ Read Eliana’s post #12. She’s a smart cookie and knows some Greek to boot! But really, whichever you choose, I hope Homer transports you to ancient Greece and you enjoy your time among these fascinating characters!

  4. Thanks for the input, Cleo! I have been really debating on the translation, and it’s such a big part of the experience that I’ve been reluctant to make a final decision. I will check out the link you provided for more information and see if my library carries Lattimore. Is it a public domain translation or a newer one?

  5. I think that they are still in copyright, unfortunately. Do you have any good used book stores around where you live? I picked up my copies used for a couple of dollars. If the store has a decent ancient literature section, they should have a copy translated by him.

  6. The used book stores here are hit and miss. I shop at some independent ones, as well as thrifties like Value Village and Goodwill. Unfortunately none of the ones I visited had a dedicated ancient lit section. A lot of the finds depend on pure luck. Come to think of it, I haven’t had a chance to find any ancient or medieval literature in stores like that. Or even at library sales! There must be some sort of conspiracy happening. I will look around though~

  7. It’s a trade-off; you have excellent libraries and ours suck —– we have great used book stores and yours are pathetic. Is it a Murphy’s Law type of thing? πŸ˜‰

  8. You cannot have everything at once I guess! πŸ™‚

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