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Classic and historical lit: essential reading

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Zagros View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Classic and historical lit: essential reading
    Posted: 10 Mar 2011 at 14:09
Looking for recommendations - what and why would you say it's essential?

Thanks!
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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pinguin View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2011 at 00:34
The Chronicles of the conquest of America.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Joe Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2011 at 04:57
The Odyssey for obvious reasons. Possibly one of the greatest stories ever.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2011 at 05:32
Herodotus and Thucydides: one is the father of the genre, the other is the father of its more scientific incarnation -- although I've always been partial to Herodotus, with his phoenixes and his absurd take on the hippopotamus.
 
Xenophon, for a fast-paced account of strategy, politics, philosophy, and types of government in the classical era.
 
The autobiography and letters of Libanius, a fourth century pagan orator and academic. It gives a unique and intimate perspective on life for the educated class in the Roman Empire during the last portion of the classical era.
 
Those are just a few; I may have more, and am looking forward to reading the suggestions of others. Smile
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Flipper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2011 at 06:32
Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

Looking for recommendations - what and why would you say it's essential?

Thanks!


Ok, since some mentioned already the obvious ones, I will ask you: Do you want to have a good laugh? Go for Lucian Smile I love him! Diachronic and straight forward humour!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Mar 2011 at 10:46

This question has occupied me a lot lately too, as I'm planning to read through as many of the great classics of world literature as possible before I die.

To make it easy on myself I haven't compiled an exhaustive - aka daunting - list. I simply decide on a specific period and region and proceed to pick three famous works on that basis. I decided to start with European Anitquity and read three works that are well-known and also related to each other story-wise: The Iliad, The Odyssey and The Aenid. The first tells of the siege of Troy and the rage of Achilles (which is really the main theme of the book - the Trojan horse and the fall of the city isn't even covered), the second is the story of Odysseus' journey back from Troy to his homeland Ithica and the third is a much later work telling how Aeneas was able to escape the fall of Troy with some refugees and how they found their way to Italy and became the ancestors of Rome's great patrician dynasties. The eastern Mediterranean around 1200 BC seems to have been a popularized legendary universe for the peoples of Greek and Roman antiquity, comparable to say the Marvel universe today, and there are several dozen other works from the same period that flesh out different events and characters. This makes it easy to find new works once you've read the most famous ones, The Iliad and The Odyssey being the absolute musts here if you only plan on reading a few books from European antiquity.
 
To keep things from getting stale I've moved on to the medieval European scene. I'm presently reading The Nibelunglied - the story of how the legendary Germanic hero Siegfried was betrayed and avenged - and plan on reading Beowulf and The Song of Roland as well before moving on to a different time and period.
 
Other categories I've considered are Early Modern and Modern European literature, but so far I've only got Les Miserables lined up. From the Middle East I'm considering Gilgamesh, The Shahnameh and 1001 Nights. China makes it easy for you by having a traditional concept of The Four Great Classics of Chinese Literature, so you need look no further. I've already read Romance of the Three Kingdoms, so The Water Margin, Journey to the West and Dream of the Red Chamber remain as obvious choices. From Japan I've got Tale of the Genji in the back my head, while the main Indian classics I haven't really researched yet.
 
So that's basically my approach; pick a time and place, read three works, move on to something else so you don't get saturated before returning later on.
Sing, goddess, of Achilles' ruinous anger
Which brought ten thousand pains to the Achaeans,
And cast the souls of many stalwart heroes
To Hades, and their bodies to the dogs
And birds of prey
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bearskin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Nov 2013 at 01:53
I’ve read many classics – all translations except Virgil, scourge of 1950s English schoolboys. The best classic in my opinion is that by Herodotus -'The Histories'.

History (historia - inquiry) was in ancient times more than human history. The book, therefore, is packed with fascinating digressions from the main plot (the Greco-Persian Wars) to geography and the natural world to discourses on politics and philosophy and accounts of strange customs and cultures. The text takes you on a journey throughout the then known world from ancient times to the present - that is to say circa 470 B.C.

On the racier side there is enough lust, scandal, blood and crime to engage the prurient, the machiavellian and the morbid, beating News of the World by a landslide. Just how much is factual history or how much derives from the oral tradition of Folk Tales (similar to those collected by the Brothers Grimm) is unknown, but it's all very entertaining.

The book's recurring theme concerns the frailty of the human condition, however blessed or bountiful, and that no care or prudence nor the power of oracles may necessarily save one from the vicissitudes of fate.
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