A Greek Odyssey… Cancelled!

If you’re interested in reading more about ancient Greece then have a look at the list of some of my favourites below!

Herodotus, Histories

Herodotus was an odd writer. Somewhere between a journalist, travel blogger, and a historian. He travelled the known world interviewing the people he met and writing down all he saw and heard. Far from the usual boring dry history textbook, Herodotus often diverts into interesting anecdotes like the story about gold digging ants or cannibal tribes. All of this madness is self contained in an overarching narrative about the wars between Persia and Greece.

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War

Thucydides took a far more scientific approach to history that Herodotus. He often looks for the human causes of events and attempts to approach everything with a non-biased, analytical eye. How well he does this is up to opinion – certainly he doesn’t hold back sharing his opinion of Kleon or the great unwieldy mob.

J.C. Stobart, The Glory that was Greece

Probably not for everyone and more of the typical style one expects from a history book. But, I find Stobart’s enthusiasm comes through well in his writing – even if it does occasionally lend itself to bias.

Plutarch, Greek Lives

Plutarch wrote in the 2nd century AD so is certainly not a contemporary of the men he is writing about. Having said that, his biographical style is very easy to read and well organised. So if you can’t handle the ramblings of Herodotus, Plutarch may be your man! He also wrote a similar collection of biographies on Romans too.

Homer, Illiad & Odessey

The oldest complete surviving story in western literature. And second in the world only to the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Iliad tells the tale of the Trojan War and the Odyssey of the Greek hero Odysseus’s attempts to return home after the war. When these were originally created they were meant to be spoken in pentameter verse, so you may find some choice of wording odd depending on the translation you go for. These works are continuously referenced by later Greeks and Romans for thousands of years. Their influence on history cannot be denied.

Apollodorus, The Library of Greek Mythology

If you don’t have much time and want a quick overview of greek mythology this is the book for you. Library was just the Greek term for a collection. This book covers almost all the main characters and stories of greek mytholgy in short to the point tales. The original had no chapters, sub-headings etc but many modern translations (including the one I’ve linked) add these in to help the modern reader navigate the works.

Madeline Miller, Circe

A modern retelling of Greek Mythology from the viewpoint of the witch Circe. Often depicted as nothing more than a 2D villan, this is a refreshing take on the old stories you know well. Madeline Miller’s style is one of the most decorative and distinctive I have read in many years and I doubt a lesser writer could have pulled this idea off. Circe spends much of the book in exile. She hears about adventures from others but takes no part herself, yet despite this rather slow narrative Miller manages to make every page shine like the chariot of Helios himself!

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