"I never touched a trained mind yet which had not been disciplined by grammar and mathematics--grammar both Greek and Latin; nor have I ever discovered mental elegance except in those familiar with Greek and Latin classics" (William Milligan Sloane, professor of history at Columbia, 1917, from Simmons, xv).
"Once classical education pointed to an elite course of instruction based upon Greek and Latin, the two great languages of the classical world. But it also delved into the history, philosophy, literature, and art of the Greek and Roman worlds, affording over time to the more perspicacious devotees a remarkably high degree of cultural understanding, an understanding that endured and marked the learner for life" (Simmons, 13).
"Greek and Latin... provided both a mental gymnastic and a training in taste" (Simmons, 14).
"Culture meant books, because from books we learn about what is best" (Simmons, 64).
"The classical pursuit fosters gratitude for the fruits of the past and feeds the sense that we stand on the shoulders of giants. The student of history gains a means of judging other times seriously and fairly. He learns to see that a civilized culture is a delicately poised edifice... easily destroyed" (Simmons, 20).
"It seems to be impossible to live in constant communion with the first minds of antiquity and not imbibe something of the spirit of moderation, of self-control, of cautious wisdom, that breathes through their counsels" (Gildersleeve, 22).
"The most indispensable viaticum for the journey of life is a store of adequate ideals [for judging anything], and these are acquired in a very simple way, by living with the best things in the world -- the best pictures, the best buildings, the best social or political orders, the best human beings. The way to acquire a good taste in anything.... is always the same -- be familiar with the best specimins of each" (Livingstone, 44).
"... it was the Romans, not the Greeks, who ensured the survival of that intellectual heritage underlying liberal learning and classical education. The Romans created much of the intellectual tradition we appeal to today" (Simmons, 61).
"[Isocrates] taught all who came after that anyone, before he can be called civilized, has to read his culture's books... a canon arose for the first time" (Simmons, 66).
"Within the two literatures of Greece and Rome are contained all the knowledge that we recognize as vital to mankind" (Desiderius Erasmus, late 15th century)."
F.M. Cornford "Francis Macdonald Cornford, FBA (27 February 1874 – 3 January 1943) was an English classical scholar... His work Thucydides Mythistoricus (1907) argued that Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War was informed by Thucydides' tragic view. From Religion to Philosophy: A Study in the Origins of Western Speculation (1912) sought out the deep religious and social categories and concepts that informed the achievements of the early Greek philosophers. He returned to this theme in Principium Sapientiae: The Origins of Greek Philosophical Thought (posthumously published, 1952). His Microcosmographia Academica (1908) was the classic insider's satire on academic politics. It is the source of a number of catchphrases, such as the doctrine of unripeness of time, The Principle of the Wedge, and Principle of the Dangerous Precedent
"... academic persons, when they carry on study, not only in youth as a part of education, but as the pursuit of their maturer years, most of them become decidedly queer, not to say rotten; and that those who may be considered the best of them are made useless to the world by the very study which you extol" (PLATO, Republic, vi).
"Today when few can read the ancient languages, we neglect the surviving texts, that even now could astonish and instruct" (Why Study Classics article by Karl Maurer).
"In learning a language, the chief difficulty consists in making acquaintance with every idea which it expresses, even though it should use words for which there in no exact equivalent in the mother tongue; and this often happens. In learning a new language a man has, as it were, to mark out in his mind the boundaries of quite new spheres of ideas, with the result that spheres of ideas arise where none were before. Thus he not only learns words, he gets ideas too.
"This is nowhere so much the case as in learning ancient languages, for the differences they present in their mode of expression as compared with modern languages is greater than can be found amongst modern languages as compared with one another. This is shown by the fact that in translating into Latin, recourse must be had to quite other turns of phrase than are used in the original. The thought that is to be translated has to be melted down and recast; in other words, it must be analyzed and then recomposed. It is just this process which makes the study of the ancient languages contribute so much to the education of the mind.
"It follows from this that a man's thought varies according to the language in which he speaks. His ideas undergo a fresh modification, a different shading, as it were, in the study of every new language. Hence an acquaintance with many languages is not only of much indirect advantage, but it is also a direct means of mental culture, in that it corrects and matures ideas by giving prominence to their many-sided nature and their different varieties of meaning, as also that it increases dexterity of thought; for in the process of learning many languages, ideas become more and more independent of words. The ancient languages effect this to a greater degree than the modern, in virtue of the difference to which I have alluded.
(from Arthur Schopenhauer, "On the Study of Latin" at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#a).
"I have gone back to Greek literature with a passion quite astonishing to myself. I have never felt anything like it. I was enraptured with Italian during the six months which I gave up to it; and I was little less pleased with Spanish. But, when I went back to the Greek, I felt as if I had never known before what intellectual enjoyment was. Oh that wonderful people! There is not one art, not one science, about which we may not use the same expression which Lucretius has employed about the victory over superstition, "Primum Graius homo--." (from Thomas Babington Macaulay, "On the Greeks, especially Thucydides" at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#b).
"Even as mere languages, no modern European language is so valuable a discipline to the intellect as those of Greece and Rome, on account of their regular and complicated structure. Consider for a moment what grammar is. It is the most elementary part of logic. It is the beginning of the analysis of the thinking process...
"But the superiority of the literature itself, for purposes of education, is still more marked and decisive. Even in the substantial value of the matter of which it is the vehicle, it is very far from having been superseded... the treasure which they accumulated of what may be called the wisdom of life: the rich store of experience of human nature and conduct, which the acute and observing minds of those ages, aided in their observations by the greater simplicity of manners and life, consigned to their writings, and most of which retains all its value The speeches in Thucydides: the Rhetoric, Ethics, and Politics of Aristotle, the Dialogues of Plato: the Orations of Demosthenes: the Satires, and especially the Epistles of Horace, all the wntings of Tacitus: the great work of Quintilian, a repertory of the best thoughts of the ancient world on all subjects connected with education: and, in a less formal manner, all that is left to us of the ancient historians, orators, philosophers, and even dramatists, are replete with remarks and maxims of singular good sense and penetration, applicable both to political and to private life. and the actual truths we find in them are even surpassed in value by the encouragement and help they give us in the pursuit of truth" (from James Stuart Mill, "On the Study of Classics" at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#c).
"Latin is now no longer a universal language; and the direct influence of ancient Rome, which once seemed like an immortal energy, is at last, like all energies, becoming slowly absorbed in its own results. Yet the Latin language is still the necessary foundation of one half of human knowledge, and the forms created by Roman genius underlie the whole of our civilisation... In Greece men first learned to be human: under Rome mankind first learned to be civilised. Law, government, citizenship, are all the creations of the Latin race. ( from J. W. Mackail, Professor of Poetry at Oxford (1906-11), official at the Ministry of Education (1884-1919), President of the British Academy (1932-6), translator, author of many works on ancient literature, especially Vergil. at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#f).
"Practically every era of Western civilization has at one time or another tried to liberate itself from the Greeks, in deep dissatisfaction because whatever they themselves achieved, seemingly quite original and sincerely admired, lost color and life when held against the Greek model and shrank to a botched copy, a caricature" (from Friedrich Nietzsche, "On the Greeks." at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#e).
"The elements of Latin exhibit a peculiarly plain concrete case of language as a structure. Provided that your mind has grown to the level of that idea, the fact stares you in the face" (from Alfred North Whitehead, a great British mathematician and philosopher. This passage is from Ch. V. "The Place of Classics in Education", in The Aims of Education and Other Essays. New York: The Free Press, 1929. Found at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#g).
"Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favour any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all, and is equally acceptable to all. Nor must we overlook the characteristic nobility of Latin's formal structure. Its 'concise, varied, and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity', it makes for singular clarity and impressiveness of expression.
"There can be no doubt as to the formative and educational value of the language of the Romans and of great literature generally. It is a most effective training for the pliant minds of youth. It exercises, matures and perfects the principal faculties of mind and spirit. It sharpens the wits and gives keenness of judgment. It helps the young mind to grasp things accurately, and develop a true sense of values. It is also a means for teaching highly intelligent thought and speech.
"'It is a matter of regret', We said, 'that so many people, unaccountably dazzled by the marvellous progress of science, are taking it upon themselves to oust or restrict the study of Latin and other kindred subjects ... Yet in spite of the urgent need for science, Our own view is that the very contrary policy should be followed. The greatest impression is made on the mind by those things which correspond more closely to man's nature and dignity, and therefore the greater zeal should be shown in the acquisition of whatever educates and enobles the mind" (from Pope John XXIII, "APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION ON PROMOTING THE STUDY OF LATIN. At http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#j).
"...if I were asked what, of all the things I was ever taught, has been of the greatest practical use to me, I should have to answer: the Latin Grammar.
"An early grounding in the Latin Grammar has these advantages:
"1. It is the quickest and easiest way to gain mastery over one's own language, because it supplies the structure upon which all language is built.
"2. Latin is the key to fifty per cent. of our vocabulary—either directly, or through French and other Romance languages.
"3. Latin is the key to all the Romance languages directly, and indirectly to all inflected languages. The sort of argument which continually crops up in correspondence upon the teaching of Latin is: "Why should children waste time learning a dead language when Spanish or what-have-you would be much more useful to him in business?" The proper answer, which is practically never given, is the counter-question: "Why should a child waste time learning half a dozen languages from scratch, when Latin would enable him to learn them all in a fraction of the time?"
"4. The literature of our own country and of Europe is so studded and punctuated with Latin phrases and classical allusions that without some knowledge of Latin it must be very difficult to make anything of it.
"5. There is also the matter of derivation, as distinct from vocabulary. I cannot help feeling that it is wholesome, for example, to know that "civility" has some connection with the civitas; that "justice" is more closely akin to righteousness than to equality; and that there was once some dim and forgotten connection between reality and thought" (from Dorothy Sayers. "Latin grammar: the most practical subject" --Dorothy Sayers was an English writer of detective novels and a superb translator of, and good commentator on, Dante. Her father, who taught her Latin, was the dean of Christ's Church, Oxford. Found at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#h).
"ON THE NEED TO READ A WRITER IN HIS OWN LANGUAGE. The acquisition of Greek was of course fundamental for my later work, not only so far as my knowledge of Greek philosophy was concerned, but: for understanding fundamentally that one cannot deal with materials unless one can read them.
"That sounds trivial, but as I later found out, it is a truth not only neglected but hotly contested by a good number of persons who are employed by our colleges and who, with the greatest of ease, talk about Plato and Aristotle, or Thomas and Augustine, or Dante and Cervantes, or Rabelais or Goethe, without being able to read a line of the authors on whom they pontificate. (From Collected Works, vol. 34 p. 39) (from Eric Voegelin, "On the Classics." Found at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#l)
"The best thing would be to get rid of the MCATs, once and for all, and rely instead, wholly, on the judgment of the college faculties.
"You could do this if there were some central, core discipline, universal within the curricula of all the colleges, which could be used for evaluating the free range of a student's mind, his tenacity and resolve, his innate capacity for the understanding of human beings, and his affection for the human condition. For this purpose, I propose that classical Greek be restored as the centerpiece of undergraduate education. The loss of Homeric and Attic Greek from American college life was one of this century's disasters. Putting it back where it once was would quickly make up for the dispiriting impact which generations of spotty Greek in translation have inflicted on modern thought. The capacity to read Homer's language closely enough to sense the terrifying poetry in some of the lines could serve as a shrewd test for the qualities of mind and character needed in a physician...
"If everyone had to master Greek, the college students aspiring to medical school would be placed on the same footing as everyone else, and their identifiability as a separate group would be blurred, to everyone's advantage...
"Latin should be put back as well, but not if it is handled, as it ought to be, by the secondary schools. If Horace has been absorbed prior to college, so much for Latin. But Greek is a proper discipline for the college mind" (from Lewis Thomas, "How to Fix the Premedical Curriculum (with classical Greek)" found at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#m -- Lewis Thomas (1913-1993) was a physician, poet, etymologist, essayist, administrator, educator, policy advisor, and researcher. He was born in Flushing, New York and attended Princeton University and Harvard Medical School. He became Dean of Yale Medical School and New York University School of Medicine, and President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute.)
“Until the twentieth century, anyone in England who had any kind of education at all had an education in the classics,” [Jasper] said. “Until the university reforms of the eighteen-seventies, all education at Oxford and Cambridge was in that tradition. And, yes, it is true that a lot of English literature is influenced by the classics. Dr. Johnson wrote poems in Latin. Marlowe translated big chunks of the Aeneid, and his ‘Dido, Queen of Carthage’ contains bits out of its fourth book. Milton wrote a lot of poems in Latin, and the whole style of ‘Paradise Lost’ is really unintelligible unless one knows Latin and is familiar with Latin epics. Dryden and Pope were the greatest of translators from the Latin and Greek. Pope made his name and fortune translating Homer, and his best poems are explicit imitations of classical poets. He wrote these marvellous poems called ‘Imitations of Horace.’ People like Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley were all very keen on Greek. Keats was perhaps an exception. He wasn’t a gent—he was mostly self-educated—but he picked up as much Greek as he could. In fact, it may have meant more to him because he learned it himself. Tennyson was tremendously keen on Virgil and wrote a very fine poem on him. Arthur Hugh Clough wrote English poems in hexameters. Matthew Arnold was a considerable scholar of the classics, and Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote poems in Latin, which you have no doubt seen in the back of the collected poems. Eliot knew the classics pretty well, too. He was very much interested in Heraclitus and Virgil. There’s not much Greek and Latin in his poems, though—there’s more French. Louis MacNeice read Greats at Merton. The truth is that if you want to study English literature at all, even that of the twentieth century, you have to know some of the classics...
"...a good classical education will produce a mind that is capable of stretching itself. A less rigorous education will produce a less elastic mind...
"Studying that world [Greece and Rome] is bound to be educational, because most people are imprisoned in the tyranny of the present; they imagine that things must always have been the way they are now" (From Jasper Griffin, "On a Classical Education." Found at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html#n --- Jasper Griffin is an Oxford classicist, educated at Christ's Hospital and Balliol College, Oxford [founded by one of my ancestors-Colby] and the author of (among other things) a splendid book called Homer on Life and Death).
"You asked me what is the good of reading the Gospels in Greek.
I answer that it is proper that we move our finger
Along letters more enduring than those carved in stone,
And that, slowly pronouncing each syllable,
We discover the true dignity of speech.
(from Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) found at http://www.udallasclassics.org/whyClassics.html).
"But I have never gone away from them. How can an educated person stay away from the Greeks? I have always been far more interested in them than in science." —Albert Einstein
"All the more strange, then, is it that we should wish to know Greek, try to know Greek, feel for ever drawn back to Greek, and be forever making up some notion of the meaning of Greek, though from what incongruous odds and ends, with what slight resemblance to the real meaning of Greek, who shall say?" — Virginia Woolf
"I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honor, and Greek as a Treat." — Sir Winston Churchill
"It took Latin to thrust me into bona fide alliance with words in their true meaning. Learning Latin...fed my love for words upon words, words in continuation and modification, and the beautiful accretion of a sentence...." — Eudora Welty
"It allows you to adore words, take them apart and find out where they came from." — Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
"I continue to keep myself busy with Greek and Latin, and perhaps I'll always keep myself busy with them. I love the perfume of those beautiful languages; Tacitus is for me like bronze bas-reliefs, and Homer is beautiful like the Mediterranean: both have the same pure blue waves, the same sun, and the same horizon." — Gustave Flaubert
"We are all Greeks! Our laws, our literature, our art, have their roots in Greece." — Percy Bysshe Shelley
"One of the regrets of my life is that I did not study Latin. I'm absolutely convinced, the more I understand these eighteenth-century people, that it was that grounding in Greek and Latin that gave them their sense of the classic virtues: the classic ideals of honor, virtue, the good society and their historic examples of what they could try to live up to." — David McCullough, Historian and author
"To read the Latin and Greek authors in their original is a sublime luxury...I thank on my knees him who directed my early education for having in my possession this rich source of delight." —Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Joseph Priestly January 27, 1800.
"I think myself more indebted to my father for this than for all the other luxuries his cares and affections placed within my reach." — Thomas Jefferson, on his classical education.
Why Study Languages
Learning German or, in fact, any language can be a very personal and emotional journey. That's also probably why so many of us have started a language at one point, but not really gotten very far with it. Not being able to express yourself feels like wearing a "Zwangsjacke," and to get used to that is clearly not easy. But, once you have crossed a certain threshold, the "jacket" seems to loosen, and breathing (in German) becomes a lot easier. As we progress we take deeper breaths and feel more and more comfortable until, one day, we use the language effortlessly. Now we are able to express ourselves in two languages. We have also successfully overcome a huge challenge which makes us more fulfilled and bolsters our self-confidence. (email from About Education).
Livingstone, Sir Richard. Defense of Classical Education. London: Macmillan, 1916.
Simmons, Tracy Lee. Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin. Wilmington, Delaware, ISI Books, 2012.
Works of F.M. Cornford Online from UNZ
memrise courses on the classics, Latin, and Greek
ABZU Project a guide to networked open access data relevant to the study and public presentation of the Ancient Near East and the Ancient Mediterranean world.
AKROPOLIS WORLD NEWS the site of world news in Ancient Greek
American Classical League founded in 1919 for the purpose of fostering the study of classical languages in the United States and Canada
Archive, Internet texts free to read or download
Archives of CLASSICS-L@LSV.UKY.EDU Classical Greek and Latin Discussion Group
Aristarchus.it a set of working tools for research and teaching in the subject area of Greek and Latin ancient world. Available in English
Cato: The life, times, and legacy of Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger by Tim Ferriss.
Classics Archive, MIT mostly Graeco-Roman, but also some Chinese and Persian, all in English translation.
Classics, a definnition Wikipedia
Classics at Oxford collection of links
The Classics Page from the Latin Library
Erasmus full text of Festina Lente ex Adagia by Desiderius Erasmus; includes translation
Exploring Ancient World Cultures Not all Greek critics chose Socrates' direct approach. ARISTOPHANES' play Lysistrata hilariously lambastes war-mongers. Despite its playful ribaldry, Lysistrata was written at a time of great duress, when the welfare of the fragile Athenian city-state was threatened from hostile forces both inside and out. Yet, the play's parody displays its profound critique of contemporary society.
Likewise, SOPHOCLES' play Antigone is an outspoken critique of absolute power and unenlightened rule. The play details the disasters that befall a society in the midst of change, when long-accepted traditions conflict with interests of a new era.
Gildersleeve, Basil Lanneau. Essays and Studies. Baltimore: N. Murray, 1890.
Greek/Latin Free Books
House of Ptolemy An aid in the study of the Ptolemaic (Macedonian-based Greek), Roman Imperial (Greco-Roman), and Byzantine rulers of Egypt based in Alexandria, this portal site is intended for all classicists and students of Hellenistic history.
Humanities and the Liberal Arts
Humanities Library full texts in English and Latin from the age of Shakespeare
Internet Medieval Sourcebook history and full texts
Internet Renaissance Sourcebook includes history and full texts
IntraText Digital Library
Iris Project, UK Literacy through Latin... We are the first organisation to run a scheme delivering Latin as part of the national literacy curriculum. Greek in Schools... We believe that learning Greek can promote the learning of languages, as children are learning an entirely new alphabet and hence developing their experience of language.
Kessinger Rare Reprints
Kirke: Collection of Internet Sources for Classical Philology in German.
Loeb Classical Library
MICROCOSMOGRAPHIA ACADEMICA The full text of Cornford's satire on academic politics.
The New Stoa The Online Stoic Community
Open Library full texts free to read or download
Peitho's Classic Rhetoric online articles
Perseus Digital Library many full texts, commentaries, and help for translating
Perseus Greek & Roman Materials
Proj.Gutenberg 45,000 free e-books
Project Homerica in French from Grenoble
Ryan Holiday Reading Newsletter
Star myths of the Greeks and Romans
Stoa Consortium has a digital library and many articles about the classics. Also serves as a communication tool for classicists.
Virgil.org many links to many classical and Renaissance sites
Voice of the Shuttle links on huge no. of subjects, including archaeology, Classics, humanities, philosophy and many others.
Why Read the Classics an excellent article
Why Study Classics article by Karl Maurer
Yale Dept. of Classics
Ancient Narrative includes book reviews
ARACHNION. A Journal of Ancient Literature and History on the Web
Bryn Mawr Classical Review publishes timely open-access, peer-reviewed reviews of current scholarly work in the field of classical studies (including archaeology). This site is the authoritative archive of BMCR's publication, from 1990 to the present. Reviews from August 2008 on are also posted on our blog.
Review of Inside Roman Libraries: Book Collections and Their Management in Antiquity. Studies in the history of Greece and Rome, by George W. Houston. “everything that one might find in a Roman library” (p. 1) from the book rolls themselves to the furniture, storage containers, buildings, and personnel that facilitated their use by Roman readers... provides the reader with a vocabulary of technical terms used throughout the study, including opisthograph (a scroll with writing on both sides), sillybon (a tag denoting the author and title of a work, usually attached to the end of a scroll), and stichometric counts (evidence for the enumeration of lines copied by professional scribes, perhaps to calculate their rate of pay).
Eisodos Journal of Ancient Literature and Theory. Peer reviewed.
Electronic Antiquity Virginia Tech
Electra articles focusing on Ancient Greek and Roman Mythology and Religion from a philological, historical, anthropological, archaeological, linguistic or philosophical point of view. These articles should be original and written in English, French, German or Modern Greek.
Bibliotheca Classica Selecta general articles in French
Histos: The on-line journal of Ancient Historiography (UK)
Leeds International Classical Studies many articles
Osnabrücker online contributions to the Ancient Studies (OOB)
Plato Society Journal The purpose of this journal is to promote a dialogue on Plato in several languages ??and in several interpretive approaches. This Journal was launched by the International Plato Society
Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics Working Papers are pre-publication versions of academic articles, book chapters, or reviews. Papers posted on this site are in progress, under submission, or in press and forthcoming elsewhere. Although, as far as we know, this is the first Working Papers series in the field of Classics, such series are very common in other academic disciplines.
Revue des Études Tardo-antiques electronic journal devoted to late antiquity.
L'anee Philologique subscribed Professor... Me--76&
Antika j. of Assoc. of Classical Philologists
Studia Humaniora Tartuensia An international online journal of the classics and the humanities
Classical Journal The Classical Journal (ISSN 0009-8353) is published by the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS), the largest regional classics association in the United States and Canada, and is now over a century old. All members of CAMWS receive the journal as a benefit of membership; non-member and library subscriptions are also available. CJ appears four times a year (October-November, December-January, February-March, April-May); each issue consists of about 100 pages... CJ contains a mix of academic articles and notes on Graeco-Roman antiquity, generally with a literary, historical or cultural focus; paedagogical articles and notes, many having to do with the challenges of teaching Latin and Greek in modern high schools, colleges and universities; book reviews; and a list of books received.
Society for Classical Studies j. is Amphora, published annually.
The Oresteia Project, from Amphora The Oresteia demands a large canvas. Its trajectory, from the end of the Trojan War to Athena's creation of the first trial by jury, is huge. It is the story of the movement from a tribal cry for blood revenge to a system of justice designed by a god but carried out by men. It addresses the struggle between male and female, chthonic and Olympian gods, tribe and polis, law and tradition, justice and revenge.
Why in Heaven's Name are you Majoring in Greek? out of nowhere, I found myself in an Ancient History class. Oh God, I thought. All those old people. And then I learned -- about the wisdom and the legends and the heroism of the ancients -- about great events and even greater literature and a time full of extraordinary human achievement. I was fascinated... In walked Miss McCarthy that first day, and all my apprehension vanished. Studying classical Greek was, to me, not only fun and fascinating and eye-opening, it was like a puzzle -- a new secret code -- endlessly delightful despite having to learn all those declensions.
The writers Toni Morrison and JK Rowling (of Harry Potter fame) studied the classics; so did Hewlett Packard founder David Packard, the former CEO of Lotus development, the German-born statesman Carl Schurz, the former Governor of California, Jerry Brown, the former governor of Mass, William Weld, the former Secretary of Stae, James Baker, the former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Jane Addams and Sigmund Freud.
And there is something else. Like most of you I have been thinking a lot about war today, and am inevitably drawn to those vivid, early descriptions of war by Homer and others. And I am especially riveted by Barry Unsworth's rich novel, The Songs of the Kings, which recasts the beginnings of the Trojan War in strikingly contemporary terms. As a reviewer for the Los Angeles Times put it:
A mighty army poised to invade the Middle East is delayed by unfavorable weather. Its commander in chief struggles to keep his allies from deserting him. Sports are used as a distraction; religious leaders and the media are enlisted to trumpet the justice of the invaders' cause. The superiority of Western culture is cited. But something more, it seems, is needed -- something to shock and awe all onlookers...
Why Study Classics?
Hellenic Communications Services
The tragedy of classical languages being for the privileged few, by Josephine Quinn.
A decreasing numbers of state schools now teach ancient Greek A-level, cutting off a vital window into the past for the majority of children.
‘The true value of studying the classical Mediterranean lies not in its connections with our own culture and experiences, but in how very strange and foreign it can be.’
But neither Greek nor Latin A-level – or indeed any foreign language – is a prerequisite for the study of classics and the classical languages at any UK university. And while there are other good reasons to study Greek and Latin at school – these rigorous, highly grammatical languages teach their students to think straight, and make them better at other subjects, including English and maths – the study of classical languages at elementary levels is booming, thanks to the remarkable efforts of dedicated teachers and charities like Classics For All, with government support. So why should we care about the demise of a dead language at A-level?
It is a common argument for the study of classics that the Greeks and Romans are our cultural ancestors, that we carry their legacy, and that understanding our classical roots will somehow help us to understand ourselves. But even if we take “our culture” as narrowly as the traditional cultures of the British Isles, this is a dubious claim. Our languages are Germanic and Celtic, our major religions originate in the Middle East, and our political institutions owe little to those of the city-states of Greece and Rome beyond the empty name of democracy.
In fact, many of the good ideas of the Greeks have never even been tried here. Lotto-democracy, for instance – the Athenian principle of distributing political offices by lottery rather than election – would ensure that everyone had the chance, or faced the risk, of taking part in government. Selecting members of councils like members of juries would undoubtedly increase levels of political representation, knowledge and responsibility.
And this is where the true value of studying the classical Mediterranean lies: not in its connections with our own culture and experiences, but in how very strange and foreign it can be. A wealth of literary and archaeological evidence gives us the opportunity to see a different world through different eyes, to try to understand and perhaps even find some sympathy with the mentalities of people who think in completely different ways to us, on the basis of completely different life experiences.
Of course, the Greeks and Romans aren’t the only possible way into other cultural worlds – but even fewer UK schools can offer (for instance) Arabic or Chinese. And the best way to understand other cultures is by taking them seriously, and learning their languages to a level high enough to read the literature independently and come to independent conclusions, and judgments, on the ideas it contains. That the opportunity to do so is increasingly restricted to a privileged few is a state of affairs that should concern us rather more than it would the imperialist, misogynist, slave-owning elites of ancient Greece and Rome.
Classics for All A national charity for Classics in schools.
We are a group of individuals united by a passion for Classics. Many of us have studied Classics at state schools, and all of us know the subject has great educational value across many disciplines. Our supporters include academics, scholars and teachers, business people, politicians and broadcasters.
Classics – the study of Latin, Greek and Ancient Civilisations – is in growing demand in state schools but it has to compete for funding with other essential subjects in increasingly tight school budgets. We think making Classics available in every state school is a must so that all pupils – from whatever background – have the same opportunities.
Hellenic Bookservice the largest collection of Classics and Modern Greek books in the world,,, Our Classics department covers ancient history, culture, mythology, religion, as well as literature. Located in London.
Has Latin Scrabble, with game rules in English, French and German as well as Latin. 25 pounds. Has Latin and Greek games, crosswords, posters, wall maps, bumper stickers
Debate: Classics (Latin and Ancient Greek), should be taught in schools
Logos tweeting Greek/Latin vocabulary & RT'ing historical goodies
The Classics Library Latin
Henry George Liddell Ancient Greek, w/ editing
MORGANTINA 1955-2015: 60 years of excavations in Sicily
Joseph Scaliger "One of the most brilliant names in the whole history of classical scholarship" (Clyde Pharr. Homeric Greek. U. of Okla.: 1985, p. xxii).
Joseph Scaliger Joseph Justus Scaliger; 5 August 1540 – 21 January 1609) was a French religious leader and scholar, known for expanding the notion of classical history from Greek and ancient Roman history to include Persian, Babylonian, Jewish and ancient Egyptian history. He spent the end of his life in the Netherlands.
Joseph Justus Scaliger (5 August 1540 – 21 January 1609)
"Joseph Justus Scaliger 2" by Engraved by Delpech - http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/images/B23325. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joseph_Justus_Scaliger_2.jpg#/media/File:Joseph_Justus_Scaliger_2.jpg
After his father's death he spent four years at the University of Paris, where he began the study of Greek under Adrianus Turnebus. But after two months he found he was not in a position to profit from the lectures of the greatest Greek scholar of the time. He read Homer in twenty-one days, and then went through all the other Greek poets, orators and historians, forming a grammar for himself as he went along. From Greek, at the suggestion of Guillaume Postel, he proceeded to attack Hebrew, and then Arabic; of both he acquired a respectable knowledge.
His most important teacher was Jean Dorat. He was able not only to impart knowledge, but also to kindle enthusiasm. It was to Dorat that Scaliger owed his home for the next thirty years of his life, for in 1563 the professor recommended him to Louis de Chasteigner, the young lord of La Roche-Posay, as a companion in his travels. A close friendship sprang up between the two young men, which remained unbroken till the death of Louis in 1595.
Joseph Justus Scaliger (5 August 1540 – 21 January 1609) painted by Paullus Merula, 3rd librarian of Leiden University, 1597
"Scaliger" by Paullus Merula - Transferred from nl.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
It was during this period of his life that he composed and published his books of historical criticism. His editions of the Catalecta (1575), of Festus (1575), of Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius (1577), are the work of a man determined to discover the real meaning and force of his author. He was the first to lay down and apply sound rules of criticism and emendation, and to change textual criticism from a series of haphazard guesses into a "rational procedure subject to fixed laws" (Mark Pattison [(10 October 1813 – 30 July 1884) was an English author and a Church of England priest. He served as Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford.]).
But these works, while proving Scaliger's right to the foremost place among his contemporaries as Latin scholar and critic, did not go beyond mere scholarship. It was reserved for his edition of Manilius (1579), and his De emendatione temporum (1583), to revolutionize perceived ideas of ancient chronology—to show that ancient history is not confined to that of the Greeks and Romans, but also comprises that of the Persians, the Babylonians and the Egyptians, hitherto neglected, and that of the Jews, hitherto treated as a thing apart; and that the historical narratives and fragments of each of these, and their several systems of chronology, must be critically compared. It was this innovation that distinguished Scaliger from contemporary scholars.
Joseph Justus Scaliger (5 August 1540 – 21 January 1609)
""JJScaliger" by Jan Cornelisz. van 't Woudt or Woudanus (attributed) - Digitool Leiden University. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
Scaliger had made numerous enemies. He hated ignorance, but he hated still more half-learning, and most of all dishonesty in argument or in quotation. Himself the soul of honour and truthfulness, he had no toleration for the disingenuous argument and the misstatements of facts of those who wrote to support a theory or to defend an unsound cause. His pungent sarcasm soon reached the ears of the persons who were its object, and his pen was not less bitter than his tongue. He was conscious of his power, and not always sufficiently cautious or sufficiently gentle in its exercise. Nor was he always right. He trusted much to his memory, which was occasionally treacherous. His emendations, if often valuable, were sometimes absurd. In laying the foundations of a science of ancient chronology he relied sometimes on groundless or even absurd hypotheses, often based on an imperfect induction of facts. Sometimes he misunderstood the astronomical science of the ancients, sometimes that of Copernicus and Tycho Brahe. And he was no mathematician.
But his enemies were not merely those whose errors he had exposed and whose hostility he had excited by the violence of his language. The results of his method of historical criticism threatened the Catholic controversialists and the authenticity of many of the documents on which they relied. The Jesuits, who aspired to be the source of all scholarship and criticism, saw the writings and authority of Scaliger as a formidable barrier to their claims. Muret in the latter part of his life professed the strictest orthodoxy, Lipsius had been reconciled to the Church of Rome, Isaac Casaubon was supposed to be wavering, but Scaliger was known to be an irreconcilable Protestant. As long as his intellectual supremacy was unquestioned, the Protestants had the advantage in learning and scholarship. His enemies therefore aimed, if not to answer his criticisms or to disprove his statements, yet to attack him as a man and to destroy his reputation. This was no easy task, for his moral character was strong
10/18/16 email from Ryan Holiday:
This is a special email for me to send (and certainly not the second one of its kind I thought I’d get to send in a year). It’s special because it is in part an announcement of the release of my newest book, The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living (B&N, Audible, Indiebound, iTunes, Kobo), which features all new translations of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca as well as hundreds of new stories, anecdotes and exercises to help readers live better.
Some of you have already been enjoying the Daily Stoic email which goes out every morning (now to nearly 10,000 people), which is really only a tiny sliver of what this book offers. I’ve always loved the “daily read” format—one exciting page per day—and now I’ve been lucky enough to publish one of my own on my favorite topic in the world: ancient philosophy.
In any case, I wanted to make October’s reading newsletter different to mark that occasion. Instead of just promoting the book (which I hope you will all read!) I want to provide a number of other awesome philosophy recommendations. Whether you read my book or theirs, I promise you, these books will have an enormous impact on your life. I can say that from experience—because each one of them has changed mine.
In any case, enjoy and keep reading. And of course, let me know what you think of The Daily Stoic and the DailyStoic.com daily email!
***The Best Of the Stoics***
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
It still strikes now—some 10 years into reading this book—how lucky we are to even have it. Meditations is perhaps the only document of its kind ever made: the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man about how to make good on the responsibilities and obligations of his positions.
Marcus stopped almost every night to practice a series of spiritual exercises—reminders designed to make him humble, patient, empathetic, generous, and strong in the face of whatever he was dealing with. You cannot read this book and not come away with a phrase or a line that will be helpful to you next time you are in trouble.
Read it, and then read it again as often as you can. (Note: I strongly recommend the Hays’s translation above all others and you can also read my interview with him here).
Letters from a Stoic by Seneca
Seneca, like Marcus, was also a powerful man in Rome. He was also a great writer and from the looks of it, a wise man who dispensed great advice to his friends. Much of that advice survives in the form of letters, guiding them and now us through problems with grief, wealth, poverty, success, failure, education and so many other things.
Seneca was a stoic as well, but like Marcus, he was practical and borrowed liberally from other schools. As he quipped to a friend, “I don’t care about the author if the line is good.” That is the ethos of practical philosophy—it doesn’t matter from whom or when it came from, what matters is if it helps you in your life, if only for a second.
Reading Seneca will do that. (Other collections of his thoughts are great too: Penguin’s On the Shortness of Life is excellent and if you’re looking for an audiobook of Seneca, try Tim Ferriss’s edition The Tao of Seneca: Letters from a Stoic Master)
Enchiridion by Epictetus
Unlike the other powerful Stoics, Epictetus overcame incredible adversity. A slave who was banished from Rome, he eventually became a philosopher and opened a small school.
Notes from his classes survive to us in what is now called the Enchiridion, which translates as a ‘small manual or a handbook’ and it is exactly that. It is the perfect introduction to Epictetus as it is packed with short Stoic maxims and principles.
Unlike both Seneca and Marcus, Epictetus is somewhat more difficult to read and I recommend beginning with those two if you haven’t yet read them. The next step would be Epictetus’ Discourses, which are much longer and deserve a bigger commitment.
***Works From Other Great Stoic-Like Philosophers***
The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus by Publius Syrus
A Syrian slave in the first century BC, Publius Syrus is a fountain of quick, helpful wisdom that you cannot help but recall and apply to your life.
“Rivers are easiest to cross at their source.”
“Want a great empire? Rule over yourself.”
“Divide the fire and you will sooner put it out.”
“Always shun that which makes you angry.”
Those are a few I remember off the top of my head. But all of them are good and worthy of re-reading in times of difficulty (or boredom or in preparation of a big event).
Fragments by Heraclitus
The Stoics—especially Marcus—loved to draw from Heraclitus, a mystic, ephemeral philosopher whose beautiful fragments are eminently quotable. My favorite line from Heraclitus is his line about how no man steps in the same river twice—because it is not the same river and he is not the same man.
Another favorite: “Applicants for wisdom / do what I have done: / inquire within.”
And of course, his most direct and timeless remark: “Character is fate.”
If you’re looking for philosophy that is poetic but also practical, give Heraclitus a chance.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Man is sent to a concentration camp and finds some way for good to come of it. Finds some way to turn it into the ultimate metaphor for life: that we have little control over our circumstances, complete control over our attitude, and our ability to make meaning out of the things which happen to us.
In Frankl’s case, we are lucky that he was a brilliant psychologist and writer and managed to turn all this into one of the most important books of the 20th century.
I think constantly of his line about the man who asks, “What is the meaning of life?” The answer is that you don’t get to ask the question. Life is the one who asks and we must reply with our actions.
Essays by Michel de Montaigne
Montaigne was deeply influenced by some of the books I mentioned above. He was the epitome of Heraclitus’s line about “inquiring within.” So much so that he spent basically the entire second part of his life asking himself (and other people) all sorts of interesting questions and then exploring the answers in the form of short, provocative essays.
(A favorite: Whether he was playing with his cat, or whether he was the toy to his cat).
These essays are always good for a helpful thought or two—be it about death, about “other” people, about animals, about sex, or anything.
Nature and Selected Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson
While Montaigne’s essays are good for making us think, Emerson’s essays make us act. They remind us that we are ultimately responsible for our own life, for making ethical choices and for fulfilling our potential.
I prefer Emerson to the more indolent Thoreau and because unlike most classic writers, he embodies that uniquely American drive and ambition (but in a healthy way).
If you have not read Emerson, you should. If you have—and you remember fondly his reminders about recognizing our own genius in the work of others, or his reminders to experience the beauty of nature—that counts as philosophy. See how easy it is?
Essays and Aphorisms by Arthur Schopenhauer
Schopenhauer is another brilliant composer of quick thoughts that will help us with our problems. His work was often concerned with the “will”—our inner drives and power.
“For that which is otherwise quite indigestible, all affliction, vexation, loss, grief, time alone digests.”
But he also talks about surprisingly current issues: “Newspapers are the second hand of history”—and that the hand is often broken or malfunctioning.
And of course, the timeless as well: “Hope is the confusion of the desire for a thing for its probability.”
Maxims and Reflections by Goethe
I’d never read or even heard of Goethe until I saw him mentioned in the Hays’ introduction to Marcus Aurelius but I am grateful to have been exposed to the man’s brilliant maxims.
The topics range from natural science, art, ethics, literature to observations on chance encounters he’d have.
Goethe himself was prolific, writing poetry, dramas, scientific treatises, novels and in the last decades of his life he would begin publishing these short reflections. Some favorite ones from the book:
“Behavior is a mirror in which everyone shows his image.”
“Absolute activity, of whatever kind, ultimately leads to bankruptcy.”
“Tell me whom you consort with and I will tell you who you are.”
***Works About The Stoics***
The Inner Citadel and Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot
Pierre Hadot is maybe one of the smartest people I’ve ever read. The Inner Citadel is mostly about Marcus Aurelius and the Stoic concept of the self as a fortress.
Philosophy as a Way of Life is essentially a book about the wisdom of ancient philosophers cumulatively acquired and how we can use the same exercises in our struggles.
I highly recommend both of these. If you’ve read both and want more from the master, I also suggest The Present Alone is Our Happiness which is a series of interviews with Hadot.
Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni
Marcus Cato has certainly earned his place in the history books—he was the Stoic senator who led the opposition against Julius Caesar who then killed himself rather than live under a dictator. Cato was a soldier, a politician, a thinker and, because of how he lived his life, a philosopher.
His unassailable place in Roman culture is best seen in the old proverbial expression used to make excuses: “We’re not all Catos.” You can also read an interview with Jimmy Soni over at the Daily Stoic.
Marcus Aurelius by Matthew Arnold (essay)
Matthew Arnold was a Victorian scholar who fell in the category of ‘sage writers’—the type of writer who instructs and chastises the reader. This is a fantastic essay on Marcus, who as he remarked in 1863, was a man who held the highest power and most powerful station in the world—and the universal verdict of the people around him was that he proved worthy of it.
A few other great essays on Marcus: "Homage to Marcus Aurelius" by Joseph Brodsky (available in On Grief and Reason: Essays) and “Stoicism in the South” by Walker Percy (available in Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays).
Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
There are not many great works of fiction about Stoicism, but this is one. Written from the perspective of Hadrian, the book takes the form of a long letter of advice to a young Marcus Aurelius, who would eventually succeed him as emperor.
It’s somber but practical, filled with beautiful and moving passages from a man near death, looking to prepare someone for one of the most difficult jobs in the world.
The only other work of fiction about Stoicism I can recommend is Tom Wolfe’s A Man In Full—and then of course, the Loeb edition of Seneca’s plays.
During his lifetime, Seneca was actually more famous for his tragedies than he was for his philosophy (there is a line from one of his plays entombed as graffiti at Pompeii). Anyway, I was enthralled by these dark, disturbing but ultimately stoic plays.
Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero by James Romm
I loved this book and read it in one long, long flight. I was riveted and I'm someone who already knew a lot about Seneca. This book is particularly interesting because the author understands that his subject is a person of contradictions but doesn't judge the subject.
Instead he seeks to understand it. In Seneca it is this: how can a philosopher accumulate so much political power? How can a wise man tutor such a monster?
How can an austere man aspire to (and enjoy) great wealth? How can a philosophical writer also be a passionate playwright?
I'll say it again: I loved this book. I don't necessarily agree with all its conclusions but it made me think all the way through.
Lives of Eminent Philosophers Volumes I & II by Diogenes Laertius
Ironically, Diogenes’ most famous biography in this collection is of the other Diogenes—Diogenes the Cynic. Other excellent and illustrative sketches include Zeno, Ariston, Cleanthes and Chrysippus the Stoic. Heraclitus is another great biography.
All of these vary in length. Zeno is over a 150 pages, Herillus (not to be confused with Heraclitus) is 2 pages. But regardless of length, they are all quite good.
My favorite little quirk of the book is Diogenes’ weird poem that he writes about each philosopher and of course the credulity with which he reports on their unusual deaths (on that note, you may also like the book The Book of Dead Philosophers, a book on how many of the world’s most famous philosophers supposedly died.)
The letters of Marcus Aurelius and his mentor and rhetoric teacher Marcus Cornelius Fronto survived and are interesting to flip through. For more related to Epictetus, you can look into the short autobiography Courage Under Fire by James Stockdale.
Anyway, this is already become one of the longer reading list recommendation emails I’ve ever done (which I suppose is fitting considering The Daily Stoic is my longest book).
Some of you might have already read some of these books—but I’d urge you to take this email as a reminder to pick them up again.
Philosophy is not something you know, it’s something you do. It’s designed to be read and re-read, to be discussed, written about and most of all, to be lived. I hope these recommendations get you started along that path and I hope the path is as fulfilling, provocative and helpful as it has been for me.
Plain of Troy
A taste of Ancient Rome: Pullum Numidicum (Numidian Chicken) and Conchicla Cum faba (Beans with Cumin)