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Classics and Books from Antiquity

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By: Apollonius Rhodius (3rd Cent. -3rd Cent.)

Book cover Argonautica

The story of how Jason and a group of famous heroes of Greece took to sea in the Argos has been told many times, before and after Apollonius of Rhodes, wrote his Argonautica, in the 3rd century b.C.. It is not only the oldest full version of the tale to arrive to our days, but also the only extant example of Hellenistic epic. This was already a popular myth by the times of Apollonius, who makes the story of how Jason and the Argonauts sail to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece, and have to go through a lot of adventures to fulfill their task, a mix of simple narrative and scholarly catalog. The Argonautica had a deep impact on European literature as a whole.

By: Aristophanes (446-389 BCE)

Book cover Frogs

Athens is in a sorry state of affairs. The great tragedian, Euripides, is dead, and Dionysus, the god of the theater, has to listen to third-rate poetry. So, he determines to pack his belongings onto his trusty slave, Xanthias, and journey to the underworld to bring back Euripides! Hi-jinks ensue.

Book cover Clouds

Strepsiades is an Athenian burdened with debt from a bad marriage and a spendthrift son. He resolves to go to the Thinking Shop, where he can purchase lessons from the famous Socrates in ways to manipulate language in order to outwit his creditors in court. Socrates, represented as a cunning, manipulative, irreverent sophist, has little success with the dull-witted Strepsiades, but is able to teach the old man's son Phidippides a few tricks. In the end, the play is a cynical, clever commentary on Old Ways vs. New Ways, to the disparagement of the former.

By: Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

Book cover Physics

Physics (Greek: Φυσικὴ ἀκρόασις; Latin: Physica, or Physicae Auscultationes) discusses concepts including: substance, accident, the infinite, causation, motion, time and the Prime Mover.

Book cover Magna Moralia

Magna Moralia (Ancient Greek: ΗΟΙΚΩΝ ΜΕΓΑΛΩΝ, English: Great Ethics) discusses topics including friendship, virtue, happiness and God. It is disputed whether Aristotle wrote Magna Moralia. This author concludes that it is absurd to suggest that God contemplates only God but does not propose an alternative activity for God.

Book cover Constitution of Athens

The Constitution of Athens (Greek: Ἀθηναίων πολιτεία) was written by Aristotle or his student. The text was lost until discovered in the late 19th century in Egypt. Topics discussed include Solon's legislative reforms abolishing debt slavery and the rise and decline of democracy and tyranny in Athens.

By: Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 297-373)

Book cover Four Discourses Against The Arians

In spite of Nicea's condemnation of Arius in 325, Arianism was far from dead. For decades after Nicea, political intrigue and personality clashes continued to confuse the doctrinal issues. Additionally, the line separating othodoxy from Arianism was blurred by a number of "semi-Arians" who agreed with the theology of orthodoxy but continued to object to the "homoousios" of the Nicene Formula. In this milieu, Athanasius of Alexandria tirelessly worked to cut through the confusion and restore unity...

By: Bhartṛhari (c. 400-500)

Book cover Vairagya Shatakam

Vairagya Shatakam is one of the best books that gives the true picture of Renunciation. The book talks on how a common man gets lured by the endless desires which when satisfied fetches him nothing but the desires again. It concludes saying how these unsatiable desires mislead the man from knowing his real nature-omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience!

By: Confucius 孔子 (551-479 BCE)

Book cover Analects of Confucius

The Analects, or Lunyu, also known as the Analects of Confucius, are considered a record of the words and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius and his disciples, as well as the discussions they held. Written during the Spring and Autumn Period through the Warring States Period (ca. 475 BC - 221 BC), the Analects is the representative work of Confucianism and continues to have a substantial influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today. William Jennings was a rector of Grasmere, and late colonial chaplain. He served at St. John's Cathedral in Hong Kong.

By: Euripides (484 BC - 406 BC)

Book cover Orestes

In accordance with the advice of the god Apollo, Orestes has killed his mother Clytemnestra to avenge the death of his father Agamemnon at her hands. Despite Apollo’s earlier prophecy, Orestes finds himself tormented by Erinyes or Furies to the blood guilt stemming from his matricide. The only person capable of calming Orestes down from his madness is his sister Electra. To complicate matters further, a leading political faction of Argos wants to put Orestes to death for the murder. Orestes’ only hope to save his life lies in his uncle Menelaus, who has returned with Helen after spending ten years in Troy and several more years amassing wealth in Egypt...

Book cover Alcestis

Alcestis is the earliest surviving play by Euripides. Alcestis, the devoted wife of King Admetus, has agreed to die in his place, and at the beginning of the play she is close to death. In the first scene, Apollo argues with Thanatos (Death), asking to prolong Alcestis' life, but Thanatos refuses. Apollo leaves, but suggests that a man will come to Pherae who will save Alcestis. Euripides' play is perhaps the most unusual Greek drama ever written: a tragedy that is not a tragedy.

By: Hesiod

Book cover Works and Days, The Theogony, and The Shield of Heracles

Works and Days provides advice on agrarian matters and personal conduct. The Theogony explains the ancestry of the gods. The Shield of Heracles is the adventure of Heracles accepting an enemy's challenge to fight.

By: Homer (c. 8th cen - c. 8th cen)

Book cover Odysseys of Homer

The Odysseys are a collection of stories about Ulysses' journey home from the war at Troy purportedly written in the 8th century BCE by Homer, a blind poet thought to have lived in the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, possibly at Smyrna. The events described are thought to have occurred centuries before being recorded by Homer, handed down orally since the twelfth century BCE, the golden era of the Greek Bronze Age when the world was populated by heroic mortals and often visited by the Gods. This verse...

By: Plato (Πλάτων) (c. 428 BC - c. 347 BC)

Book cover Republic (version 2)

The Republic is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato around 380 BC concerning the definition of justice and the order and character of the just city-state and the just man. It is Plato's best-known work and has proven to be one of the most intellectually and historically influential works of philosophy and political theory. In it, Socrates along with various Athenians and foreigners discuss the meaning of justice and examine whether or not the just man is happier than the unjust man by considering a series of different cities coming into existence "in speech", culminating in a city (Kallipolis) ruled by philosopher-kings; and by examining the nature of existing regimes...

Book cover Gorgias

This dialogue brings Socrates face to face with the famous sophist Gorgias and his followers. It is a work likely completed around the time of "Republic" and illuminates many of the spiritual ideas of Plato. The spirituality, as Jowett points out in his wonderful introduction, has many ideas akin to Christianity, but is more generous as it reserves damnation only for the tyrants of the world. Some of the truths of Socrates, as presented by Plato, shine forth in this wonderful work on sophistry and other forms of persuasion or cookery.

Book cover Protagoras

Jowett, in his always informative introduction, sees this dialogue as transitional between the early and middle dialogues. Socrates meets with Protagoras and other sophists and pursues his inquiry into virtue. The dialectic brings the thinkers to a surprising ending. Socrates narrates this dialogue.

Book cover Critias

This is an incomplete dialogue from the late period of Plato's life. Plato most likely created it after Republic and it contains the famous story of Atlantis, that Plato tells with such skill that many have believed the story to be true. Critias, a friend of Socrates, and uncle of Plato was infamous as one of the bloody thirty tyrants.

Book cover Alcibiades I

As Jowett relates in his brilliant introduction, 95% of Plato's writing is certain and his reputation rests soundly on this foundation. The Alcibiades 1 appears to be a short work by Plato with only two characters: Socrates and Alcibiades. This dialogue has little dramatic verisimilitude but centres on the question of what knowledge one needs for political life. Like the early dialogues, the question is on whether the virtues needed by a statesman can be taught, on the importance of self-knowledge as a starting point for any leader...

Book cover Lesser Hippias

This work may not be by Plato, or his entirely, but Jowett has offered his sublime translation, and seems to lean towards including it in the canon. Socrates tempted by irony to deflate the pretentious know-it-all Hippias, an arrogant polymath, appears to follow humour more than honour in this short dialogue.

By: Pliny the Elder (23-79)

Book cover Natural History Volume 4

Naturalis Historia (Latin for "Natural History") is an encyclopedia published circa AD 77-79 by Pliny the Elder. It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman empire to the modern day and purports to cover the entire field of ancient knowledge, based on the best authorities available to Pliny. The work became a model for all later encyclopedias in terms of the breadth of subject matter examined, the need to reference original authors, and a comprehensive index list of the contents...

By: Pliny the Younger (61 - ca. 112)

Book cover Letters of Pliny

The largest surviving body of Pliny's work is his Epistulae (Letters), a series of personal missives directed to his friends, associates and the Emperor Trajan. These letters are a unique testimony of Roman administrative history and everyday life in the 1st century CE. Especially noteworthy among the letters are two in which he describes the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in August 79, during which his uncle Pliny the Elder died (65 and 66 in this edition), and one in which he asks the Emperor for instructions regarding official policy concerning Christians (Trajan Letter 97)...

By: Publius (Ovid) Ovidius Naso (c. 43 BC - 18 AD)

Book cover Fasti

The Fasti is a Latin poem in six books, written by Ovid and believed to have been published in 8 AD. The Fasti is organized according to the Roman calendar and explains the origins of Roman holidays and associated customs, often through the mouths of deities and with multiple aetiologies. The poem was left unfinished when the poet was exiled to Tomis, so only the first six months of the year appear in the poem.

By: Sappho (c. 630 BC - c. 570 BC)

Book cover Sappho: A New Rendering

Sappho lived in the Greek-speaking Aeolian islands off the coast of Turkey. She is one of the very few female poets from antiquity. Although her work was very popular in ancient Greece and Rome, only small fragments survive today. This book includes translations of these fragments, as well as a poem from Ovid's Heroides, "Sappho to Phaon," a fictional letter from Sappho to her assumed lover.

By: Virgil (70 BC - 19 BC)

Book cover Aeneid, prose translation

The Aeneid is the most famous Latin epic poem, written by Virgil in the 1st century BC. The story revolves around the legendary hero Aeneas, a Trojan prince who left behind the ruins of his city and led his fellow citizens to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. The first six of the poem’s twelve books tell the story of Aeneas’ wanderings from Troy to Italy, while the poem’s second half treats the Trojans’ victorious war upon the Latins. This is the recording of J.W.MacKail's prose translation.

By: Aeschylus (c. 525 BCE - c. 456 BCE)

Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes

In this, the only extant tragedy from Aeschylus' trilogy about the House of Oedipus, Thebes is under siege from Polynices, a former prince of Thebes. After King Oedipus left his city and cursed the princes, Polynices and his brother, Eteocles, decided to rule alternately, switching at the end of every year. However, at the end of his year as king, Eteocles refused to turn power over to his brother and exiled him, fulfilling his father's curse that the two brothers could not rule peacefully. In the action of the play, Polynices and a group of Argive soldiers are attacking Thebes so that he can take his place as ruler...

By: Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope An Essay on Man

Pope’s Essay on Man, a masterpiece of concise summary in itself, can fairly be summed up as an optimistic enquiry into mankind’s place in the vast Chain of Being. Each of the poem’s four Epistles takes a different perspective, presenting Man in relation to the universe, as individual, in society and, finally, tracing his prospects for achieving the goal of happiness. In choosing stately rhyming couplets to explore his theme, Pope sometimes becomes obscure through compressing his language overmuch...

By: Alfred John Church (1829-1912)

Book cover Stories from Virgil

Alfred J. Church created 26 stories from the original Greek version of Virgil's Aeneid. He included well-known ones, such as "The Horse of Wood" and "The Love and Death of Dido," as well as many others perhaps less well-known, such as "King Evander" and "The Funeral Games of Anchises."

By: Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)

Doctor Wortle's School by Anthony Trollope Doctor Wortle's School

Anthony Trollope’s fortieth novel, published in 1881, concerns a respectable Christian boys’ school whose proprietor unknowingly hires a woman who apparently has two husbands: A devoted English scholar and an abusive drunkard from the American south. The book interweaves a sensitive and realistic exploration of Dr. Wortle’s moral dilemma with a humorous look at small-town gossip and--of course--a romance involving the doctor’s beautiful young daughter. (

By: Aristophanes (446BC - 385BC)

Lysistrata by Aristophanes Lysistrata

Lysistrata read by the Classics Drama Company at DePaul. The Classics Drama Company at DePaul is a new gathering of Thespians and Classicists dedicated to performing and understanding ancient literature. If you live in Chicago and attend DePaul University, we welcome new additions to our group. Contact Dr. Kirk Shellko (kshellko@depaul.edu), if interested.First performed in classical Athens c. 411 B.C.E., Aristophanes’ Lysistrata is the original battle of the sexes. One woman, Lysistrata, brings together the women of all Greece, exhorting them to withhold sexual contact from all men in order that they negotiate a treaty...

By: Aristotle (384 BCE-322 BCE)

The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle The Nicomachean Ethics

The work consists of ten books, originally separate scrolls, and is understood to be based on notes said to be from his lectures at the Lyceum which were either edited by or dedicated to Aristotle's son, Nicomachus. In many ways this work parallels the similar Eudemian Ethics, which has only eight books, and the two works can be fruitfully compared. Books V, VI, and VII of the Nicomachean Ethics are identical to Books IV, V, and VI of the Eudemian Ethics. Opinions about the relationship between the two works, for example which was written first, and which originally contained the three common books, is divided...

Rhetoric by Aristotle Rhetoric

The Rhetoric was developed by Aristotle during two periods when he was in Athens, the first between 367 to 347 BCE (when he was seconded to Plato in the Academy), and the second between 335 to 322 BCE (when he was running his own school, the Lyceum). The Rhetoric consists of three books. Book I offers a general overview, presenting the purposes of rhetoric and a working definition; it also offers a detailed discussion of the major contexts and types of rhetoric. Book II discusses in detail the three means of persuasion that an orator must rely on: those grounded in credibility (ethos), in the emotions and psychology of the audience (pathos), and in patterns of reasoning (logos)...

Categories by Aristotle Categories

Categories is the first of Aristotle's six texts on logic which are collectively known as the Organon. In Categories, Aristotle enumerates all the possible kinds of things that can be the subject or the predicate of a proposition. Aristotle places every object of human apprehension under one of ten categories (known to medieval writers as the praedicamenta). Aristotle intended them to enumerate everything that can be expressed without composition or structure, thus anything that can be either the subject or the predicate of a proposition. The ten categories, or classes, are: Substance, Quantity, Quality, Relation, Place, Time, Position, State, Action and Affection.


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