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The Sunland Lord

Literature Of Old: Plutarch, Appian, Herodotus

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15 hours ago, Jo498 said:

Ranke-Graves "Claudius" is mostly based on Suetonius, isn't it? There is always the problem of historians being rather polemical despite claiming to write "sine ira et studio", without wrath or partisanship. E.g., the notion of Nero as a total brute (like in seen in the book/movie "Quo vadis?") is due to Suetonius and Tacitus and wildly exaggerated.

Yep, Graves is heavily based on Suetonius. Seeing as ASOIAF owes much to Graves, I suppose one could call Suetonius one of Martin's literary ancestors.

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Posted (edited)

Lucian is awesome

no doubt.  i still laugh thinking back on his philosopher's auction.

 

another great project for classics people is foucault's history of sexuality.  the first volume is more general and abstract, with some marginal classics interest-- but volume 2 is specifically on classical athens and 3 is about rome; these latter two are more straightforward than foucault's normal labor intensive presentation.  the set is really really stellar.  (a fourth volume was released last year posthumously, concerning early christianity--still untranslated, i think.)

Edited by sologdin

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Posted (edited)

I'm a classicist, so I'm all for this thread!

 

You can't top Herodotus. Father of history and lies and so much more. His Histories are a wild ride that may seem structureless, but there's a lot going on beneath the surface. And some of those stories are just so amazing...

Lucian is definitely awesome, and one of the few ancient satirists/humorists who I find actually remains funny. Aristophanes is another.

Also, you read all of Thucydides in Greek, @LuckyCharms? Holy crap that's impressive but masochistic. Even people in the ancient world who spoke Greek as a first language had trouble with him! I had to read three books in Greek for exams and the only way I got through it was with Loeb translations..

Edited by Caligula_K3

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Posted (edited)

i was recently turned on to sextus and pyrrho--definitely a worthwhile study.  i think next up for me is the cynics. diogenes is the original too cool for school.

Edited by sologdin

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2 hours ago, Caligula_K3 said:

I'm a classicist, so I'm all for this thread!

You can't top Herodotus. Father of history and lies and so much more. His Histories are a wild ride that may seem structureless, but there's a lot going on beneath the surface. And some of those stories are just so amazing...

Yeah Herodotus may be considered a many things but I like him. 'Histories' for the purpose of reading Xerxes ordering lashing of the Hellespont because there was storm makes it worth while already. 

And his repetitive "This and that happened in a manner which I will now describe" is hilarious. 

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I love Tacitus' account of The Year of the Four Emperors, which reads like a gripping novel.

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So I finished Histories by Herodotus. Whether some things are true or fables, the general narrative is just amazing.

And the correlation of the events then and those today and recent history are just...wow. Indeed you get many answers on many questions you wonder about.

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On 10/18/2019 at 6:47 AM, The Sunland Lord said:

So I finished Histories by Herodotus. Whether some things are true or fables, the general narrative is just amazing.

 

"My business is to record what people say, but I am by no means bound to believe it. And that may be taken to apply to this work as a whole." - 7.152

Now, whether or not Herodotus holds true to this and is actually just reporting what people say is a whole other can of worms. What does it mean when he says "the Persians say..." or "this is the Argive version?". But it is interesting how often the most outlandish stories are preceded by one of those qualifiers.

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i like herodotus as a recorder of others'  beliefs, and have no problem accepting his sincerity there, even if he may be a bit credulous at times in that epistemologically limited respect.

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16 hours ago, sologdin said:

i like herodotus as a recorder of others'  beliefs, and have no problem accepting his sincerity there, even if he may be a bit credulous at times in that epistemologically limited respect.

Arion of Methymna rode that dolphin to freedom and nothing you can say will convince me otherwise.

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1 hour ago, Caligula_K3 said:

Arion of Methymna rode that dolphin to freedom and nothing you can say will convince me otherwise.

Of course there are obvious fairytales. No one today in his right mind will believe it. We have to consider that among other things, Herodotus was a victim of his time. If you stick to the grand picture however, it seems convincing enough that many events were true. We will never know for certain of course. 

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Also has anyone read the Civil Wars 1-5 from Appian? Very different manner of writing than Plutarch, for example, and different purpose overall, but their stories seem to check with each other, about what happened in Rome and its dominions during civil wars.

Seems to me, very free spirited writers for a time when the Empire is in its full growth. The freedom of speech was on a good level I imagine.

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On 10/22/2019 at 2:36 AM, The Sunland Lord said:

Also has anyone read the Civil Wars 1-5 from Appian? Very different manner of writing than Plutarch, for example, and different purpose overall, but their stories seem to check with each other, about what happened in Rome and its dominions during civil wars.

Seems to me, very free spirited writers for a time when the Empire is in its full growth. The freedom of speech was on a good level I imagine.

Appian is pretty much our only complete narrative of the fall of the Republic, and he is definitely very useful. On the downside, there's a lot he doesn't understand about Roman Republican society and the events he describes. For him, it's unimaginable that the Italians of the Social War weren't all fighting for Roman citizenship, though many of them may have had quite different goals. He tends to conflate events and skip over many others. And he is very much predisposed to view the fall of the Republic as being inevitable from 133 on, which leads to a very choreopaphed narrative. But hey, those kind of flaws are the fun of ancient history!

As for free speech, Rome was a pre-modern state. There was no ability for emperors to massively sepress literature across the empire. And by the time of Plutarch and Appian, the functioning Republic was about 150 years in the past; nobody cares what a Greek (or Roman) historian would have said about Julius Caesar's or Octavian's actions during the civil wars. Now, if they'd started saying nice things about Domitian and maligning Trajan or Hadrian, that might have caused more tensions, and both Plutarch and Appian might not have remained as well connected in the imperial aristocracy. But still, there was no way to sepress that sort of thing; and we even see Trajan approving of many of Domitian's acts in the provinces in Pliny's letters to him from Bithynia, even though officially at the time Domitian was a monster, the worst emperor ever, etc...

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On ‎10‎/‎3‎/‎2019 at 10:00 AM, The Sunland Lord said:

Surprisingly, Plutarch, (and also Appian) allowes himself a freedom of speech one would not guess that existed during the early Roman Empire. He is not a fanboy of the people who transformed the Republic into an Empire, especially Antony and Augustus. He writes more favourably about Caesar though.

He openly praises the noblemen who preferred freedom over tyranny, and doesn't seem he had any problems with the authorities about it at all.

You could trash previous rulers of Rome as much as you wanted to, as long as you didn't mess with the current ruling dynasty. The fact most writers were from the Senatorial order helped as well with some kind of protection - and also explains why they tend to criticize past Emperors, considering that the Empire made the Senate quite irrelevant, apart from a rich men's club.

If you wanted to trash the current Emperor, it was a bit trickier. In this regard, Procopius' Secret History is a riot and a must-read.

Now, if you want Greek historians that are a bit more reliable, trustworthy, and who have some in-depth understanding and analysis, I'd say Thucydides and Polybius are your best bets.

 

On ‎10‎/‎3‎/‎2019 at 6:25 PM, Zorral said:

If I'm remembering correctly he too had to leave Athens in the wake of the horrors of the Spartan victories, Athenian traitors-demagogues and the death of Socrates; as pointed out, he too was among those who are mentioned in various works as being present during Socratic method in action.  He too fought with the Persians, wrote histories and never returned to Athens.  If I am remembering correctly.

Not really. Like many other of Socrates' disciples, it's his execution which was a key moment. Xenopho pretty much cut ties with Athens after that and went full-Sparta fanboy. After all, he implied that everyone outside Athens celebrated Sparta's victory as the return of Freedom in Hellas.

 

On ‎10‎/‎4‎/‎2019 at 2:27 AM, The Sunland Lord said:

I like the tale about him when he cut the tail of his dog, so that the Athenians would speak badly about him. He was so pleased because they would gossip about this smaller matter and wouldn't talk about his bigger schemes and scandals for a while.

Well, they didn't have Twitter at the time, so if you wanted to play it like Trump, you had to be a bit more creative.

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On 10/27/2019 at 9:55 PM, Caligula_K3 said:

Appian is pretty much our only complete narrative of the fall of the Republic, and he is definitely very useful. On the downside, there's a lot he doesn't understand about Roman Republican society and the events he describes. For him, it's unimaginable that the Italians of the Social War weren't all fighting for Roman citizenship, though many of them may have had quite different goals. He tends to conflate events and skip over many others. And he is very much predisposed to view the fall of the Republic as being inevitable from 133 on, which leads to a very choreopaphed narrative. But hey, those kind of flaws are the fun of ancient history!

Didn't really notice his personal view on the Social War. I am aware that even though beaten by the Romans, Italians gained citizenships. But yeah, one can guess the Italians had quite other motives than that. Maybe he didn't know that not everyone wanted the Roman rule, if that's where you're going to? 

On 10/27/2019 at 9:55 PM, Caligula_K3 said:

As for free speech, Rome was a pre-modern state. There was no ability for emperors to massively sepress literature across the empire. And by the time of Plutarch and Appian, the functioning Republic was about 150 years in the past; nobody cares what a Greek (or Roman) historian would have said about Julius Caesar's or Octavian's actions during the civil wars. Now, if they'd started saying nice things about Domitian and maligning Trajan or Hadrian, that might have caused more tensions, and both Plutarch and Appian might not have remained as well connected in the imperial aristocracy. But still, there was no way to sepress that sort of thing; and we even see Trajan approving of many of Domitian's acts in the provinces in Pliny's letters to him from Bithynia, even though officially at the time Domitian was a monster, the worst emperor ever, etc...

You have a good point. It even could be useful for the current dynasty that people would know how bad people ruled there previously. Although I doubt there is some conspiracy here. Still, praising the very ideas of a non-suppressive government, not just the people who fought for it, is something that slightly surprised me. 

Don't know too much for all the Emperors. Currently I am reading a book about Diocletian, from a Serbian author called Ivan Ivanji. Have no idea how historically relevant it is, but I think the author tries to describe the real events followed up by a good story that makes sense in the context. It's fun and readable though. 

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On 11/2/2019 at 9:31 PM, Clueless Northman said:

The fact most writers were from the Senatorial order helped as well with some kind of protection - and also explains why they tend to criticize past Emperors, considering that the Empire made the Senate quite irrelevant, apart from a rich men's club.

That's an interesting view on things. Never really thought of it. It makes sense I must admit.

On 11/2/2019 at 9:31 PM, Clueless Northman said:

If you wanted to trash the current Emperor, it was a bit trickier. In this regard, Procopius' Secret History is a riot and a must-read.

I am putting that on my list, thank you. I became quite chaotic reader lately anyways, read 7-8 books at the same time.

On 11/2/2019 at 9:31 PM, Clueless Northman said:

Now, if you want Greek historians that are a bit more reliable, trustworthy, and who have some in-depth understanding and analysis, I'd say Thucydides and Polybius are your best bets.

Yeah gonna check them out too in near future.

On 11/2/2019 at 9:31 PM, Clueless Northman said:

Well, they didn't have Twitter at the time, so if you wanted to play it like Trump, you had to be a bit more creative.

:lol: 

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seconded, the procopius secret history.  what's also very good times, in a similar way, but just way more dubious, is the anonymous historia augusta.

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I've just finished suffering my way through Xenophon's Socratic works. OK, they do present a contrast with Plato's Socrates, but there's a reason Plato gets all the attention (seriously. I'm reminded of the scene in the film Amadeus, where Salieri describes himself as the Patron Saint of Mediocrity. Xenophon has you beaten by over two millennia, Salieri...).

A summation of the four...

Socrates' Defence: Xenophon's take on the Apology. In contrast to Plato, who writes of the Oracle of Delphi labelling Socrates the wisest of the Greeks because he knows he knows nothing, Xenophon's Socrates is much more overt about the "wisest of the Greeks" thing. Oh, and much emphasis placed on Socrates being old, so the execution saves him from going senile. 

Memoirs of Socrates: The longest and most sleep-inducing work of the lot. This is just a rambling series of anecdotes, with Socrates pontificating about morality (think Victorian gentleman: control one's urges, healthy body/healthy mind, et cetera). There are a couple of occasions where Xenophon's Socrates wheels out the Method, which just makes you wish you were reading Plato instead.

The Dinner Party: Xenophon's take on the Symposium. Easily the best of the four, and probably the only one I'd actually recommend, we have Socrates cheerfully going on about how love of (masculine) mind is superior to love of the body. And that he's really a pimp, because he's trying to make his followers attractive to the people of Athens. Still a shadow of the Symposium though.

The Estate-Manager: "Agriculture is easy to learn, and success in farming is all about hard work. Running a farm is like running an army." A moralistic and thin take on political economy, that basically is all about application, without Plato's interest in philosophy.

In one sense, Xenophon's unlucky because his Socratic works are the only other ones that survive, but I definitely agree with the sentiment that "Athens would not have executed Plato's Socrates because he was too brilliant. Athens would not have executed Xenophon's Socrates because he was too boring."

Edited by The Marquis de Leech

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2 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

I've just finished suffering my way through Xenophon's Socratic works. OK, they do present a contrast with Plato's Socrates, but there's a reason Plato gets all the attention (seriously. I'm reminded of the scene in the film Amadeus, where Salieri describes himself as the Patron Saint of Mediocrity. Xenophon has you beaten by over two millennia, Salieri...).

A summation of the four...

Socrates' Defence: Xenophon's take on the Apology. In contrast to Plato, who writes of the Oracle of Delphi labelling Socrates the wisest of the Greeks because he knows he knows nothing, Xenophon's Socrates is much more overt about the "wisest of the Greeks" thing. Oh, and much emphasis placed on Socrates being old, so the execution saves him from going senile. 

Memoirs of Socrates: The longest and most sleep-inducing work of the lot. This is just a rambling series of anecdotes, with Socrates pontificating about morality (think Victorian gentleman: control one's urges, healthy body/healthy mind, et cetera). There are a couple of occasions where Xenophon's Socrates wheels out the Method, which just makes you wish you were reading Plato instead.

The Dinner Party: Xenophon's take on the Symposium. Easily the best of the four, and probably the only one I'd actually recommend, we have Socrates cheerfully going on about how love of (masculine) mind is superior to love of the body. And that he's really a pimp, because he's trying to make his followers attractive to the people of Athens. Still a shadow of the Symposium though.

The Estate-Manager: "Agriculture is easy to learn, and success in farming is all about hard work. Running a farm is like running an army." A moralistic and thin take on political economy, that basically is all about application, without Plato's interest in philosophy.

In one sense, Xenophon's unlucky because his Socratic works are the only other ones that survive, but I definitely agree with the sentiment that "Athens would not have executed Plato's Socrates because he was too brilliant. Athens would not have executed Xenophon's Socrates because he was too boring."

The consumption of so much Socrates sounds indeed like suffering. 

Like your reviews. Great read. Keep it up please.

Still reading Republic, although have other stuff to finish also. 

Edited by The Sunland Lord

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18 hours ago, The Sunland Lord said:

The consumption of so much Socrates sounds indeed like suffering. 

Ah, but here's the thing - it's not Socrates. It's Plato and Xenophon's take on him, which is a very different thing. I swear though, if we have one thing to be grateful to Plato for, it's the fact that he has saved us from Xenophon's Socrates being the one known to history (well, him and Aristophanes, who is my next read).

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