For those who would like to become more familiar with the classics, or, perhaps, understand more deeply the richness of the classics, you’re in luck! As part of my regular columns at TIC, I’ve covered Hesiod and Homer, and Pseudo-Apollodorus (among others). For Merion West, where I frequently freelance, I provided a five-part exposition on the relevance of the classics to us in the 21st century (the introductory essay on Plato is still to come next week). Thus we cover Hesiod, Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes (and, of course, Plato – whom I’ve published on academically). As some of you know, literary essaying, especially on the classics, is my primary form of work apart from my academic writings in political philosophy and political aesthetics.
Those interested in gaining a deeper appreciation of the classics, their context, and content, and the course of the development of Greek literature, could read from that ancient wellspring that existed before its supersession by philosophy.
Homer’s Iliad and the Shield of Love and Strife (an in-depth, well, as in-depth as a 4,000-word essay can be, on the images and themes of strife and love in the Iliad; arguing that the Iliad is a “love epic on a cosmic scale”)
Homer’s Epic of the Family (an exposition on the centrality of the family and filial piety in the Iliad and Odyssey, especially as it relates to Odysseus as the culmination of Homer’s reflections on the role of love in the cosmos)
From Hector to Christ (a reflection on the death of Hector in dialogue with the death of Christ)
Why Aeschylus Still Matters Today (a concise reading of the Oresteia trilogy: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides)
Euripides: Oracle of Modernity (an exposition of how Euripides foreshadows modernity in his plays, mostly a reading of the Bacchae with Medea included; references and allusions to The Trojan Women, Andromache, Hecuba, and Iphigenia in Aulis also)
Sophocles and the Necessity of Family (reading Sophocles as a political theorist of tyranny and the role of the family in overcoming tyranny: principally a reading of Antigone and Electra, with included comments on Oedipus Rex and Philotectes)
Aristophanes: The First Poet Critic (a concise exposition of Wasps, Frogs, and Lysistrata from the mad man Aristophanes himself – my personal favorite Greek playwright – and how he provides commentary on Athenian politics, psychology, sociology, literary criticism, and civilizational criticism)
Plato’s Symposium: The Drama and Trial of Eros (an interpretation of Plato’s Symposium that wraps up Aristophanes; understanding Plato as a poet and a “re”-mythologist against the de-mythologizers, especially Eryximachus)
You can also access my commentary on the The Republic here: Savagery, Irony, and Satire in Plato’s Republic (ca. 8000 words).
All of these essays are fairly lengthy, ranging from ca. 2400-4100 words. No knowledge of Greek is necessary since I provide my own translations where I directly quoted from the Greek or simply inform what the Greek name or phrase roughly means. You will gain a concise, but I hope, equally contextual and deep, understanding of the Greek classics and how they interact with each other. Or you can Eric Havelock’s long study: Preface to Plato, for a similar but equally alternative exposition of classical literature up to the time of Plato. Well, Havelock and I are in some sort of agreement that Plato’s rejection of poetry is due to the failure of poetry to deal with the metaphysical, ethical, and civilizational crises, that befell ancient Greece during, and in the aftermath of, the Peloponnesian War, though I tend to see Plato as still part of some sort of poetic-“mythological” tradition.
I’m finishing a commentary on the Crito, due out in January, and a long exegetical interpretation of cosmic pathos in Greek literature from Hesiod and Homer to Euripides (due out in May 2020). I’ll also have an essay on the geopolitical dimensions of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (due out in January also), who is frequently referenced in many of the above essays on the Greek playwrights.