Monday, March 7, 2016


Reading the Odyssey went very fast.  I'm ready to dig into something else.  (I'll write up at least one post on the Odyssey this week.)  Next up is a return to Thucydides.  The plan calls for books seven and eight of the Peloponnesian War, but I think this does a real disservice to the reader.  Back in year Three, we did books one, two and five.  This 'piece' is scheduled for year Nine.  The reader is expected to carry forward the memory of a very complicated war through six years.  If I'd stuck with the plan, I would have read more than 100 pieces in between.
But it gets worse.  Book seven picks up with Athenians fighting in Sicily without any clue as to how/why they are there.  The first sentence is literally 'After refitting their ships, Gylippus and Pythen coasted along from Tarentum to Epizephyrian Locri.'  The reader has no idea who is doing what or where.  It does get better as it goes along, but it's still a bad beginning place.  To fix this, I'm going to add in book six, which presents a more natural starting place.  (If you're scoring at home, please update your scorecards accordingly.)

I mentioned that the Peloponnesian war is complicated and it really is.  Fortunately, I've found an absolutely wonderful resource.  It's called 'The Landmark Thucydides' and it is a phenomenal text.  First of all, it is absolutely filled with maps that mark the cities and regions involved.  It's rare to go more than three pages without a map to help locate what is going on. 
It's also cross indexed so if the narrative jumps around, and it does, the reader can connect the various times and places.  In addition, at the top of each page it helpfully tells you what year and season is being written about.  For instance, book six starts in 416 BC the sixteenth year of the war.  Book seven starts with 414 BC, the eighteenth year.  In the back, there are appendices to help the reader understand certain aspects of the time, like how armies fought or how currencies were used. 
All in all, it's a great book.  I got mine used, so if you don't want to buy new, keep an eye out at the used book store.  There is also a Landmark Herodotus.  I haven't seen it, but if it's even half as useful as the Thucydides work, I'd buy it sight unseen.

In any case, Greek month continues!


  1. I have the Landmark Herodotus, which I'm just starting now. They are great books, aren't they?

    I think it's crazy the way that they have you jump all over. If you had a professor teaching you, who had the background to give or review before the read, it might be different, but to visit a part of the book, not see it for years, and then jump in again is nuts.

    Oh, and I've updated my scorecard. ;-)

    1. re: jumping all over; I think that there is some logic in it, in that there are 'themes' that run through the selections. But I think that it become self-defeating. Especially without, as you say, a professor leading students through it all. I'm sure that they had good intentions when building the ten year plan, but it cries out for tweaking and revision.

      If I was doing the scorecard, I would now have three Plato, three Aristotle, the Odyssey and Ovid's Metamorphoses. I'll tack on Thucydides in a few weeks. Which is a fine score, but I think you're ahead of me, or soon will be!