If anyone is looking for summer reading, classicist Bruce Thornton has a wonderful essay over at the Hoover journal Defining Ideas about five indispensable works of ancient Greek and Roman literature: Homer's Iliad, Plato's Apology, Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, Virgil's Aeneid, and Petronius' Satyricon.
Thornton beautifully shows how these classics, which "make for sublime and delightful beach reading," help us "make sense of ourselves and the world around us."
Here are his thoughts on the Iliad:
At its heart, it [the Iliad] is a profound examination of what is best and worst in human nature, of what binds people together into a community and what tears them apart with bloody violence. As Homer tells the story of the “baneful wrath” of Achilles, the “best of the Achaeans,” over his dishonor at the hands of the ruler Agamemnon, he brilliantly shows us the destructive effects of the hero’s code of honor and vengeance against those, even friends, who fail to acknowledge his excellence and great deeds. Achilles’ quest for revenge, driven by a passionate anger he cannot control, in the end sacrifices his own community, his most beloved friend, and ultimately his own humanity. Homer teaches us that no society can survive when its ideals are based on personal honor and glory achieved through violence. Human community and human identity both depend on the “ties that bind,” the mutual obligations and affections we all, even the most brilliant of us, owe one another by virtue of being born into a tragic world of change, loss, and death.
You can read the rest of his essay here.
I'd be curious to know: What's on your summer reading list?