Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Appetitive/Reasoning: Landmark Editions and Xenenphon

Looking for the Landmark Herodotus to put in my last blogpost, when I happened upon the newest book in the landmark series, The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander. Although Alexander's campaigns and the Hellenistic world are not my area of expertise or interest, I think the Landmark Series is incredible, and I am glad that they are branching out.

As someone who is not a particularly adept historian, the Landmark Herodotus and Thucydides have been invaluable tools for my classes on the two texts because they provide so much context (and most importantly, maps). As I mentioned in my last blogpost, Robert Strassler, the editor of the Landmark Series, is giving a free talk on Herodotus on May 10th for the Marathon 2500 project (online).
The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War  The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories
The Landmark Xenophon's Hellenika The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander

I have vaguely considered whether or not I would like the Landmark Hellenika (Xenophon) since my wonderful Greek History professor mentioned that Xenophon intended to finish Thucydides' unfinished work. After finishing my thesis on Plato and reading 20 of the 35 dialogues that were attributed to Plato, I decided to read Xenophon's Conversations of Socrates. It seemed to me that I should read the only other surviving work of the once popular genre of the Socratic Dialogue. However, I found that although Xenephon provides interesting fodder for a comparison to Plato, his works lack the character depth, humor, and subtlety of Plato's works and is both stilted and boring.

Most of the humor comes from laughing at Xenephon, whose Socrates feels like a bizarre melding of Socrates' caricatured personality and Xenephon's aristocratic and prudish moralizing. There are places where Socrates inserts phrases such as "and that is how best to run an estate" in a similar way to Aeschylus' insertion of "I lost my little oil bottle" into Euripides' prologues in Aristophanes' Frogs [1]. However, I realize that Xenephon is a valuable historical and literary source, especially because of his version of the Constitution of the Lakedaemonians [2] and his attempt to finish the story of the Peloponnesian Wars.

  1. This is my all-time favorite ancient comedy and the scene I reference is particularly hilarious. I highly suggest it (although definitely read it with a cometary that explains the political references). You can download a free copy of the Greek from Project Gutenberg and a free copy of the English from Project Gutenberg (although I cannot vouch for the quality of the translation).
  2. Which can be found online here or, I think, can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

No comments:

Post a Comment