The Norton Book of Classical Literature

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Norton, 1993 - History - 866 pages
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"The literature of the classical world that has survived is a pitiful remnant of what once existed...." So begins Bernard Knox's preface to an anthology that introduces the modern reader to the enormous breadth and rich variety of that "pitiful remnant" - the foundation of Western literature and culture, the inspiration for writers from Dante to Shakespeare to T. S. Eliot. However much - or little - of it we may have read, classical literature has shaped our world and how we perceive it.
Yet for most of us classical writing is little more than a narrow circle of legendary figures. The names of Homer, Aeschylus, Plato, Virgil, and Saint Augustine are familiar, but behind their work lies a vast fellowship of writers with a common mythological and artistic heritage. The Norton Book of Classical Literature thus includes not only the "greats" but also significant though lesser known figures and traditions: archaic lyric poets, Alexandrian Greeks, and Roman satirists, for example. Also recovered for us are the breathtaking variety of forms that literature took - epic, lyric, ode, dithyramb, tragedy, comedy, history, dialogue, idyll, epigram, satire, to name a few. The translations selected for this collection, from classic nineteenth-century versions to as yet unpublished manuscripts, reflect the diversity of the works themselves and bring them to us with eloquence and clarity.
In his brilliant introduction - an account of the development of classical literature from the origins of the Greek language and Homer to the fall of Rome and Saint Augustine - Knox distills for the general reader a complex literary tradition and allows even those with a thorough knowledge of classical writing to see that tradition anew. Informative notes throughout the book allow works - some long forgotten, ignored, or misinterpretedto emerge, as vital and compelling today as they were so many centuries ago.
From the lyrical precision of Archilochus and Sappho to the epic sweep of Apollonius and Virgil; from the storytelling genius of Herodotus and Ovid to the philosophical ruminations of Marcus Aurelius; from the sobering histories of Thucydides and Tacitus to the satires of Petronius and Juvenal; from tantalizing papyrus fragments only recently unearthed to the complete Antigone, Sophocles' tragic masterpiece - The Norton Book of Classical Literature revives what for many of us has become a lost tradition.

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Justifiably wonderful. Favorite story is Amasis and Polycrates page 280. Couldn't find a better way to lead up and write it.

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About the author (1993)

Bernard Knox was the first director and later director emeritus of Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC. An English classicist and author, he became an American citizen and worked in academia. In 1992 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Knox for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. He died in 2010.

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