Where to start reading the Greek classics?

As noted by The Guardian, ‘The dazzling thought-world of the Greeks gave us our ideas of democracy and happiness.’ Yet, reading the ancient Greeks can be both exciting and daunting.

So, where to begin? Being a newcomer on this subject and knowing nothing (like Jon Snow), I consulted various university lists online, including King’s College, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Colorado, and Boston University, to create this list.
Additionally, I took a little peek at some advice given on Reddit (at r/classics) and Youtube.

There is no recommendation on translated text, as I am not a student and English is not my mother tongue. I aimed to keep things simple — diving into a new subject should be enjoyable, with no obligations!”

Epic Poetry


The Iliad by Homer: This poem is where you should start your own epic journey into Ancient Greek Classics. It recounts the final year of the Trojan War and the sufferings of the Greek hero Achilles.

The Odyssey by Homer: Homer’s sequel to the Iliad, The Odyssey, follows Odysseus, the Greek ruler of Ithaca, on his epic voyage home after the battle.

Works and Days by Hesiod: One of the first Greek poets, Hesiod, presents a moral and philosophical framework for life, covering topics of work, agriculture, and the nature of the gods.

The Theogony by Hesiod: This mythological poem traces the origins of the Greek gods, providing a comprehensive account of their lineage and cosmic role.

To continue your journey in Epic Poetry, you can follow up with Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes and Aetia by Callimachus.

Lyric Poetry


Odes by Pindar: This collection of 44 odes celebrates the triumphs of Greek athletes, poets, and heroes. Pindar’s poems are characterized by their soaring language, vivid imagery, and powerful rhythms.

Fragments of Alcaeus and Sappho: These fragments of poems by Alcaeus and Sappho provide a glimpse into the lives and loves of these two renowned lyric poets. Their poems are marked by their passion, sensuality, and exploration of the complexities of human emotion.

Epithalamia by Anacreon: These wedding poems by Anacreon celebrate the joys of love and marriage. Anacreon’s poems are lighthearted and playful, and they often feature themes of wine, friendship, and the beauty of the natural world.

To continue your journey in Lyric Poetry, you can follow up with the works of Alcman, Simonides, and Bacchylides

Tragedy


Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus: This powerful tragedy unveils the defiance of Prometheus, a Titan who stole fire from the gods and ignited human civilization.

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles: This tragedy by Sophocles, another renowned Greek playwright, tells the tragic tale of Oedipus, king of Thebes, who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother.

Antigone by Sophocles: This tragedy by Sophocles examines the clash between individual freedom and divine authority, following Antigone, who defies King Creon’s edict to bury her brother, Polynices.

Medea by Euripides: This tragedy by Euripides, the youngest of the three great tragedians, portrays the vengeful Medea, who murders her children and betrays her family in an act of vengeance against her husband, Jason.

To continue your journey in Greek Tragedy, you can follow up with more works by Sophocles (Ajax, Electra) and Euridipes (The Bacchae and Iphigenia in Tauris).

Satire and Comedy


Aristophanes’ Comedies: Aristophanes, a playwright known for his satirical comedies, offers a humorous and often irreverent take on Greek society, politics, and mythology. Notable works include The Clouds, Knights, Acharnians, Lysistrata, and The Frogs.

Menander‘ Comedies: Menander was another influential playwright of the New Comedy period, which followed the Old Comedy of Aristophanes. His plays are often characterized by their domestic settings, realistic characters, and witty dialogue. Notable works include The Dyskolos, The Samia, and The Girl from Samos.

Historical Writing


Histories by Herodotus: This groundbreaking work chronicles the Persian Wars, intertwining historical accounts with myths and cultural observations.

History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides: This historical account by Thucydides details the 27-year conflict between Athens and Sparta, providing a unique glimpse into ancient Greek warfare, diplomacy, and political thought.

Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans by Plutarch: Commonly called Parallel Lives, this work provides biographies of prominent figures from both cultures.

To continue your journey in Greek Historical Writing, you can follow up with Anabasis by Xenophon, which recounts the famous retreat of the Greek army from Persia.

Philosophy


Plato’s Dialogues (Apology, Euthyphro, Phaedo, Symp., Rep): One of the most influential figure in Western philosophy, Plato’s dialogues explore the nature of reality and knowledge, ethics, politics, and the human soul.

Nicomachean Ethics I by Aristotle: This work in moral philosophy examines the pursuit of happiness and the virtues that lead to a fulfilling life.

To continue your journey in Greek Historical Writing, you can follow up with Outlines of Scepticism by Sextus Empiricus and Fire as the arche by Heraclitus