Why Read Homer? In a world of wifi, smart phones and jet planes, do the Classics Matter?

Why Read Homer?
In a world of wifi, smart phones
and jet planes,
do the Classics Matter?

Γιατί να διαβάσετε τον Όμηρο;
Σε έναν κόσμο με wifi, έξυπνα τηλέφωνα
και αεριωθούμενα αεροπλάνα,
έχουν οι κλασσικοί νόημα;

Why should the Iliad and Odyssey be of any interest to us today, especially in our fast-paced world of wifi, smart phones and jet planes? After all, the poems deal with a semi-legendary war that occurred over 3,000 years ago - far more horrific conflicts and genocides have taken place since.
The poems inform us of the adventures of a man roaming the Mediterranean, which has long since been explored and colonized by tourists.


How can we fantasize today about a one-eyed cyclops devouring human flesh, when, in fact, the Sicilan monster is Mount Etna and its ‘eye’ the caldera of the volcano that modern seismologists and geophysicists monitor daily?
Homer’s epics continue to fascinate because they reveal a shared human condition that has changed little since the days of our ancient counterparts.
The Iliad is not simply the story of a distant war and its battles.
It is about courageous men struggling for the most beautiful woman of the time, Helen; the wrath of a warrior, not against his enemies but against his own chief for depriving him of the female captive who was due to him; the friendship and love of the two young god-like Greeks, Achilles and Patroclus; the fate of a hero, who must choose between a glorious death in the full bloom of his youth and a long but obscure life.
(How comforting to us that the gods’ progeny must face death and mediocrity just as we mere mortals do.)
The Odyssey is more than an adventure story.
It embodies the faithful wife, Penelope, who languishes for twenty years in anticipation of her husband’s return and does not waver once. And yet, in no way should be she perceived as a weak and passive woman. She is just as cunning and deceptive as her husband, plays games just as he does and carries out whatever is necessary to get what she wants.
Besides, it takes some crafty perseverance to weave the same shroud for ten years without every finishing it. ...
The cyclopes may not enter into our daily routine anymore, but the belief system they represent still survives: a proud and conscious rejection of the social and religious rules that normally enable humans to cope with one another.
In short, the cyclopes embody our ancestral fear of uncontrolled bestiality.
It is for this reason our anthology collecting the most illuminating Greek and Latin texts written over a thousand-year period, the Essential Classics, could not begin with any other than Homer, the earliest and most respected poet of the Western World.
For centuries, the Greeks referred to his Iliad and Odyssey as the source of knowledge and wisdom. Generations of poets would develop their art with Homer. Children would learn to read with his works where they would discover their gods and heroes for the first time.
Scholars, philosophers, scientists, grammarians, and lexicologists would analyze every word in his poems, generating entire libraries of commentaries. Homer’s writings were to ancient peoples as the Bible is to us - the ‘book’ par excellence.
If Homer opens the Essential Classics, who then is worth enough and of sufficient literary statue to close it?
First, we must look for them at the other end of the timeline from Homer, at the twilight of antiquity, if you will. Since no one knows the “end” of antiquity, The Essential Classics is completed with one of the most brilliant characters of Imperial Rome.
He was a man who did not fancy becoming emperor but, out of a sense of duty, accepted the throne when his adoptive father died and agreed to share power with his brother.
He was a philosopher who would have preferred a tranquil life but instead fought for almost twenty years on the battlefields of the northern and eastern frontiers.
He was an emperor who practiced the same Stoic philosophy as the freedman Epictetus and an intellectual who performed his military and administrative duties remarkably well.
This man was Marcus Aurelius.
It is for this reason that the Essential Classics includes the indispensable texts from Homer to Marcus Aurelius.
It is a single volume covering a millennium of ancient literature and thought with all the apparatus that today’s readers expect: biographical sketches on each author, commentaries on their respective texts and translations of Greek and Latin works by American and British philologists considered as classics in their own right.
And today, you can have your own copy of this stunning hardback edition - The Essential Classics collection.

ΛΕΞΕΙΣ: Ομηρος, κλασσικοι, κλασικοι
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