Since I got back from that Piraeus seminar in Annapolis in early June (part 1 and part 2), I’ve found myself recharged. Now that I’ve wrapped up the Top Companies issue of my magazine, which occupies my June-into-July every year, I feel like I’m ready to get at a lot of reading and writing. While still juggling the podcast, of course.
I thanked both of the tutors who ran the seminar and also asked Tom May for some suggestions for a “mini-curriculum” on the Romans. I’ve always neglected them, and I think it was largely due to my uninformed notion that they were a pastiche or a degradation of classic Greek culture. By extension, I must have assumed that every last member of that world was as decadent as the empire was in its fallen days. I’m not sure how I stumbled across that idea, and why I left it untested for so long. I’m a yutz. Perhaps my enjoyment of Homer made me reticent to even give Virgil a shot.
In fact, when I was out with an old college pal of mine in San Francisco a few months ago, I was actually irked when she mentioned that she’d never been able to get into Homer, but that the Aeneid rocked her world. Keep in mind
- I have never read Virgil and have no basis for comparison, and
- I’m a 41-year-old man.
So I began reading the Aeneid on Sunday, and am enjoying the heck out of it. It’s not Homer, but it’s not Homer. It’s Virgil.
Meanwhile, I thought I’d share with you the list that Mr. May e-mailed me, along with his disclaimer:
- Livy – History of Rome I-X (at least)
- Virgil – Aeneid
- Ovid – Metamorphoses
- Ovid – Art of Love
- Caesar – Gallic Wars
- Cicero – On Natural Law
- Cicero – On Friendship
- Cicero – On Old Age
- Cicero – On Duties
- Cicero – On Moral Ends
- Catullus – Songs
- Horace – Odes
- Juvenal – Satires
- Seneca – Phaedra
- Seneca – Letters
- Seneca – Morals
- Plautus – Pseudolus
- Plautus – Miles Gloriousus
- Plautus – Menaechmi
- Martial – Epigrams
- Tacitus – Annals of Imperial Rome
- Apuleius – The Golden Ass
- Plutarch’s Lives – Cicero, Brutus, Caesar, Cato, Coriolanus, Antony
- Plotinus – Enneads
“I’ll stop here, making no claim that all of the most important works are here, but all of these are seminal and reverberate through the tradition. I led a Graduate Institute preceptorial on Cicero several years ago that was really a delight, thanks to both Cicero and the class; I’d really like to offer one on Ovid, whose Metamorphoses are indispensable for all art and poetry ever after, it seems.”
The only thing I’ve read in that whole list is a bit of Plutarch (I’m still considering doing a Plutarch feature a la my Monday Morning Montaigne series). So I’m gonna get rolling on that Virgil. Aeneas is just bugging out of Troy at the beginning of book 3.