Ancient Greece produced a staggering amount of art and philosophy. The ideas dreamed up by individuals like Aristotle and Sophocles thousands of years ago continue to influence modern society and culture, shaping the very world that we live in.
But which are truly the key masterworks of Ancient Greece? When it comes to Greek texts, which should you add to your reading list and invest time into reading?
Here’s a closer look at the absolutely essential Ancient Greek texts that you should own and pore through – you’ll learn a lot and better understand why our own society is the way that it is!
The Iliad and The Odyssey
It is impossible to properly measure exactly how these two epic poems have shaped the world that we live in today. These two poems were written by Homer and the Iliad is the oldest work of western literature.
The two works follow the trials and tribulations of both humans and gods. The two poems were considered to be classics in their own time and their appeal has certainly endured. In fact, those Greeks who failed to enjoy the poems thousands of years ago were considered to be uncultured.
Despite the popularity of the two poems, there is actually very little known about their author. Many people even dispute the existence of Homer given the lack of evidence, and some suggest that the poems were the product of a collective.
Sophocles is considered to be one of the three key tragedians that wrote in ancient Greece, alongside Euripides and Aeschylus. The writer was absolutely prolific and wrote upwards of 123 tragedies over the course of his life.
Unfortunately, many of those works failed to survive. In fact, only seven of them have made it to us today. Antigone is considered to be one of the finest tragedies written by the three writers. The tragedy tells the story of Antigone, a sister who mourns her brother’s passing in battle and defies orders from a new king to bury her brother.
The play deals with themes of civil disobedience and it is truly a masterwork. As with other art from this period, it inspires readers to ask big questions about morality.
Plato an interesting role in the chain of great Greek philosophers. He was taught by Socrates and in turn, he taught Aristotle who went on to tutor Alexander the Great. The ideas of these philosophers helped to shape the world as we know it today.
Plato believed in a perfect realm where the “Forms” existed, and also had interesting ideas about the way that Greek society should be arranged. In his classic, he outlines these ideas and more.
As with many of Plato’s other works, this takes the form of a dialogue where Socrates is the primary speaker. This has led to some confusion and difficulty in differentiating Plato’s ideas from Socrates, given that Socrates never produced written work!
The Nicomechean Ethics
This master work is the best-known work of Aristotle on ethics. The work as it is known today consists of ten distinct books. The title is thought to refer to either Aristotle’s father or son, both of whom were named Nicomachus.
If you are interested in learning what it means to live a good and ethical life, you’ll want to read this piece of philosophy. Aristotle breaks down what it means to live a good and moral life, and how people can find happiness through The Golden Mean.
We hope that this look at some of the best Greek texts out there has inspired you to pick up some of the classics yourself. There’s so much to appreciate and enjoy here, it’s easy to get lost in the depth on offer!