Ancient Greece

Guest post by Wesley B.

I’ve always wanted to visit Greece. Something about the combination of its natural beauty – the snow-kissed mountains visible from the sunny beaches – and its immense historical legacy is irresistible to me. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the chance to make my pilgrimage there. Fortunately, few places are easier to experience vicariously through their cultural artifacts – and we have lots of them here at the Library!

A.N. Whitehead once wrote, “the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” So, if you’re interested in philosophy – and, as Plato’s teacher Socrates argues, we all should be – what better place to start than with the acclaimed ancient Athenian? We have several volumes of his writing available to check out, and despite the accumulated weight of their age and reputation, I find them to be highly accessible. This is partially due to their dramatic structure – Plato’s works are structured as conversations between Socrates and other notable Greek figures – but also to their subject matter. The dialogues explore issues that are still just as relevant today, such as truth, beauty, justice, and, above all, how to live a good life.

If you’re more literarily inclined, we also have several translations available of Homer’s epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Though The Iliad is a war story, it’s a war story filled with love – the war itself is launched by Menelaus, the king of Sparta, to reclaim his wife, Helen, who had been abducted by the Trojan prince Paris. Achilles, the greatest of the Greek heroes, withdraws from the war due to a perceived slight, until his lover Patroclus is killed, sending him into a divine rage that turns the tide of the war. The Odyssey takes place after the war has ended, and is a rousing adventure that shows the cunning Odysseus overcoming all sorts of obstacles to return home to his family.

Of course, it’s not all dusty old tomes – we have shiny new tomes as well! In the aforementioned Odyssey, one of the obstacles Odysseus has to overcome is Circe, the witch of Aeaea, who turns his crew into pigs, and attempts to do the same to Odysseus. She does this because… well, actually, Homer doesn’t give her a motive. It’s taken for granted that she does it because she’s a witch, and bewitching men is simply what they do. Unsatisfied with this explanation (or lack thereof), Madeline Miller gives us a different perspective in her aptly titled novel Circe. The first person account of the goddess’s life starts well before her meeting with Odysseus, and continues past that point, covering a broad swath of Greek mythology. More importantly, it allows Miller to flesh out her subject’s inner life, humanizing the divine figure and transforming her from an antagonist to someone we empathize with deeply. Simple yet elegant, Miller’s prose echoes Homer’s poetry while still asserting her (and Circe’s) voice as unique.

And if you want something that’s not a tome at all, we have you covered there too! Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the latest entry in Ubisoft’s long-running series, tells the story of Kassandra, a Greek mercenary. While trying to find her estranged family, she becomes embroiled in a massive cult conspiracy spanning all of Greece, all set against the backdrop of the Peloponnesian War. As you might expect, there’s a lot of assassinating to be done, but unlike older games in the series, the large (and beautiful!) open world is filled with characters to talk to, do quests for, recruit to your ship’s crew, and even romance! And perhaps most thrillingly (to me at least), you can have your very own dialogues with Socrates.

New Religion & Spirituality in December

Featured new additions to DPL’s Religion & Spirituality collections! Click on the title to place a hold. For more new books, visit our Upcoming Releases page. As always, if there’s a title you would like to read, please send us a purchase suggestion.

91bcwKzOLGL Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church by The Investigative Staff of the Boston Globe – The story behind this groundbreaking book has been brought to life on the screen in the new movie Spotlight . Here are the devastating revelations that triggered a crisis within the Catholic Church. Here is the truth about the scores of abusive priests who preyed upon innocent children and the cabal of senior Church officials who covered up their crimes. Here is the trail of “hush money” that the Catholic Church secretly paid to buy victims’ silence Here as well is a vivid account of the ongoing struggle, as Catholics confront their Church and call for sweeping change.
91zRIUZpPdL Mythology by Edith Hamilton – Since its original publication in 1942, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology has sold millions of copies throughout the world and established itself as a perennial bestseller. Mythology succeeds like no other book in bringing to life for the modern reader the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths and legends that are the keystone of Western culture – the stories of gods and heroes that have inspired human creativity from antiquity to the present.
NotInGodsName_unapproved-e1427725666846 Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Jonathan Sacks – In this powerful and timely book, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks tackles the phenomenon of religious extremism and violence committed in the name of God. If religion is perceived as being part of the problem, Rabbi Sacks argues, then it must also form part of the solution. When religion becomes a zero-sum conceit violence between people of different beliefs, violence appears to be the only natural outcome.But through an exploration of the roots of violence and its relationship to religion Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source misreadings of biblical texts at the heart of all three Abrahamic faiths.
81KTjecgtLL Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom by John MacArthur – As a master storyteller, Jesus used ingeniously simple word pictures to impart profound spiritual lessons. In this insightful exploration of Christ’s parables, respected expositor and commentator MacArthur helps to understand each story and comprehend how it fits into the narrative of Scripture and the gospel message.
81lXcrfhwcL Pope Francis Among the Wolves: The Inside Story of a Revolution by Marco Politi – Marco Politi takes us deep inside the power struggle roiling the Roman Curia and the Catholic Church worldwide, beginning with Benedict XVI, the pope who famously resigned in 2013, and intensifying with the contested and unexpected election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, now known as Pope Francis. Politi’s account balances the perspectives of Pope Francis’s supporters, Benedict’s sympathizers, and those disappointed members of the Catholic laity who feel alienated by the institution’s secrecy, financial corruption, and refusal to modernize.
142227 This Is Not A Love Story: A Memoir by Judy Brown – The third of six children in a family that harks back to a gloried Hassidic dynasty, Judy Brown grew up with the legacy of centuries of religious teaching, and the faith and lore that sustained her people for generations. But her carefully constructed world begins to crumble when her “crazy” brother Nachum returns home after a year in Israel living with relatives. Though supposedly “cured,” he is still prone to retreating into his own mind or erupting in wordless rages. The adults’ inability to make him better – or even to give his affliction a name – forces Judy to ask larger questions: If God could perform miracles for her sainted ancestors, why can’t He cure Nachum? And what of the other stories her family treasured?

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I love Greek mythology, so after reading some glowing reviews I was excited to read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.  The novel follows young Patroclus, a prince who has been exiled from his homeland for accidentally killing a local boy who was threatening him.  He is sent to Pthia to be fostered by King Peleus, and it is there where he meets Peleus’s son, the boy who is destined to become The Best of the Greeks, Achilles.  While Patroclus is small and weak, Achilles is everything that a prince should be: handsome, strong, and even a half-god.  Despite this, Achilles sees something in Patroclus and takes him under his wing.  The two quickly bond and spend all of their time together, growing close during their studies.  But when Menelaus’s beautiful wife Helen is stolen from him by the Trojan prince Paris, a promise that Patroculs made in his youth comes back to haunt him, and he and Achilles are thrown into a war that neither of them expected.

Even those familiar with The Iliad and Greek mythology, despite knowing how the story will end, won’t be bored reading it.  At its heart is the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles; the characters have been made complex and intriguing by Miller, and it makes their story incredibly moving and heartfelt.  It is a beautiful story of war, love, and loss that you won’t be able to put down.