Catching up on Classics (and lots more!) discussion

51 views
Chit Chat & All That > What is the most ancient story you've read...and the most ancient story you've enjoyed.

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Joseph (last edited Oct 28, 2014 06:29AM) (new)

Joseph Fountain | 286 comments I think it's The book of Job, probably written around the 6th century BC. I've read it numerous times, so indeed I enjoy it. Tennyson calls it The greatest poem of ancient and modern time.

I tried to read Beowulf, but I couldn't really get through it. I read an excerpt translated by Tolkien which I did like, but that neither counts as ancient, nor really reading the work.

I plan to read the Epic of Gilgamesh someday...which by most accounts would be the oldest.


message 2: by Tytti (new)

Tytti | 1092 comments I haven't read anything very old, and probably won't either. The first epic I would read would be the Kalevala but it was published in the 19th century even though the poems are very old. There really were no Finnish books before that so all the classics I "have" to read are from that era.

I have Le Morte d'Arthur but, as I mentioned somewhere before, if I read that and added it here, it would mess up my fine graph that currently shows books from 1800 and is still pretty readable. :-P Besides, I don't quite feel like reading it at the moment.


message 3: by Melanti (new)

Melanti | 2386 comments I've read a LOT of old stuff in various Lit classes - The Epic of Gilgamesh included - and enjoyed most of it. A lot of the Greek plays are very good and not as time consuming to read as The Iliad or The Odyssey.

One that I particularly enjoyed was Lysistrata. Lysistrata gets fed up with all the war (Peloponnesian war, I think?) and convinces all the women of Greece to dress alluringly to get their husbands excited but then withhold all sexual privileges until a truce is negotiated.

It's really, really funny. Completely implausible, but funny.


message 4: by Cleo (last edited Oct 28, 2014 09:11AM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 125 comments If The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest then I guess that would be it for me. I've also read The Iliad, The Odyssey, and a number of Greek tragedies including The Theban Plays by Sophocles. Each time I pick up an ancient work I think that I won't like it and each time I do!

I encourage you, Joseph, to give Beowulf another attempt. We read it in my Dead Writer's Society group and everyone really enjoyed it. We had a great discussion on it.

I'm reading Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table now, Tytti. What a weird book. I started off not liking it because I had expected something completely different but now I'm really enjoying it. What a silly, rollicking romp! Quite fun!

I haven't read Lysistrata yet but it's on my list. Thanks, Melanti, for the positive recommendation.


message 5: by Tytti (last edited Oct 28, 2014 09:44AM) (new)

Tytti | 1092 comments My copy of it is abrigded, so it would be a bit easier to start. It hasn't probably even been translated as a whole. It's an old translation, actually made by an ancestor of a person I know. It was on some list (I am sucker for lists...) and when one bookcrosser was giving away her books I picked it.


message 6: by Melanti (new)

Melanti | 2386 comments Joseph wrote: "I tried to read Beowulf, but I couldn't really get through it. I read an excerpt translated by Tolkien which I did like, but that neither counts as ancient, nor really reading the work...."

By the way, hardly anyone other than linguistic scholars can read Old English. Middle English is understandable with a bit of effort (I'm a firm believer in at least attempting to read Chaucer in the original) - but Old English is incomprehensible unless you've studied it or old German dialects. Even without all the vowel/constant shifts, there's still so many words that either don't exist anymore or mean something completely different.

I read several painfully dull translations then the Seamus Heaney translation which I did like. I've heard really good things about the Tolkien translation but haven't read it yet.


message 7: by Tytti (new)

Tytti | 1092 comments Melanti wrote: "Old English is incomprehensible unless you've studied it or old German dialects. Even without all the vowel/constant shifts, there's still so many words that either don't exist anymore or mean something completely different."

I know some people that have read books in Norwegian because they know Swedish well, then some maybe in Icelandic after that, or was it Danish. One read something in Faroese. I don't know if it was the same but someone had read a Dutch book after knowing German. But reading a Russian book that was set in Baku in Estonian felt weird, I was told... :D But she had read his novels in Russian, too.


message 8: by Melanti (new)

Melanti | 2386 comments Old English is actual a dialect of German and I think they were practically identical back then. German has changed a lot less over the centuries than English has so I think a German speaker would probably have better luck at deciphering Old English than a modern English speaker.

I took a class about the history of English once and it was really interesting.


message 9: by Tytti (last edited Oct 28, 2014 11:06AM) (new)

Tytti | 1092 comments Melanti wrote: "Old English is actual a dialect of German and I think they were practically identical back then. German has changed a lot less over the centuries than English has so I think a German speaker would..."

Yeah. I have sometimes noticed that I understand some old/dialect words if I hear them spoken or something. I just recognize them from another language. Like now in Outlander they use "keen" and it's not that far from "kennen". Though that's not Old English, but anyway...

On YouTube there is/was a documentary series about English. I wathched it a bit but not all of them.


message 10: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 125 comments Tytti wrote: "It's an old translation, actually made by an ancestor of a person I know...."

Wow, that's unique! So you'll be reading a translation that no one else has!


message 11: by Tytti (last edited Oct 28, 2014 12:34PM) (new)

Tytti | 1092 comments Cleo wrote: "Tytti wrote: "It's an old translation, actually made by an ancestor of a person I know...."

Wow, that's unique! So you'll be reading a translation that no one else has!"


No, I didn't mean that! :D He was a well known professor, poet, journalist, translator etc. and my friend had told me about his family earlier, so I just recognized the name. The last name is rare so it's easy to recognize elsewhere, too, a well known family of culture. And now that I think about it, it might have been Ivanhoe, and not Le Morte. But they are both abridged and I got them at the same time, so...


message 12: by Melanti (new)

Melanti | 2386 comments Tytti wrote: "Like now in Outlander they use "keen" and it's not that far from "kennen". Though that's not Old English, but anyway....."

I think you're referring to "ken" as in "know"? It's not often in use in modern English anymore, but it's usually spelled (and pronounced) "ken." It comes from the Old English "Cennen" - so very very close to your "kennen".


message 13: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 125 comments Tytti wrote: "o, I didn't mean that! :D He was a well known professor, poet, journalist, translator etc. and my friend had told me about his family earlier, so I just recognized the name...."

Okay, got it! ;-)


message 14: by Tytti (new)

Tytti | 1092 comments Melanti wrote: "I think you're referring to "ken" as in "know"? It's not often in use in modern English anymore, but it's usually spelled (and pronounced) "ken.""

I think in the subtitles it was written as "keen", that's where I picked it up.


message 15: by Melanti (new)

Melanti | 2386 comments Never saw the TV series but I just glanced through the book and the book does spell it as "ken."

It could be whomever did the subtitles wasn't familiar with the word "ken" since it's not really a word that's used in general conversation anymore.


message 16: by Angelo (new)

Angelo Giardini The Epic of Gilgamesh is dated around 1500 b.c., so it makes it the oldest text I've read. Although I liked it, perhaps the oldest-best text is the Odyssey.


message 17: by Angelo (new)

Angelo Giardini The Epic of Gilgamesh is dated around 1500 b.c., so it makes it the oldest text I've read. Although I liked it, perhaps the oldest-best text is the Odyssey.


message 18: by Angelo (new)

Angelo Giardini The Epic of Gilgamesh is dated around 1500 b.c., so it makes it the oldest text I've read. Although I liked it, perhaps the oldest-best text is the Odyssey.


message 19: by Angelo (new)

Angelo Giardini The Epic of Gilgamesh is dated around 1500 b.c., so it makes it the oldest text I've read. Although I liked it, perhaps the oldest-best text is the Odyssey.


message 20: by Angelo (new)

Angelo Giardini The Epic of Gilgamesh is dated around 1500 b.c., so it makes it the oldest text I've read. Although I liked it, perhaps the oldest-best text is the Odyssey.


message 21: by Angelo (new)

Angelo Giardini The Epic of Gilgamesh is dated around 1500 b.c., so it makes it the oldest text I've read. Although I liked it, perhaps the oldest-best text is the Odyssey.


message 22: by Angelo (new)

Angelo Giardini The Epic of Gilgamesh is dated around 1500 b.c., so it makes it the oldest text I've read. Although I liked it, perhaps the oldest-best text is the Odyssey.


back to top