A Layman’s Reading list For Accessible Navigation of The Classical Era

A Layman’s Reading list For Accessible Navigation of The Classical Era

In my desperate attempts to further my education, especially in my field, often I am confronted by the Classical Era. The references in poems, books and podcasts can often baffle both the casual reader and someone who has not had the privilege of learning Latin, studying Homer, or being part of the Bullingdon Club (I’m joking, of course).

I am dyslexic and my education was pretty barebone when I started university. I wanted to provide some of my suggestions to many literature students facing the struggles of classical era references or just the average person who wants to understand the classics more.

#1 Radio 4’s — In Our Time Podcast

Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time is often a lifesaver for me as someone who remembers freshers’ and how the jargon of lecturers sometimes confuses even a third-year student. I remember feeling reasonably disadvantaged compared to my peers, as they reference some ancient Greek story, or some play I had never heard of. Although somewhat academic, Bragg discusses authors, texts and concepts, in detail with leading experts in their field. Not only has it been useful for navigating the classics, but all of literature’s many complicated concepts and eras.

#2 A Classical Education by Caroline Taggart

I have come across a few attempts to educate ordinary people on the classics, but none so well-rounded and captivating as Taggart’s book. She comically discusses the classical era from Mythology to Roman and Greek history. The book left me with more of an idea of what my lecturer was saying when they would compare more modern books such as Ulysses to The Odyssey or a Shakespearian play to Ovid.

#3 Stephen Fry’s Greek Myth Series i.e. Mythos, Heroes etc.

Although I have not listened to or read all of Stephen Fry’s series, I have listened to part of Mythos and all of Heroes. For me, although sometimes a little more complex than Taggart’s to listen to, Fry goes more in-depth with Greek myths. Again, how he discusses each story makes it more engaging than other more academic takes.  

#4 Circe By Madeline Miller

Of course, being a literature student, I had to suggest some fiction. I would, however, note that maybe reading this last would be an excellent way to end a self-taught education on the classical era. The book follows a minor character from Homer’s The Odyssey and is not just for those who enjoy the classics. Miller introduces many Greek heroes, and the story stands alone as a fantastic narrative. 

I hope these resources, help guide you through the often violent storm of literature. Please do suggest any other resources you use. Thank you!

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Jamie Styles

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