Commentary Magazine


Learning from the Greeks

A Greek revival—of sorts—is under way these days, as books by the ancients seem to be enjoying a boomlet in new translations. Robert Fagles’s gorgeous version of Homer’s Odyssey, the companion to his earlier translation of the Iliad1 has had a remarkable popular success, including being named as a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. From the University of Pennsylvania Press have come the first three volumes in a series that will eventually comprise all the extant works of the playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and Menander in new renditions by 40 different translators, most of them poets (and not all of whom know Greek).2

Another complete Aristophanes is planned by Oxford, which has already brought out the first volume, as well as a selection of four plays by Euripides and, for good measure, a new translation of Herodotus.3 A new edition of Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War brings together the eloquent Victorian translation by Richard Crawley of this historical masterwork and an estimable scholarly apparatus of notes, marginal summaries, maps, and appendices.4 And we also have The Classical Greek Reader, a compilation of excerpts from several dozen poets, playwrights, historians, mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers spanning a period of some thousand years; in addition to the most famous passages from the most famous works, the book offers a generous selection of lesser-known authors like Simonides, Empedocles, Isocrates, Protagoras, Anacreon, Praxilla, and Plotinus.5

Knowing just what to make of all this activity is, however, a tricky business. On the one hand, it is clearly and uncomplicatedly good news; the appearance of these works in, for the most part, affordable new editions is reason for ordinary readers—readers who look to literature to enrich and even to change their lives—to rejoice at their good fortune. But, on the other hand, the fact that thousands or even tens of thousands of people will be reading Homer seems unlikely to make so much as a dent in the way the Greeks are perceived these days by the American academic elite, who are, after all, the teachers of the next generation of readers. On that front, as Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath argue in Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom,6 the predominant trends over the past 30 years or so have wreaked havoc.

True, Hanson and Heath admit, there is a long tradition in this country of resistance to the wisdom of the Greeks: Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and Noah Webster all judged the classics to be of scant use, and advocated that Americans receive, instead, a properly American education. But real doom for the classics came only with the upheavals of the 1960’s, when it was decreed that any culture so sexist and militarist, so exploitative and chauvinist, simply had to go. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, “diversity” and multiculturalism finished the job that 60’s revolutionism had begun.

Hanson and Heath, both of them professors of classics, are quick to indict their own profession for complicity in the doing-down of the ancients. It is bad enough, they write, that traditional philologists are pedantic beyond belief; much worse are the soul-killing acolytes of deconstructionist, Jungian, feminist, and homosexual theory. The fusty creatures of the old school sound like this:

Whereas vocatival Achilles after the bucolic diaeresis demonstrates deliberate artistry rather than systematic composition, the hephthemimeral caesurea counters the idea of formulaic systems in another way.

And the fashionable nonsense sounds like this:

The narrative of the Odyssey incorporates as a significant element of its ideological strategy a commentary on the construction and differentiation of gender. The text self-consciously employs control over narrative production itself.

If these are our designated proprietors of the Greek heritage, it is no wonder that Homer’s voice no longer sings in the hearts of today’s college students.

Hanson and Heath valiantly propose curriculum changes that would once again make Greek civilization the core of a liberal education. But their plan is hardly likely to get off the ground. Greek wisdom, as Thucydides says of war, is a harsh teacher, and merely to list its main tenets is to see how alien it is to the relativist and multiculturalist ethos of today. Among those tenets, as Hanson and Heath enumerate them, are the belief that there exist unchanging truths that men can understand and must live by; that life is a cruel affair, from which one should not expect justice; that culture is better than raw nature; and that some cultures are better than others. Hanson and Heath do their best to defend these ideas, and the Western civilization they fathered. Along the way they score many true and important points, not least among them the fact that, unlike most non-Western cultures even today, the Greeks invented, and practiced, self-criticism—perhaps “the most important legacy” they bequeathed to the West.

But the trouble with this defense is that it is, in brief, defensive; one feels the authors know that theirs is a losing game. Better simply to take one’s side with those who still appear to find in the ancient books a never-failing source of insight into who we are and where we have come from. In doing so, we can even begin to do something that Hanson and Heath, in their zeal to defend Greek wisdom as a whole, fail adequately to do: namely, to be critical about it, discriminating among its varieties (and also among the forms in which it is expressed), and asking in which particular ways it is true.

_____________

 

We can begin at the beginning, with Homer, whom no less an authority than Socrates acknowledges as the educator of Greece and foremost among the tragic poets. Of Homer himself, little is known; he may have come from Chios or Smyrna, and the best guess is that he wrote the Iliad some time between 725 and 675 B.C.E. A poem of nearly 16,000 lines, the Iliad is about the war the Greeks waged against the Trojans, and more specifically about the fate of Achilles, the greatest Greek hero, whose anger at an insult to his honor is the motive force of the story.

What, for Homer, is the truth about the human lot? Not to put too fine a point on it, the Iliad shows men who fight and die like beasts. Sometimes it is the greater falling upon the smaller and weaker—wolves bringing down sheep—and sometimes, as when Hector, the greatest Trojan hero, collides with Patroclus, Achilles’ closest friend, it is like a lion tearing at a boar over a water hole. Although Homer does tend to honor each fallen fighter by name, not infrequently the deaths come so thick and fast that even he cannot keep the victims straight:

These were the Argive captains Hector killed
[and] then [he] went for the main mass
like the West Wind battering soft shining clouds
the South Wind wafts along—in deep
  explosive blasts
it strikes and the great swelling waves roll on
  and on
and the spray goes shooting up from under
  the wind’s hurl
swerving, roaring down the sea—so wildly
  Hector routed
the packed lines of fighters caught in
  his onslaught.

(translation by Robert Fagles)

To find Homer’s equal for detailed carnage—he records where the fatal weapon enters the body, where it comes out, and what damage it does along the way, and he has an especially keen eye for the grotesquerie of violent death—one must look to the literature of World War I and the unrelenting gruesomeness of writers like Erich Maria Remarque, Henri Barbusse, or Wilfred Owen. Yet there is a crucial difference. In the moderns’ view, the physical horror of warfare—and theirs was a more horrific war than Homer’s—renders meaningless everything they went to war for. As Frederic Henry puts it in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, “the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it.” For Homer, the meaning of glory and sacrifice may flicker, but it is never extinguished.

Hanson and Heath contend that by the end of the Iliad, Achilles has been disabused of his love of glory. That would be very modern and enlightened of Achilles if it were true, but in fact it is not. In our very last glimpse of him in the Iliad, he is sleeping beside his beautiful slave-girl, Briseis—the very girl whose removal by the Greek commander Agamemnon brought on his famous anger in the first place. Now Achilles’ prize has been restored, and he sleeps like a man given his due. More importantly, Achilles stays on to fight and—as he himself already knows—to die. Achilles will fall on the battlefield because he is a man of honor, and the Iliad, witness to his peerless glory as a soldier, is the most enduring monument he could have asked for.

Nietzsche came much closer to the Homeric essence in his essay “Homer’s Contest,” declaring that the Greeks, “the most humane men of ancient times, have a trait of cruelty, a tigerish lust to annihilate.” Stripped of Homer’s beguiling poetry, the Greek world reveals itself as one of brief, painful life and awful death. Inhuman nature is master here, and it is only by acknowledging this that, as Nietzsche wrote, one can find cause for rejoicing in human fate: “combat is salvation; the cruelty of victory is the pinnacle of life’s jubilation.” To this one need only add that, for the Greeks, the principle of strife was hardly limited to war. That life is above all a struggle, that men must contend incessantly for triumph over other men, was a truth that underlay the struggle of orator with orator, poet with poet, and philosopher with philosopher as much as it did soldier with soldier. The most sublime and civilized activities have their origins in the very feelings—jealousy, hatred, envy—that move men to kill and die.

_____________

 

Even among the Greeks themselves, however, there were dissenters from this view. The Athenian tragedian Euripides (485-406 B.C.E.) did not exult at the Homeric depiction of war, though one can imagine him coveting the honor of replacing Homer’s wisdom with his own. The plays Euripides wrote about the Trojan war and its aftermath—The Trojan Women, Hecuba, Andromache—were shaped by his understanding of a conflict more immediate than Homer’s: the Peloponnesian War, which began in 431 B.C.E. and ended only in 404 with the defeat of Athens by Sparta. Euripides’ plays measure the distance between the old stories and the realities of his own time; in his reading, Homer tends to fall far short of the truth.

In The Suppliant Women, for example, Theseus, king of Athens, asks Adrastus, king of Argos, to say a word about the bravery of the seven soldiers who led the Argive assault on Thebes and were killed in the attempt. “Only spare us, please,” says Theseus, “the details”:

It gets to be ludicrous,
naming names, telling who fought whom as
  the battle heated,
or exactly where every spear-thrust left its
  mark.
That kind of report’s not worth a hill of beans.
To think that anyone actually in battle,
with the spearpoints right in his face or
  whizzing by him,
could be fussy about detail, pinpointing
  heroes!
I’d not have the nerve to ask, or trust for
  a minute
anyone with gall enough to attempt an
  answer.

(translation by John Frederick Nims)

What Theseus is deriding is just the sort of thing to which Homer devoted passage after rousing passage.

Even the gods come under Euripides’ skeptical eye. At the end of The Suppliant Women, the sons of the dead Argive soldiers vow to avenge their fathers. Their understanding of what honor requires of them is endorsed by the goddess Athena herself, who appears ex machina at the end of the play to promise that the boys will grow up to sack Thebes. Their exploits in battle, she proclaims, will become “a theme for epic.” But throughout the play, Euripides has already made his opinion of epic known: it is a bewitching lie, just as war itself is naked savagery hiding behind the sonorous and deceptive word, “honor.”

Euripides was hardly the only Greek to subvert the traditional pieties at every chance he got. War was a subject for comedy, too, a form that for the Greeks possessed a wisdom of its own. “For what is true even comedy can tell,” Dicaeopolis, the hero of Aristophanes’ Acharnians, avers as he launches into a tirade against Athens’ war with Sparta.

In this play and in Peace, both the waging of war and the poetry of war are cast aside in favor of the delights of peace: the bounty of the earth, the comforts of the hearth, the joys of love. But it is in Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ most famous play about war, that the Homeric view really goes out the window. There, Athenian and Spartan women collude to wage a sex strike, denying their husbands intercourse until they call a halt to battle. Men’s bodies, this play instructs, were made not to be pierced, hacked, and torn but rather to be warmed, caressed, and filled to the brim with the choicest food and wine. Aristophanes does not altogether discount the role of honor in war; but the wisdom he extols is the one that reminds men how they really ought to live.

_____________

 

Aristophanes and Euripides seem quite modern in their attitude to war and to life. But next to Thucydides (455-399 B.C.E.), they also seem quite limited. The Peloponnesian War is the greatest Greek history and one of the greatest works of history ever. Like most Greeks with noble aspirations, Thucydides measured himself against Homer, claiming a wisdom about humanity that the poet lacked. That wisdom shows itself to be fully alive to honor and glory, but at the same time to make room in its expansive view for the seemingly dishonorable and inglorious. In Thucydides, the high and the low exist side by side, neither of them distorted by the other’s presence. Homer makes men want to go to war by exalting the pursuit of honor above all else (Alexander the Great, Plutarch wrote, slept with the Iliad and a dagger at the head of his bed); Euripides makes men hate war by despising honor as a fraud; Thucydides makes men accept war as an inescapable part of the way things are.

The episode in Thucydides most revealing in this regard is the notorious Melian dialogue. The island of Melos, a Spartan colony, had maintained neutrality in the war, refusing to submit to Athens as the other islands had done. In 416 the Athenians launched an expedition against Melos; to their surprise, the Melians fought back. Before undertaking any further violence, the Athenians sent envoys to talk things over.

In Thucydides’ retelling, the envoys quickly get to the heart of the matter: they will eschew the usual pretense about the justice of their own case, and hope that the Melians for their part will not start bleating about their innocence, “since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” The Athenians go on to prove their point, laying a siege that leads eventually to the Melians’ surrender. Victorious, the Athenians promptly and savagely kill all the men, enslave the women and children, and repopulate Melos with colonists of their own.

Nothing the Athenians say or do to the Melians is dishonorable in their own eyes, or in those of Thucydides. It is rather the Melians’ blindness, their preposterous nobility—against all reason they hold out, hoping to be rescued by the gods or the Spartans—that is judged to be irredeemably foolish. Athenian wisdom is the pitiless kind, the kind that enables you to survive and live triumphantly in a world where stupidity can render you quickly extinct. This is almost certainly what Nietzsche had in mind when he wrote of Thucydides’ “unconditional will not to gull oneself, and to see reason in reality.” Like Nietzsche himself, Thucydides is a powerful but dangerous thinker, one whose matchless and imperturbable talent for seeing things as they really are can sometimes make the reprehensible seem perfectly ordinary, even innocent.

_____________

 

But this, too, is not the final sum and substance of Greek wisdom. In Thucydides’ account, the Athenians insist that in forcing the weaker to yield to their will, they are only doing the very thing the gods themselves do. But most men do not enjoy the privilege of imitating the gods; the more common fate is to submit to them.

The good that inheres in doing whatever the gods demand of one, and especially in enduring with reverent forbearance whatever suffering they bring, is a species of Greek wisdom best expressed in the tragedies of Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.E.) and Sophocles (495-405 B.C.E.). Learning obedience to the gods is not as simple as it sounds. In Aeschylus’ Oresteia, a tragic cycle of retribution is brought to an end only by the intervention of Athena, who convenes a tribunal of Athenian citizens to judge the participants. Her instructions to the jurymen are very harsh—so harsh that David R. Slavitt, in his new translation of the Oresteia, shies away from conveying them in full. We need to go to Robert Fagles (though Richmond Lattimore’s older translation would do as well) to get the true Greek flavor:

Neither anarchy nor tyranny, my people.
Worship the Mean, I urge you,
shore it up with reverence and never
banish terror from the gates, not outright.
Where is the righteous man who
  knows no fear?
The stronger your fear, your reverence for
  the just,
the stronger your country’s wall and city’s
  safety.

At the heart of Athena’s charge, and of Aeschylus’ wisdom, is what Slavitt scoops out and throws away: the insistence that fear is indispensable to justice. It is not enough to be sensible, and it is not enough to be decent, and it is even not enough to be, in ordinary human terms, wise. One must also have awe.

_____________

 

In A different way, this is also the lesson brought home by the only other Greek tragedy more famous than the Oresteia, namely, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. Oedipus’ wisdom, which enables him to solve the riddle of the murderous Sphinx, has made him what he is: the honored king of Thebes. But it will not save him from the clockwork mechanism that ticks off each inevitable moment on the way to his self-discovery and ruin. How the man who believed he was fleeing an unspeakable prediction encountered a belligerent stranger on the road from Corinth to Thebes, killed him, and then unknowingly married the dead man’s widow is an exercise in the higher mathematics of earthly fate. But the real moral action depicted by the play is of a man’s being granted a view of the mind of the gods, and being destroyed by the privilege.

And yet—to complete the picture—there were Greeks ready to contemplate this fearsome prospect, too, and unlike Oedipus they emerged with all their faculties intact. The late Allan Bloom once observed that a different sort of man who discovered he had done what Oedipus did might have responded not by putting out his own eyes but by remarking, “How about that? Small world, isn’t it?” Such a response would be that of a man unspooked by the violation of even the most frightful taboos, and it may seem one that is hard to associate with the Greeks. Nevertheless, it is precisely the response a Greek philosopher might have made.

For these “lovers of wisdom,” reason, after all, was the highest human faculty, and in practicing what they preached they regularly called into question the most cherished beliefs men lived by—which made philosophy a dicey business even in Athens, justly renowned as its home. The dichotomy of reason and revelation, famously expressed as the choice between Athens and Jerusalem, was also a choice within Athens itself, a city of philosophers and at the same time a city of adherents to time-honored beliefs.

Defending himself before the Athenian jury trying him for impiety and corruption of the young, Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.) compares himself to Achilles, greatest of Greek heroes. Like Achilles, Socrates is ready to brave death, for it would be shameful to abjure the life of philosophy even in the face of mortal danger. But Socrates’ courage differs from Achilles’, and is a far rarer thing. Achilles fears death, but does not yield to his fear, because to do so would be dishonorable; Socrates does not fear death in the first place, because to do so would be unreasonable. It is not given to us to know, he says, whether death is indeed the greatest evil or, on the contrary, the greatest good; since genuinely reasonable men must admit it might prove to be the latter, what is there to fear?

As long as he lives, Socrates affirms, he will continue to philosophize, and challenge his fellows to reconsider the lives they are leading:

Best of men, you are Athenians, from the city that is greatest and best reputed for wisdom and strength: are you not ashamed that you care for having as much money as possible, and reputation, and honor, but that you neither care for nor give thought to prudence, and truth, and how your soul will be the best possible?

(Plato’s Apology of Socrates, translation by
Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West)

To the philosopher, the manly life of action has nothing to rival the peaceful life given to contemplation and conversation. Thus does Socratic wisdom supersede Homeric honor and Sophoclean submissiveness at once.

Socrates’ speech is one of the high points of Western civilization, just as the verdict against him is one of the lowest and saddest. Unlike Homer, whose wisdom he surpassed, Socrates did not have it in him to charm the multitude nor, though he managed to live pretty much as he pleased until the age of seventy, could he ultimately count on his wisdom to save his life when his fellow citizens determined to take it from him. Still, thanks principally to the memorial that Plato constructed in his dialogues, the life and death of Socrates have done more than anything else to ensure the timelessness of Greek philosophy, preeminent among so many noble works of mind and soul.

_____________

 

Such, at least, are the partial thoughts sparked by the latest crop of translations of Greek wisdom. But no discussion of this subject can end without acknowledging that, so far as Western civilization is concerned, the Greek achievement is not, after all, the only achievement, and the truths of the ancient Greeks are not the only truths by which we have been shaped. Nietzsche, a great admirer of the Hebrew Bible, wrote that “there are [in it] men, things, and speeches in so grand a style that Greek and Indian literature have nothing to compare with it.” He was right.

For sheer ferocity, the Athenian campaign against Melos has its biblical counterpart in the Israelites’ war against the Midianites described in Numbers 31. The Midianite women have enticed Israelite men to engage in whoredom and, still worse, to worship false gods. At the direction of Moses, the Israelites slay all the Midianite men, take all their women and children captive, seize all their animals and their goods, and burn all their cities to the ground. One might expect Moses to be pleased; but instead, when the victorious army presents itself to him, he erupts in anger, ordering the soldiers to slay, in addition, all the captive male children and all the women who have lain with men; the virgin girls the soldiers are to keep for themselves.

The appalling brutality of this brief war will be familiar ground to anyone acquainted with the battles described in The Peloponnesian War; and yet, most of the truly significant features of the biblical account are utterly alien to Thucydides. The Athenians make their way as reason dictates, though it is reason subordinate to their passion for honor and power; the Israelites’ governing principle is obedience to the word of God, as revealed to them through Moses. To say that there is really no earthly reason why the Israelites should wage this war is not to say they do not have the very best of reasons. God Himself issues the command to go to war; the Israelites triumph because God is with them; the Midianites are punished for their wickedness in God’s sight. In other words, the war is the work of divine justice, the Israelite army its appointed instrument.

One might discern here a certain parallel with the mental universe of Greek tragedy. But, quite apart from the figure of the one God, for Whom there is no real parallel among the Greeks, what are we to make of the figure of Moses? Even if one is shocked by his evident cruelty in this episode, no man in Thucydides, or even in Homer, approaches him in stature. Moses does not need to see his greatness reflected in other men’s eyes, or to make his name resound down the centuries (although of course he gets that, too). He makes honor seem a trifling affair, and as for knowledge of the world, his easily dwarfs that of Odysseus, Nestor, Pericles, Themistocles, and for that matter of Homer and Thucydides. Any man would want to know the world as Moses knows it: from God’s mouth, to his ear. Heroic without longing to be, unrivaled in magnificence because without feelings of rivalry, Moses has been chosen by God, and that is enough.

Obedience to God is rarely blind in the Bible—not a matter, as it is in Greek tragedy, simply of accepting one’s fate. As extraordinary as is Oedipus the King, the Book of Job is more terrifying still, dramatically more penetrating, and finally wiser.7 Oedipus, the Greek tragic hero, and Job, the biblical sufferer, are two distinct human types. Upon realizing that he has inadvertently killed his father and married his mother, Oedipus bewails his fate, but he is also unprotesting, accepting what the gods have given him though it means they hate him more than any other man on earth. Even in Oedipus at Colonus, which Sophocles wrote some twenty years later and in which Oedipus asserts that he suffered through no fault of his own, it does not occur to him to demand a divine explanation. Oedipus is impelled to his doom by a need to know the truth—that is, by a need to know what happened. He does not ask why it happened, and neither does Sophocles.

Job, by contrast, aches to know why; like Abraham long before him, he demands an accounting. The worst part of his suffering comes from incomprehension, from knowing that his fate is not, in fact, just. No Greek tragedy equals the Book of Job in its understanding of the relentless anguish of mind that human loss or physical pain can induce. Job is reduced to a state in which his most urgent need is to know more than a man can ever hope to know: why life should be as it is, rather than what he thought it to be.

True, when at last God appears to Job in the whirlwind, He never answers the questions Job has asked. What Job learns instead is that an explanation for the problem of evil—and in particular for the evil that strikes the man who is without blemish—is not the wisdom he needs. The wisdom he needs, paradoxically, is that he cannot know everything. It is the Lord’s majestic apparition—and, for majesty, there is again nothing to equal it in Greek literature—that settles Job’s troubled mind and allows him to go on living in the world without demanding to know things that belong to the mind of God alone.

Finally, as Socrates is the wisest of the Greeks, so Solomon is the wisest among the men of the Hebrew Bible. There is plenty of wisdom in Proverbs, Solomon’s compendium, though most of it is admittedly of the proverbial sort. The apothegm that best encapsulates it, though, is something again reminiscent of Greek tragedy, and in particular of Athena’s admonition at the end of Aeschylus’ Oresteia: “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility.”

Here is that ancient fear again: a relic of primitive unpleasantness that enlightened moderns prefer not to think about. It is one of the two emotions evoked by Greek tragedy (the other is pity), and it is also what Socrates’ philosophy sets out to expose as nothing but a phantom. Solomon, however, avers that without fear there is no wisdom: one’s soul must tremble naked before the Lord. And then he adds a parallel point about honor: it is not something to be seized brazenly by men sure of their own greatness, in battle or in any other pursuit, but rather to be earned in good time by men humble before God and their fellows.

Neither the wisdom of Athens nor that of Jerusalem is monolithic. There is wisdom and there is wisdom, and then there is always some other kind of wisdom. In reading these old books, one must turn upon them all the power of understanding one possesses, and even after one has understood them one must still choose among them and between them, and choose wisely. It is a pity that in this great task, our universities, official repositories of our own wisdom, are of so little help. But for those willing to read them there are always the books themselves, and even in our befuddled times they still retain their primordial urgency, their undying power to move the mind and shake the soul.

_____________


Footnotes

1 The Odyssey, Penguin (paperback), 541 pp., $14.95; The Iliad, Penguin (paperback, 1990), 683 pp., $9.95.

2 Aeschylus, vol. 1: The Oresteia, edited and translated by David R. Slavitt, 159 pp., $37.50 (paperback, $14.95).

Euripides, vol. 1: Medea, Hecuba, Andromache, The Bacchae, edited by David R. Slavitt and Palmer Bovie, 298 pp., $40.00 (paperback, $16.95).

Euripides, vol. 2: Hippolytus, Suppliant Women, Helen, Electra, Cyclops, Slavitt and Bovie, eds., 360 pp., $40.00 (paperback, $16.95).

3 Aristophanes, Birds, Lysistrata, Assembly-Women, Wealth, edited and translated by Stephen Halliwell, 297 pp., $85.00.

Euripides, Medea, Hippolytus, Electra, Helen, edited and translated by James Morwood, 218 pp., $85.00.

Herodotus, The Histories, translated by Robin Waterfield, 772 pp., $30.00.

4 The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to The Peloponnesian War, edited by Robert B. Strassler, Free Press, 711 pp., $45.00.

5 The Classical Greek Reader, edited by Kenneth J. Atchity, Holt, 442 pp., $37.50.

6 Free Press, 290 pp., $25.00.

7 The Book of Job has just appeared in a new translation, together with introduction and notes, by Raymond P. Scheindlin, Norton, 237 pp., $23.95.

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About the Author

Algis Valiunas writes on culture and politics for COMMENTARY and other magazines. His "Goethe’s Magnificent Self" appeared in January.




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