Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Mind

For centuries now, time and again, people have turned to classical oeuvres for ancient teachings. Here are some of the epics and folklore available at Chapters; with complete and comprehensive introductions authored by esteemed translators known to classical literature.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

“SURPASSING ALL OTHER KINGS, HEROIC IN STATURE, BRAVE SCION OF URUK, WILD BULL ON THE RAMPAGE!… GILGAMESH THE TALL, MAGNIFICENT AND TERRIBLE”

Translated with an introduction by Andrew George

Andrew George’s “masterly new translation” (The Times) of the world’s first truly great work of literature predating Homer’s “Iliad” & his “Odyssey” by almost a millennium.

Miraculously preserved on clay tablets the poem of Gilgamesh is the world’s oldest epic. The story tells of King Gilgamesh’s adventures with the wild man Enkidu, and of his arduous journey to the ends of the earth in quest of the Babylonian Noah and the secret of immortality. Alongside its themes of family, friendship and the duties of kings, the Epic of Gilgamesh is, above all, about mankind’s eternal struggle with the fear of death.

The Babylonian version has been known for over a century, but linguists are still deciphering new fragments in Akkadian and Sumerian. Andrew George’s gripping translation brilliantly combines these into a fluent narrative and will long rank as the definitive English Gilgamesh. -Penguin Classics.

King Gilgamesh’s story also turns out to be the starting point of a genre in the Western tradition – The autobiography – where he wrote down his own story and a starting point for the Western Literary Canon.

“Humankind’s first literary achievement…Gilgamesh should compel us as the wellspring of which we are inheritors…Andrew George provides an excellent critical and historical introduction.”
—Paul Binding, Independent on Sunday

“This volume will endure as one of the milestones markers…[George] expertly and easily conducts his readers on a delightful and moving epic journey.”
—Samuel A. Meier, Times Literary Supplement

“Appealingly presented and very read-ably translated…it still comes as an exhilarating surprise to find the actions and emotions of the Sumerian superhero coming to us with absolute immediacy over 30-odd centuries.
—Scotsman

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The Odyssey by  Homer

“I LONG TO REACH MY HOME AND SEE THE DAY OF MY RETURN. IT IS MY NEVER-FAILING WISH.”

Translated by E.V Rieu. Revised translation by D. C. H Rieu. Introduction by Peter Jones.

The epic tale of Odysseus’s journey home – one of the earliest and greatest works of Western literature

If the Iliad is the world’s greatest war epic, the Odyssey is literature’s grandest evocation of an every-man’s journey through life. Odysseus’ reliance on his wit and wiliness for survival in his encounters with divine and natural forces during his ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War is at once a timeless human story and an individual test of moral endurance.

E. V. Rieu’s translation has long been beloved and celebrated by scholars and readers alike, and for this Penguin Classics edition, classicist D. C. H. Rieu has revised the work of his father. This edition also includes an introduction by Peter V. Jones.      – Penguin Classics

 “[Fitzgerald’s Odyssey and Iliad] open up once more the unique greatness of Homer’s art at the level above the formula; yet at the same time they do not neglect the brilliant texture of Homeric verse at the level of the line and the phrase.” The Yale Review

“One of the world’s most vital tales… The Odyssey remains central to literature” – Malcolm Bradbury

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The Iliad by Homer

“LOOK AT ME. I AM THE SON OF A GREAT MAN. A GODDESS WAS MY MOTHER. YET DEATH AND INEXORABLE DESTINY ARE WAITING FOR ME.”

Translated by E.V Rieu. Revised translation by D. C. H Rieu. Introduction by Peter Jones.

The great war epic of Western literature, in a stunning translation by acclaimed classicist E.V. RIEU.

One of the foremost achievements in Western literature, Homer’s Iliad tells the story of the darkest episode of the Trojan War. At its center is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his conflict with his leader Agamemnon. Interwoven in the tragic sequence of events are powerfully moving descriptions of the ebb and flow of battle, the besieged city of Ilium, the feud between the gods, and the fate of mortals.

For this Penguin Classics edition, classicist D. C. H. Rieu has revised the work of his father, E. V. Rieu, celebrated translator and founding editor of the Penguin Classics imprint. The book also includes an introduction and notes by Peter V. Jones. – Penguin Classics

“Fitzgerald has solved virtually every problem that has plagued translators of Homer. The narrative runs, the dialogue speaks, the military action is clear, and the repetitive epithets become useful text rather than exotic relics.” –Atlantic Monthly

“Fitzgerald’s swift rhythms, bright images, and superb English make Homer live as never before…This is for every reader in our time and possibly for all time.”Library Journal

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The Aeneid By Virgil

“I SING OF ARMS AND OF THE MAN”

Translated with an introduction by DAVID WEST

After a century of civil strife in Rome and Italy, Virgil wrote The Aeneid to honour the emperor Augustus by praising Aeneas – Augustus’ legendary ancestor. As a patriotic epic imitating Homer, The Aeneid also provided Rome with a literature equal to the Greek. It tells of Aeneas, survivor of the sack of Troy, and of his seven year journey – to Carthage, falling tragically in love with Queen Dido; then to the underworld, in the company of the Sibyl of Cumae; and finally to Italy, where he founded Rome. It is a story of defeat and exile, of love and war, hailed by Tennyson as ‘the stateliest measure ever moulded by the lips of man’.

David West’s acclaimed prose translation is accompanied by his revised introduction and individual prefaces to the twelve books of The Aeneid. – Penguin Classics

“Fitzgerald’s is so decisively the best modern Aeneid that it is unthinkable that anyone will want to use any other version for a long time to come.”-New York Review of Books

“From the beginning to the end of this English poem…the reader will find the same sure control of English rhythms, the same deft phrasing, and an energy which urges the eye onward.”-The New Republic

“A rendering that is both marvelously readable and scrupulously faithful…. Fitzgerald has managed, by a sensitive use of faintly archaic vocabulary and a keen ear for sound and rhythm, to suggest the solemnity and the movement of Virgil’s poetry as no previous translator has done (including Dryden)…. This is a sustained achievement of beauty and power.”-Boston Globe

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The Metaphysics by Aristotle

“WE MUST ESPECIALLY INQUIRE AND INVESTIGATE WHETHER THERE IS ANY CAUSE BEYOND MATTER IN ITSELF OR NOT”

Translated with an introduction by HUGH LAWSON-TANCRED

In The Metaphysics, Aristotle laid the foundations for one of the central branches of Western philosophy.

The son of a doctor and an eminent scientist in his own right, Aristotle was always passionately interested in natural phenomena. Yet when he joined Plato’s Academy as a seventeen-year-old in the mid-360s BC, he was taught the ‘idealist’ doctrine that what we perceive is just a pale reflection of the true reality. After a sharp reaction against Platonism, he achieved in The Metaphysics an extraordinary synthesis, integrating the natural and rational aspects of the world. In so doing he probed some of the deepest questions of philosphy: What is existence? How is change possible? What makes something the same thing at different times? Are there things which must exist for anything else to exist at all? The seminal notion of ‘substance’ and associated concepts of matter and form, essence and accident and potentiality and actuality, have had a profound influence upon Western thought.

Hugh Lawson-Tancred’s new translation achieves a readability absent from earlier versions, and in a stimulating introductory essay he highlights the central themes of one of philosophy’s supreme masterpieces. – Penguin Classics

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