Category: The Ancient Era

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Meditations

Meditations c 175 Marcus Aurelius, Rome, 121-180 Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus was Roman Emperor from 161 to his death. Regarded as the last  of the ‘Five Good Emperors,’ he ruled the Roman Empire from 161 to 180, and is also considered one of the most important stoic philosophers. He, along with Julius Caesar, is the only one of two ancient leaders whose written works makes The Great Books List. While in popular imagination Marcus Aurelius is regarded as an intellectual leader, his reign was marked by several wars including those against the Parthians, Germans and even elements of his own...

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The Book of Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu , China, c.265-275 BCE It is common with many ancient philosophic traditions for the teacher to have a primary disciple, often unknown to the teacher, who adds to and evolves the original tradition. Confucius had Mencius, Socrates wrote nothing himself but was the central character in the works of his student Plato, and Jesus of Nazareth’s philosophy was codified and written down by Paul. The same case apples to Taoism, where the original ideas of Lao Tzu written down in the Tao were expanded and discussed in the Zhuangzi, or the Book of Chuang Tzu. Chuang Tzu, who...

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The Hymn to Aphrodite

Sappho, Greece c.600 BCE Sappho was a Greek lyric poet born in Eressos on the island of Lesbos. She is most often associated with Mytilene, the capital city of Lesbos, and a major city even in the 7th century BCE. Most sources say she was born sometime between 630 BCE and 612 BCE, and it is said that she died around 570 BC. The bulk of her poetry has been lost, although her reputation has remained. Sappho was born into an aristocratic family, which is reflected in the sophistication of her language. Fragments of her work that remain make references...

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The Peloponnesian War

Thucydides, Greece, 470-400 BCE Thucydides was an Athenian aristocrat  who was in his late twenties when the conflict that he would call the Peloponnesian War began in 431. He was keenly aware of the significance of the conflict and began writing its history almost immediately. In 424, Thucydides was elected one of Athens’ generals, but his failure to prevent the loss of the city of Amphipolis to the Spartans saw him exiled from Athens. He spent the rest of the War wandering around Greece as a non-combatant gathering evidence and talking with participants from both sides for his history on...

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The Ramayana

  Valmiki, India.c. 300BCE The Ramayana is the shorter of the two great epic poems of India, the other being the Mahabharata. The Ramayana was composed in Sanskrit, around 300 BCE, traditionally by the poet Valmiki. Its present form consists of some 24,000 couplets divided into seven books. The poem describes the life and adventures of Rama in the kingdom of Ayodhya. The poem is immensely popular still in India, where its recitation is considered an act of great merit. While it was originally composed in Sanskrit, there are many translations that are considered literary masterpieces themselves such as the...

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The Mengzi

Mencius, China, 372-289 BCE Mencius, which is the Latinized name of Meng-tze, was a disciple of the grandson of Confucius, and regarded as the second most important philosopher in the Confucian tradition. His work, known as the “Book of Mencius,”or “The Mengzi” is one of the four Shuh, or books, of Confucian wisdom. The life of Mencius is very sketchy. Mencius was said to have lived to the advanced age of eighty-four years, which makes him a contemporary of the great Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. His father died when he was very young and his education became the responsibility...

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The Great Book List – The Ancient Era

The Ancient Era 2000 BCE – 8 BCE Unknown, Sumer, ca. 2000 BCE. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Unknown, Egypt, ca. 1000 BCE. Egyptian Book of the Dead. Homer, Greece, ca. 800 BCE. The Iliad, The Odyssey. Hesiod, Greece, ca. 700 BCE. Theogony. Unknown, Israel, ca. 800-200 BCE. Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Job. Unknown, India, ca. 800 BCE. The Rig Veda. Unknown, India, ca. 600 BCE. The Upanishads. Confucius, China, 551-479 BCE. The Analects. Lao Tzu, China, ca. 550 BCE. The Tao Te Ching. Sappho, Greece, ca. 600 BCE. Hymn to Aphrodite. Aeschylus, Greece, 525-455 BCE. Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides. Sophocles, Greece,...