100 books like The Symposium

By Plato, Christopher Gill (editor),

Here are 100 books that The Symposium fans have personally recommended if you like The Symposium. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

Thucydides, along with Herodotus a generation earlier, created history as we know it. Herodotus added to narrative the analysis of cause: ‘why’ as well as ‘what’. Thucydides added different levels of causation: the immediate reasons for the war and the long-term causes. He studied how the dynamics of fear and power drive states into warfare. He took the gods out of history (it is hard to remember how radical that was). He studied the corruption of moral language and behaviour under the pressure of conflict. In Pericles’ Funeral Speech he set out the theory of Athenian democracy (Pericles would have denied that our own society was democratic—a challenging thought). Thucydides’ eye is not exactly cold, but it is unblinking: no historian seems so free of illusion.

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Landmark Thucydides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thucydides called his account of two decades of war between Athens and Sparta "a possession for all time," and indeed it is the first and still the most famous work in the Western historical tradition.

Considered essential reading for generals, statesmen, and liberally educated citizens for more than 2,000 years, The Peloponnesian War is a mine of military, moral, political, and philosophical wisdom.

However, this classic book has long presented obstacles to the uninitiated reader. Written centuries before the rise of modern historiography, Thucydides' narrative is not continuous or linear. His authoritative chronicle of what he considered the greatest war…


Book cover of The Golden Ass

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

The narrator is turned into a donkey and undergoes various tribulations before recovering his human form. The only Latin novel to survive complete, it is a unique curiosity shop of diverse treasures: fantastical, comic, bawdy, beautiful, violent, and finally—biggest surprise of alldevoutly religious. "It smells of incense and urine," Flaubert said. Much of the work consists of tales related by the characters whom the donkey comes across, of which the longest is Cupid and Psyche, a fabulously rococo display of exquisite and enchanted storytelling. The virtuoso beauty of the description of Cupid’s wings is unbeatable. "Reader, listen up: you’ll love it," says the narrator at the start. You will. Again, go for Ruden’s translation.

By Apuleius, Sarah Ruden (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Golden Ass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed poet and translator Sarah Ruden brilliantly brings Apuleius's comic tale to life

"A rollicking ride well worth the fare, . . . marvelously, sidesplittingly ridiculous. . . . It's a story, not a homily, and Sarah Ruden has re-bestowed it with artful aplomb."-Tracy Lee Simmons, National Review

"A cause for celebration. . . . We owe Sarah Ruden a great debt of thanks for [this] English translation that is no less inventive, varied, and surprising than the original."-G. W. Bowersock, New York Review of Books

With accuracy, wit, and intelligence, this remarkable new translation of The Golden Ass breathes…


Book cover of The Aeneid (Translated by Sarah Ruden)

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

The supreme classic of western literature and all that, but what fascinates me is the paradoxes. Here is a poem about success, victory, and empire, yet it is suffused with grief and melancholy. It is an imperfect poem written by a perfectionist; it wears a sovereign authority, but no epic poem seems more personal. None ends so abruptly, yet the ending seems entirely complete. Virgil is a ‘civilised’ poet, literary, self-conscious, and controlled, but he is also intuitive and instinctive: he finds dark and wonderful places, and who can match his sense of mystery, his power to evoke the indescribable? Dryden’s translation is an English classic, or if you prefer a modern version, I recommend Sarah Ruden.

By Virgil, Sarah Ruden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Aeneid (Translated by Sarah Ruden) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The translation is alive in every part. . . . This is the first translation since Dryden's that can be read as a great English poem in itself."-Garry Wills, New York Review of Books

This extraordinary new translation of Vergil's Aeneid stands alone among modern translations for its accuracy and poetic appeal. Sarah Ruden, a lyric poet in her own right, renders the classic poem in the same number of lines as the original work-a very rare feat that maintains technical fidelity to the original without diminishing its emotional power.

Ruden's translation follows Vergil's content faithfully, and the economy and…


Book cover of The Iliad

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

‘Wrath’ is the first word, beginning European literature not with the whimper of infancy but with a bang. The Iliad is ferociously intense, the action remarkably compressed in time and place, despite the poem’s great length (most of it takes place on the plain of Troy over two or three days). It is the quintessence of tragedy, declaring that the quest for glory, the hero’s duty, is inseparably bound up with humiliation and death. But it is a high-spirited tragedy, immensely energetic, with a lust for the ordinary appetites of life. Life is so good: that is what makes the warriors’ deaths so terrible. The gods look on, both fascinated and detached, and through their eyes we see man as both small and great. I recommend Martin Hammond’s prose translation.

By Homer, Martin Hammond,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Iliad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The best modern prose translation of The Iliad' Robin Lane Fox, The Times

The first of the world's great tragedies, The Iliad centres on the pivotal four days towards the end of the ten-year war between the Greeks and the Trojans. In a series of dramatic set pieces, it follows the story of the humiliation of Achilleus at the hands of Agamemnon and his slaying of Hektor: a barbarous act with repercussions that ultimately determine the fate of Troy. The Iliad not only paints an intimate picture of individual experience, but also offers a universal perspective in which human loss…


Book cover of The Circle of Socrates: Readings in the First-Generation Socratics

Nicholas D. Smith Author Of Socrates on Self-Improvement: Knowledge, Virtue, and Happiness

From my list on Socrates as he is depicted by authors other than Plato.

Why am I passionate about this?

In Plato’s Sophist, the main speaker (not Socrates in this case!) mocks those he calls “late-learners," I fall decidedly into that category. When I first read the works of Plato, I was lured into a lifelong attempt to understand and explain the figure of Socrates as he appears in Plato’s dialogues. Lately I have been reading materials by ancient Socratic sources other than Plato and have been wrestling with the uneasy recognition that this “father of Western philosophy” was not seen in the same way even by those who knew him personally. Who was Socrates??? Once upon a time, I thought I knew…

Nicholas' book list on Socrates as he is depicted by authors other than Plato

Nicholas D. Smith Why did Nicholas love this book?

Collected in this one book are very reliable and readable translations of a prudent selection of the fragments of Socratic authors other than Plato and Xenophon, and these are compared very intelligently to what may be found on similar topics in Plato and Xenophon.

Reading these gave me, as Platonically fixated as I am, a feeling of whiplash. Will the real Socrates please stand up?

By George Boys-Stones (translator), Christopher Rowe (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Circle of Socrates as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In addition to works by Plato and Xenophon, we know of dozens of treatises and dialogues written by followers of Socrates that are now lost. The surviving evidence for these writings constitutes an invaluable resource for our understanding of Socrates and his philosophical legacy. The Circle of Socrates presents new--sometimes the first--English translations of a representative selection of this evidence, set alongside extracts from Plato and Xenophon. The texts are arranged according to theme, with concise introductions that provide an overview of the topics and the main lines of thought within them.

The aim is to give a fuller account…


Book cover of From the Socratics to the Socratic Schools: Classical Ethics, Metaphysics and Epistemology

Nicholas D. Smith Author Of Socrates on Self-Improvement: Knowledge, Virtue, and Happiness

From my list on Socrates as he is depicted by authors other than Plato.

Why am I passionate about this?

In Plato’s Sophist, the main speaker (not Socrates in this case!) mocks those he calls “late-learners," I fall decidedly into that category. When I first read the works of Plato, I was lured into a lifelong attempt to understand and explain the figure of Socrates as he appears in Plato’s dialogues. Lately I have been reading materials by ancient Socratic sources other than Plato and have been wrestling with the uneasy recognition that this “father of Western philosophy” was not seen in the same way even by those who knew him personally. Who was Socrates??? Once upon a time, I thought I knew…

Nicholas' book list on Socrates as he is depicted by authors other than Plato

Nicholas D. Smith Why did Nicholas love this book?

Most people who hear about Socrates are given a kind of stock portrait that comes straight out of Plato’s depictions in his dialogues. I really admire this book because it opens up new possibilities for readers to reconsider the Platonic portrait and reminded me to think about what it means for an important philosopher to be “remembered” by multiple people.

The book’s chapters include all of the important alternatives to Plato and Xenophon, usually considered the two “main” sources for Socrates.

By Ugo Zilioli (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From the Socratics to the Socratic Schools as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the two golden centuries that followed the death of Socrates, ancient philosophy underwent a tremendous transformation that culminated in the philosophical systematizations of Plato, Aristotle and the Hellenistic schools. Fundamental figures other than Plato were active after the death of Socrates; his immediate pupils, the Socratics, took over his legacy and developed it in a variety of ways. This rich philosophical territory has however been left largely underexplored in the scholarship.

This collection of eleven previously unpublished essays by leading scholars fills a gap in the literature, providing new insight into the ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology as developed by…


Book cover of The Complete Works of Plato, Volume I

James Fallon Author Of The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey Into the Dark Side of the Brain

From my list on philosophies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Philosophy is defined as “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.” Put another way, it is not so much the study of things and phenomena, but the derivative question below the veneer of what things are. I am interested in everything, how everything works, but also why it, and all of nature, including the mind and eyelashes, exist in the first place. I can remember back to childhood always thinking like this. This involves grasping for knowledge of both the details and global contexts of everything, whether it’s biology, chemistry, religion, neuroscience, horticulture, violence, goodness, hockey, or even what Plato was trying to say.

James' book list on philosophies

James Fallon Why did James love this book?

After 2,400 years, Plato finally won the battle against Socrates, Aristotle, Avicenna, Rousseau, Locke, Freud, French and Neo-Liberalism, and most parents of two-year-olds. According to 21st-century neuroscientists, as Plato provided in the Allegory of the Cave, the prescient idea is that we are not born as blank slates, but rather have the basic knowledge of beauty, good and evil baked into our prenatal brain (genetically preformed circuits!)

By Plato,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Complete Works of Plato, Volume I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Collected here in two volumes are the complete works of Plato, in the classic translation by Benjamin Jowett. One of the most influential thinkers of Ancient Greece or any other era, Plato formed the basis of Western philosophy. Mostly written in the form of dialogues with his teacher Socrates as the protagonist, his works address themes as varied as metaphysics, psychology, pedagogy, politics, and ethics. Despite the weighty subject matter, Plato's writing remains accessible to the general reader, and infused with wit and humor. Why is Plato worth reading today? His dialogues are vitally concerned with how we should live.…


Book cover of Xenophon's Socratic Works

Nicholas D. Smith Author Of Socrates on Self-Improvement: Knowledge, Virtue, and Happiness

From my list on Socrates as he is depicted by authors other than Plato.

Why am I passionate about this?

In Plato’s Sophist, the main speaker (not Socrates in this case!) mocks those he calls “late-learners," I fall decidedly into that category. When I first read the works of Plato, I was lured into a lifelong attempt to understand and explain the figure of Socrates as he appears in Plato’s dialogues. Lately I have been reading materials by ancient Socratic sources other than Plato and have been wrestling with the uneasy recognition that this “father of Western philosophy” was not seen in the same way even by those who knew him personally. Who was Socrates??? Once upon a time, I thought I knew…

Nicholas' book list on Socrates as he is depicted by authors other than Plato

Nicholas D. Smith Why did Nicholas love this book?

It was exciting for me to read this book because the author is deeply committed to the view that Xenophon—and not Plato—is the most reliable and also most interesting source on the life and thought of Socrates. And what a different picture from Plato is given here!

Plato’s Socrates can be enigmatic, but Johnson’s review of the evidence in Xenophon gives a clear and robust portrait. But does this mean that Plato just lied?

By David M. Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Xenophon's Socratic Works as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Xenophon's Socratic Works demonstrates that Xenophon, a student of Socrates, military man, and man of letters, is an indispensable source for our understanding of the life and philosophy of Socrates.

David M. Johnson restores Xenophon's most ambitious Socratic work, the Memorabilia (Socratic Recollections), to its original literary context, enabling readers to experience it as Xenophon's original audience would have, rather than as a pale imitation of Platonic dialogue. He shows that the Memorabilia, together with Xenophon's Apology, provides us with our best evidence for the trial of Socrates, and a comprehensive and convincing refutation of the historical charges against Socrates.…


Book cover of The Nature of Things

Richard Wakefield Author Of Terminal Park: Poems

From my list on meaning and mutability.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in an area that had been forest, then became farms, then became a suburb. The world around me was a palimpsest, the old stories always vaguely discernable beneath the new ones, and always in some way part of the new ones. Until recently there was always a working farm in my life as well, two in Oregon and one in North Central Washington, where I saw the daily labor of trying to make the earth say “wheat” or “cattle” instead of “dust” or “sagebrush.” My poems try to preserve that experience.

Richard's book list on meaning and mutability

Richard Wakefield Why did Richard love this book?

It’s the oldest book I know of that tries to explain the mutable material world in strictly material terms. Appropriately, or maybe paradoxically, Lucretius puts his treatise into the form of poetry, following strict rules of prosody, as if the conventions of verse could create order out of chaos. Two thousand years later, the master poet A.E. Stallings translates it into formal English poetry. Nothing remains fixed, especially not language, and yet we never quit trying.

By Lucretius, Coralie Bickford-Smith (illustrator), A.E. Stallings (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Nature of Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of a major new Classics series - books that have changed the history of thought, in sumptuous, clothbound hardbacks.

Lucretius' poem On the Nature of Things combines a scientific and philosophical treatise with some of the greatest poetry ever written. With intense moral fervour he demonstrates to humanity that in death there is nothing to fear since the soul is mortal, and the world and everything in it is governed by the mechanical laws of nature and not by gods; and that by believing this men can live in peace of mind and happiness. He bases this on the…


Book cover of On the Nature of Things

John Sellars Author Of The Pocket Epicurean

From my list on Epicureanism and its teachings.

Why am I passionate about this?

John Sellars is a Reader in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of multiple books on ancient philosophy, including Hellenistic Philosophy. He is also a founding member of Modern Stoicism and The Aurelius Foundation, both non-profit companies devoted to bringing Stoicism to a wider audience and showing how it can benefit people today.

John's book list on Epicureanism and its teachings

John Sellars Why did John love this book?

Lucretius’ poem De rerum natura is the longest ancient work we have outlining Epicurean ideas. It’s also a masterpiece in its own right, covering everything from the origins of the cosmos, the rise and fall of civilizations, and the development of human culture to the nature of sensation and how to think about death. There are numerous translations out there; this one is a reliable translation into prose that has the original Latin verse on the facing page, along with helpful notes.

By Lucretius, W.H.D. Rouse (translator), Martin F. Smith (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Nature of Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus) lived ca. 99 ca. 55 BCE, but the details of his career are unknown. He is the author of the great didactic poem in hexameters, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). In six books compounded of solid reasoning, brilliant imagination, and noble poetry, he expounds the scientific theories of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, with the aim of dispelling fear of the gods and fear of death and so enabling man to attain peace of mind and happiness.

In Book 1 he establishes the general principles of the atomic system, refutes the views of rival…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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