Review: Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica (Loeb Classical Library #57)

(Originally posted on Amazon 10/10/2002)

hesiod homer homerica

Like all Loeb Classics, this edition is presented with the ancient Greek text on the left page, and its English translation on the right, giving students of classical Greek an easy cross-reference. The translations are easy to read and not too difficult to comprehend, while still at the same time accurately rendered (unlike many Loeb translations, which are frequently too literal a translation to be readable).

But what makes this book of keen interest is not the attention paid to Hesiod’s Theogony and Works & Days, nor the anonymous “Homeric” Hymns, but rather to its meticulous compendium of the lesser-known works it presents. Especially, for those works for which no complete version has survived, only fragments and occassional (later) commentaries.
In this volume you discover a wonderful epic poem called The Catalogue of Women and Eoie, of which only about half survives scattered among a hundred or so fragments. You also discover The Shield of Hercules, which some attribute to Hesiod. But most fascinating of all are the fragments of the Epic Cycle, poems written as a sort of “history” of the Greek people, of which the two great works by Homer (The Iliad and The Odyssey) were the most well-known and the only ones to survive intact. As far as I know, this is the only volume in english which gathers all of these fragments together and attempts to sort them out in some kind of order; for those interested in the ancient epics, this alone makes the edition worth the price.

This book is a sobering reminder of just how much has been lost over the centuries, of just how little actually has survived. Sadly, this is now probably the closest anyone will ever get to being able to read The Cypriad or The Melampodia again, and that’s a shame.

5 Stars out of 5 Stars