At dinner time we listen to audiobooks as our entertainment*. Like most of you, we have done blessed little traveling in the last 3 years. In the years before that we liked to go abroad twice a year. Our last trip was to India in November 2019. Then the gate slammed shut. Bummer.

We have booked a trip to Greece for late April. So our "reading" has been focused on Greece. We started with:

"The Greeks: A Global History" by Roderick Beaton


It begins with Bronze Age Mycenae and goes through Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottaman, and modern eras. It reads easily and gives a good, but very high level, view of 3500 years of history.

Because our trip includes 9 days in the Peloponnese looking at archeological sites and an explicit focus on Homer, we wanted to re-immerse ourselves in the Homeric canon. Our respective undergraduate educations had included reading the Iliad in the Lattimore translation, which is thought to be very accurate but is as dry as a box of bread crumbs.

In looking for a more literary translation I stumbled across Stephen Fry's retelling of the story of the Trojan war "Troy: The Greek Myths Reimagined (Mythos, 3)" https://www.amazon.com/dp/1797207075?/geneexpressio-20. Fry reads it himself, which is only appropriate given his skills as a comic actor.

The work is not a reimagination in the way I would have expected it to be. Nor, is it a translation. It is a retelling based closely on the Classical sources such as Homer, Virgil, and Ovid with a lot of narrative tangles smoothed out and a lot of character back story inserted. Unlike the Iliad, which begins in the middle of the 9th year of a ten year war and ends a few weeks later,and begins with the origin of Troy, the apple of discord, and the origins of characters such as Achilles, Agamemnon, and Helen, and proceeds through the ten years to the Trojan horse and the sack of the city.

Great Fun, highly recommended.

Next up is the Odyssey. We are using a translation here, a recent one by Emily Wilson, who is of course a Brit, but who teaches at U Pennsylvania.


The previews on Amazon revealed a text that is not ponderous, that moves along lightly.

I would like to go back and read Fry's first two books in the series: Mythos about the theogony and Heros about heroes such as Hercules, Theseus, and Jason.

For those of you who wish to remedy the deficiency of contemporary education in your children, Fry is worth considering. It is a bit rough for young children. For them, I would still go with the Classic Edith Hamilton "Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes" https://www.amazon.com/Mythology-Timeless-Heroes-Anniversary-Illustrated/dp/0316438529/geneexpressio-20, but for teenagers, well there is a lot of raunchier stuff on what passes for television these days.

If you are interested in a handbook of Classical Mythology, try "The Greek Myths" by Robert Graves (author of "I, Claudius") 793 pages https://www.amazon.com/Greek-Myths-Penguin-Classics-Deluxe/dp/0143106716/geneexpressio-20 He lays out each of the stories together with signicant alternatives in Classical texts. He also gives an anthropological explanation based upon his idiosyncratic understanding of The Golden Bough by Frazer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Bough

*We are old people. Our children are grown and live in other cities. We both spend most of our time at home. We don't have a lot of stuff to talk about at dinner. We had long enjoyed listening to audiobooks while on car trips. A few years ago we hit on the idea of using dinner time to listen to audiobooks. Since then we have gone through a Austin, Trollope, Julian Fellowes, and War and Peace, along with a number of histories and two biographies of Churchill.

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My wife and I made a trip like this 6 years ago, so I feel I can make some recommendations. I cannot tell if you are going on a guided trip or driving around on your own. We did the latter, being somewhat anti-social, and combined an Iliadic theme (she had recently read the poem in her book group) with more conventional sight-seeing. My advice is directed toward that kind of travel.

1) Mycenae and Tiryns are little more than 10 miles apart, so you will likely see both. If you go to Mycenae first, you will find Tiryns disappointing unless you are at least an amateur classical archaeologist. So go there first and let it be a teaser for the main event.

2) Be sure to see Nestor's palace in Pilos. The archaeological site is well laid out for sight seers.

3) Olympia is pretty much on the way after Pilos, but I don't recall it's being anything special. You pretty much have to see it if you are in the vicinity, but I guess you should not set your expectations too high, esp. after seeing the other sites.

4) We went to Sparta but I don't recall anything about it. Not sure if that is a sign of aging or indicative of its level of interest. Also, we must have gone to Corinth, but I was there in the 1970s when I was working on a couple of sailboats, and those are the only memories I have of it, so I cannot make any useful recommendations about that.

5) Monemvasia is not part of the Homeric tour, but is quite nice. We stayed on the mainland, which is pretty tacky but has a great view, a 5 minute walk from the causeway to the old town. The old town was very pleasant and I have pleasant associations with pictures of the town (like <b><a href="https://criterionwinetours.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/monemvasia-sq.png">this one</a></b>). The upper town (on top of the rockpile) is a real ruin.

6) While focusing on the Peloponessus, Delphi is very, very much worth a side trip.

Thinking about what I've written, I think the best way to go is counter-clockwise, saving Mycenae and Delphi for last.

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Thanks for the thought. We are booked on, and have paid for, a guided small group trip with hotels and transportation. The itinerary covers most all of the points you mentioned, except Monemvasia. Delphi is not in the plan, but we went there the last time we went to Greece in a previous millennium.

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The closure of the Eurasian heartland by the civilizations on the periphery is quite interesting. Christendom from the West, Islam from the South and China from the East all slowling encroaching on the "uncivilized" middle.

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gunpowder empires!

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You could argue that three different civilizations meet at this spot. The Cross, Crescent, and Confucius.


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Excellent writing thanks. Helps place my own interests in our history in perspective. Believe my perspective is with poets like Gary Snyder who tends to look through a lens dating from the Palaeolithic. We definitely are in need of a mush longer lens on our human history. It is far more interlinked than we generally acknowledge.

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Western Buddhism is largely a reflection of German Romanticism/Idealism that was exported to the East (Siam) and then re-imported to the West. (see David Chapman of meaningness.com)

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Yep around the old proverbial block. From the East, to the West and back again in an endless loop. Straight to Snyder's Baghdad By The Bay.

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Feb 2, 2023·edited Feb 2, 2023

Mythic supernaturalism was imported into western europe from the middle east a long time ago, in the Persia-vs-Greek era (resulting in an attempted integration: neoplatonism). European paganism retained a strong rationalist tendency [or, at least anti-monotheistic tendency] that was the foundation of Enlightenment rationalism, which rejected middle eastern supernaturalism (which co-emerged with pre-liberal "oriental despotism").

European (and all other) paganism didn't see any need for axial renunciation religion, salvation, etc.

German romanticism/Idealism was a reaction to Enlightenment rationalism, which wasn't imported from the east because the Enlightenment didn't originate in the east.

Bias disclosure: my assumption is that developmental stage theory (Jean Gebser) is at play, along with the circular stuff. both are in operation.

Europe's development is unique in that the "classically liberal" (western) gene pool is outbred via the ban on cousin marriage, whereas the (eastern) pre-liberal or ILLIBERAL gene pool is inbred due to the practice of cousin marriage.

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Just bought, but have not yet read: "The Scythian Empire: Central Eurasia and the Birth of the Classical Age from Persia to China Hardcover by Christopher I. Beckwith which was published 2 weeks ago


You may be familiar with Beckwith from a couple of his previous books:

"Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present "


"Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World"


Beckwith is inline behind: "The Last Empire of Iran" By Michael J. Bonner

Which I am reading because I listened to Razib's podcast with the author:


You can buy the book through Amazon https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/146320616X/geneexpressio-20 for a mere $90, but if you order from the publisher's web site you can get it for the low, low bargain price of $72 plus shipping.

It is academic history and not sprightly reading.

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"Winter's end is nigh "

Excessive optimism. I don't care what the flipping rodent says, you got six more weeks no matter what.

"The coldest wind chills in decades will thrash New England as the deadly ice storm in the South leaves more than 400,000 without power"


It is 3:30 EST here in central Ohio and my weather app says its 37 here and 32 in Austin, TX.

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Just since last night, the high for the daylight hours here in northern New England has been raised from minus single to digits to positive, so don't believe everything you read ;)

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