Announcement: Sophocles Lives!

I've just started rereading Sophocles' Ajax.  I'm not sure why, apart from the need to keep reading Greek, but there is something that has always attracted me in the portrait of the staunch reactionary who goes mad, after being dishonored, and of his glib enemy, Odysseus, who learns humanity.  (I have a strong hunch that in his depictions of Odysseus--as in his Oedipus--Sophocles is dealing with the Athenian mentality of his own day, and that scholars who see the poet's friend Cimon in Ajax are on the right track.)

If five people promise to start reading it, I'll start a discussion on the subject.


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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

15 Responses

  1. Vince Cornell says:

    Do we have to promise to read it in Greek?

  2. Joshua Smith says:

    I’ll read it with my daughter starting tonight.

  3. Dominick D says:

    Is there a particular translation? My Greek is – ahem – a little rusty.

  4. Joshua Smith says:

    We’re going to read read Hugh Lloyd-Jones translation in the Loeb.

  5. Jacob Johnson says:

    This would be good way to remind myself to read one thing at a time again.

  6. Dominick D says:

    Thank Mr Smith. I should have a copy by Saturday.

  7. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Lloyd Jones’ translation in the Loeb series is good but a bit expensive if you don’t want to consult the Greek text. Sir Hugh was a fine scholar and a bit of a friend. RC Jebb, available on the internet, was done by a great scholar with a decent late Victorian style. RC Trevelyan is a bit precious but readable. Anything before 196o would be safer than anything later.

  8. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS I’ll probably use Lloyd Jones as a reference point, but I have to warn readers that I’ll intrude my own views constantly. Greek is often only intrepretable but not translatable. I cannot imagine how boring my petty little life would have been without Greek.

  9. Harry Colin says:

    I have the Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb translation in a tidy Bantam Classics paperback containing all seven of the plays; it was purchased on my last visit to the late, lamented Borders Books before the doors closed! As an aside, the introduction was written by a Moses Hadas, who mentions frequently Sophocles physical characteristics – how handsome he is and that he danced naked with oil, etc. I’ll defer to Dr. Fleming on whether these attributes were of significance in Athenian life back then or whether these mentions just tell me much more about this Hadas fellow’s proclivities than I want to know.

  10. Dominick D says:

    Shoot I already ordered the Loeb.
    Oh well at least it looks pretty; Greek text will help my bookcase’s self-esteem.

  11. Arthur Livingston says:

    With the hope of making some kind of contribution to the mix, I’ll be getting a copy tomorrow and be ready for a discussion by some time Sunday if all goes well.

  12. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Jebb can be found free online in more than one place, and his commentary is available at the Perseus website. Hadas was a well-paid vulgarisateur of the classics. I cannot speak to the quality of his work, since his gooey prose, conventional attitudes, and salesmanship repel me. His colleague at Columbia, Gilbert Highet, so I was told by someone from Columbia, would take visitors around the campus and point up to Hadas’ office. “There he sits all day, COMMITTING scholarship.” Hadas was famous for turning away from pedantic studies of grammar, text, meter, and history and speaking broadly about what he thought the big ideas were. My skin crawls just to think of it. He was to classical literature what Mortimer Adler was to philosophy. His daughter Rachel Hadas is a noted academic poet–a chip, I fear, off the old block.

  13. William Shofner says:

    I am reading now the John Moore translation (Chicago 1957) of “Ajax”. Although I know not a word of Greek, Moore’s rendering of this play rolls out well in sound and fury to my tin ear…..for whatever that may be worth.

  14. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I disapprove of the Chicago series pretty strongly. There are downright mistakes in translation, for example a major howler in the Antigone, the style and versification is largely wretched. I don’t recall John Moore and know nothing of him, so I cannot comment. The translation is much used by teachers, but that fact means little.

  15. William Shofner says:

    Yes; I picked up this translation my freshman year in college when I was taking a course in Greek literature during the late ’60’s. I am not surprised that this translation may be subject to justifiable attack, as is just about everything else I read at college in the ’60’s.