The Magazine

Little Big Books

The red and green guides to the wisdom of the ancient world.

Jul 3, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 40 • By TRACY LEE SIMMONS
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These byway pieces most of us never read in school, and they remind us that more always waits to be discovered. And raising the curtain on the slightest portions of these treasures may be this anthology's greatest virtue. Wide gulfs still separate us from the ancients whenever we try to match their thoughts too cozily to ours. The persistent proximity of the eye to the original languages alongside their English renditions encourages all readers, whether scholars or laymen, to exercise humility, to beware of those blithe conclusions about what Homer or Virgil, Plato or Cicero, Herodotus or Tacitus, really meant--cocky declarations that always emerge most effortlessly from those who have never learned a speck of Greek or Latin, or even glanced over to see what they look like.

Tracy Lee Simmons, director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College, is the author of Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin.