Oldest classic you’ve read

Posted April 25, 2015 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 2 Comments

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Thoughts. The text 'rambling thoughts' underneath a burning lantern. For rambles, thoughts, and not-essays.

A while ago — actually, a pretty long time in blogging and internet terms — Lynn from Lynn’s Books put up a classic book-themed meme. Since I was looking for questions to natter about at the time (you’re still more than welcome to ask them!), I decided to just nab the whole meme and work through the questions point by point. (Except for the time-specific ones like “What are you reading at the moment?” because scheduling that in advance is silly.)

So! After this warning about impending caps-lock abuse, I give you…

Oldest classic you’ve read

As I said last week, I initially wanted to combine this with the longest classic I’d read since I was initially sure they’d be the same. They’re not, actually. For the purposes of this answer, I’m looking at oldest known date of recording and/or substantiated guesses as to when it was composed. (I.e. Bede’s work is in. Fairytales are out.)

That established! The Tale of Genji is in because it’s from the 11th century.

But the oldest classic I’ve read is probably the Odyssey by Homerus on account of it being written in the BCs instead of the ADs. And since I studied ancient Greek once upon a time, guess what language I got to read it in! (If your answer is “English”, you’re wrong. If it’s “Latin”, you’re just being cheeky. >>)

It wasn’t the first time I’d encountered the Odyssey, having read at least one translation and adaptation before then, though. That helped in understanding the texts. I’m afraid ancient Greek wasn’t my best subject, though it was one of the most enjoyable ones.

Unless it was the Ramayana. I may have read that. I know I’ve read bits of it, but I can’t remember whether I read the whole. I’m guessing it would’ve been an abridged version, though.

Other contenders for oldest classic I’ve read include:

  • Beowulf
  • The Mabinogi (“The Four Branches of the Mabinogi” or “Pedair Cainc Mabinogi”)
  • The Táin (“The Cattle Raid of Cooley” or “Táin Bó Cúailnge”; also actually it’s the whole Ulster Cycle, but let’s pick a/the well-known one)
  • The Life of Charles the Great (“Vita Karoli Magni”)
  • The Song of Roland (“La Chanson de Rolande”)
  • Charlemagne and Elbegast (“Karel ende Elegast”)
  • Metamorphoses
  • Reynard the Fox
  • The Prose Edda
  • The Biography of Sayf ibn Dhī Yazan (“Sīrat Sayf ibn Dhī Yazan”)
  • Le Morte d’Arthur
  • Orkneyinga Saga

You may be noticing a general theme here, for all that I’ve tried to focus on the more diverse aspect of my reading classics. (My literature degree had barely any focus whatsoever. I read ALL THE THINGS and took ALL THE CLASSES, more or less, because EVERYTHING WAS SHINY I WANT ALL THE SHINY and… Yes. Except for modernism. And Dickens. Those were not shiny to me.)

Anyway, I have read a varied many pieces of old classics for my degree and/or for fun. Usually both. Have I mentioned yet I like shinies? I like shinies. These are very shiny and if you haven’t read them, I recommend them.

Also, if you’re curious the books I did not read for classes of any kind have been The Táin and the Orkneyinga Saga. (I may — I’m not sure – have scared some of the professors and lecturers by reading ALL THE THINGS AND THEN SOME when they went “Here, read this excerpt”. WHY WOULD I DO THAT I HAVE SHINY SHINIES)

I may be a little excite. BUT LOOK A QUESTION WHERE I CAN MAKE A LIST.

*ahem* I miss those classes. They were fun.

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2 responses to “Oldest classic you’ve read

  1. I’m pretty sure The Odyssey is the oldest classic I’ve read too (although NOT in the original Greek!) Except maybe some of the older books of the Old Testament? Not that clear on the dating of those, actually. I also read the Aeneid, and a whole lot of Roman plays that have mostly gone blurry on me…

    • Me neither. I know it came up in a lecture at some point, but that happened ages ago.

      Heh. I managed to avoid the Roman plays somehow, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing. I did read some of the Greek plays in translation, though. ^_^

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