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Jeffrey Beneker's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Jeffrey Beneker recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Jeffrey Beneker's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Agricola and the Germania

The Agricola is both a portrait of Julius Agricola - the most famous governor of Roman Britain and Tacitus' well-loved and respected father-in-law - and the first detailed account of Britain that has come down to us. It offers fascinating descriptions of the geography, climate and peoples of the country, and a succinct account of the early stages of the Roman occupation, nearly fatally undermined by Boudicca's revolt in AD 61 but consolidated by campaigns that took Agricola as far as Anglesey and northern Scotland. The warlike German tribes are the focus of Tacitus' attention in the... more
Recommended by Jeffrey Beneker, and 1 others.

Jeffrey BenekerAgricola is a tribute to his father-in-law and it’s really nice to have this family connection. A lot of ancient literature can oftentimes seem so distant and cold that it’s hard to see the human connection, but it’s strong in this book. In the introduction and especially in the conclusion you can feel the real bond that Tacitus must have felt with this person. (Source)

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Cornelius Nepos

A Selection, Including the Lives of Cato and Atticus

This book, the flagship of the new Clarendon Ancient History Series, provides a complete translation of and historical commentary on the most important works of Cornelius Nepos (c.99-c.24 B.C.). In addition to Nepos's biographies of Cato and Atticus, the book includes the Preface to the foreign generals, fragments, and the letters of Cornelia. less
Recommended by Jeffrey Beneker, and 1 others.

Jeffrey BenekerAtticus is called Atticus because Attica is the region around Athens and he went to Athens to study. He has that philosophical background that allows him to see what’s really important. (Source)

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The Greek Alexander Romance

Mystery surrounds the parentage of Alexander, the prince born to Queen Olympias. Is his father Philip, King of Macedonia, or Nectanebo, the mysterious sorcerer who seduced the queen by trickery? One thing is certain: the boy is destined to conquer the known world. He grows up to fulfil this prophecy, building a mighty empire that spans from Greece and Italy to Africa and Asia. Begun soon after the real Alexander's death and expanded in the centuries that followed, The Greek Alexander Myth depicts the life and adventures of one of history's greatest heroes - taming the horse Bucephalus,... more
Recommended by Jeffrey Beneker, and 1 others.

Jeffrey BenekerAlexander is a huge figure in Greece, mostly because of the Romance and the different forms it took. It’s a romance in the sense of a novel, we might call it ‘the Alexander Fiction.’ (Source)

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The Rise and Fall of Athens

Nine Greek Lives

Plutarch's Greek Lives can be seen as a summing up of the classical Greek age and its great writers.

The nine Lives translated here and arranged in chronological order follow the history of Athens from the legendary times of Theseus, the city's founder, to its defeat at the hands of Lysander, its Spartan conqueror. Included in this selection are the biographies of Themistocles, a brilliant but heavy-handed naval commander, Aristides 'the Just' and Pericles, who was responsible for the buildings on the Acropolis. Plutarch's real interest in these men is not in the...

Recommended by Jeffrey Beneker, and 1 others.

Jeffrey BenekerPlutarch would argue that what you’re doing in your private life will predict what’s going to happen if we put you in charge of public life. If you can’t run the small economy of your household in a competent way, why would we put you in charge of the city’s economy? It’s that way of thinking. (Source)

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Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

Everyone wants to live a meaningful life. Long before our own day of self-help books offering twelve-step programs and other guides to attain happiness, the philosophers of ancient Greece explored the riddle of what makes a life worth living, producing a wide variety of ideas and examples to follow. This rich tradition was recast by Diogenes Laertius into an anthology, a miscellany of maxims and anecdotes, that generations of Western readers have consulted for edification as well as entertainment ever since the Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, first compiled in the third century... more
Recommended by James Warren, Jeffrey Beneker, and 2 others.

James WarrenDiogenes is very keen on making this a personal story. He’s both interested in telling us all sorts of odd and fantastical stories about the individual philosophers, but he’s also very interested in showing how each of these individual philosophers was influenced directly and personally by other predecessors. I think of it as a family tree of philosophies with Epicurus as the final branch of one... (Source)

Jeffrey BenekerWe probably shouldn’t trust anything that we can’t find in another source, but many of the things you read in here pop up everywhere when you read about these philosophers in modern accounts because, in the end, it’s all we have. (Source)

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