Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 870s

878: Plutarch’s Lives by Plutarch

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878: Plutarch. Plutarch’s Lives. Translated by John Dryden and revised by Arthur Hugh Clough. New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1969. 389 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 870: Literature of Italic and Latin languages
  • 878: Latin miscellaneous writings

Note: This edition of Plutarch’s Lives, published as part of the Harvard Classics, is not the complete set written by Plutarch. The original collection consisted of 23 pairs of biographies, each containing a Greek and Roman figure, and four unpaired biographies. My version covers Themistocles, Pericles, Aristides, Alcibiades, Coriolanus, Demosthenes, Cicero, Julius Caesar, and Antony. Alcibiades and Coriolanus are paired together as well as Demosthenes and Cicero.

If you want a pretty decent picture of both the everyday lives of Greeks and Roman as well as an overview of ancient, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Plutarch. Writing in the late 1st century, Plutarch is about as close to a contemporary source as one could want. In the Harvard Classics collection of Plutarch’s Lives, we get a cross section of historical figures:

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877: The Cambridge Companion of Roman Satire by Kirk Freudenberg

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877.010937: Freudenberg, Kirk. The Cambridge Companion to Roman Satire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 318 pp. ISBN 0-521-00627-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 870: Latin and Italic literatures
  • 877: Latin humor and satire
  • 877.01: Philosophy and theory of Latin humor and satire
  • +0937: Italian Peninsula or adjacent territories to 476 CE

Satire as we know it was popularized first with the ancient Romans. The satirist Lucilius, writing in the 2nd century BCE, is usually credited as the earliest writer in the genre. Kirk Freudenberg’s Cambridge Companion to Roman Satire cover the length and breadth of the field with articles that discuss the origin of Roman satire, it affect on the social landscape of ancient Rome, and how the genre affected later and current English writing. While each of the authors’ take on Roman satire was interesting, you definitely need to have a bit of actual Roman satire for it to really sink in. This book is a decent supplement to the writing of Ennius, Horace’s satires, Persius’s stoicisms, Juvenal, Seneca, and even Julian and Boethius. It is good to know, however, that satire has survived to the present day. Without it, we wouldn’t have so many great movies today poking fun at all of society’s little cracks. A thick and interesting read.

873: The Metamorphoses of Ovid

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873.01: Ovid. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Translated by Allen Mandelbaum. San Diego, CA: Harvest, 1993. 559 pp. ISBN 0-15-170529-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 870: Latin and Italic literatures
  • 873: Latin epic poetry and fiction
  • 873.01: Latin fiction of the Roman period

To fully investigate the entirety of Greek and Roman mythology  would take a lifetime. Luckily, Ovid did all the heavy lifting two thousand years ago. Every mythological figure you can think of is in here—from Jupiter to Perseus to Jason to Pygmalion to Romulus. Ovid’s history start at the creation of the universe and goes up to the Caesars of Rome and paints the chronology as a series of changes. In fact, the first lines have the poet saying “My soul would sing of metamorphoses.” Also playing a heavy part is the role of the love god Amor, who is constantly affecting the course of history.

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879: The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century by Charles Homer Haskins

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879.09: Haskins, Charles Homer. The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955 [1927]. 396 pp. ISBN 0-674-76075-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 870: Literatures of Italic and Latin languages
  • 879: Literatures of other Italic languages
  • +09: History, geography, or treatment of persons

If you believe many people who talk about the Dark Ages, then apparently nothing happened in Europe between the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 BCE and the Italian Renaissance of the 14th century. There was Charlemagne and a few crusades, but, you know, not much happened. This is clearly facetious. Monasteries thrived and kingdoms grew and fell. The peoples and states of Europe dispersed and re-structured. The Carolingian Period saw a massive upswing in educational policies and the Crusades connected the Eastern and Western cultures (albeit very violently). Those who returned brought back tales and knowledge which sparked an intellectual fire throughout Europe. Charles Homer Haskins’s The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century is an investigation of a small facet of that connection: he tracks the influx of re-discovered Latin manuscripts into monasteries and shows how these literatures shaped the way that clergy and layman alike wrote about their world.

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870: Roman Classics by Mary E. Snodgrass

870.9001: Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Roman Classics: Notes. Lincoln, NE: Cliffs Notes, Inc., 1988. 334 pp. ISBN 0-8220-1152-2.

Back in Dewey’s day, the classics were king. Every person of higher learning was expected to know the plays of Plautus and Juvenal’s satires. Politicians regularly pilfered from Cicero’s speeches. For this reason (and probably many more), the literatures of ancient Greece and Rome get their own divisions. Roman literature occupies the 870s, and books that combine many types and eras of Roman literature (general works and anthologies) float right to the top—870.

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