What we're about

BCE is a literary conversation group where we read together “classic” texts in a broad sense, from before the Christian era.

Reading aloud of key passages is central, as is slow reading, taking in no more than about 50 “pages” a session. Participants have the same edition in front of them so they can create a common experience.

Examples of texts we can take on: the epic of Gilgamesh, the Hebrew book of Genesis, the plays of Aristophanes, Homer’s Odyssey, the Kama Sutra, Song of Songs, or the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe.

Upcoming events (2)

Hesiod: Theogony & Works and Days

Online event

In this session we will be discussing Hesiod's two major works: Theogony, & Works and Days.

The recommended translation is: Theogony and Works and Days, by Hesiod. Translated with Introduction and Notes by M. L. West (Oxford World's Classics).

Hesiod (Greek: Ἡσίοδος Hēsíodos, 'he who emits the voice') was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. He is generally regarded as the first written poet in the Western tradition to regard himself as an individual persona with an active role to play in his subject. Ancient authors credited Hesiod and Homer with establishing Greek religious customs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesiod

The Theogony concerns the origins of the world (cosmogony) and of the gods (theogony), beginning with Chaos, Gaia, Tartarus and Eros, and shows a special interest in genealogy. Embedded in Greek myth, there remain fragments of quite variant tales, hinting at the rich variety of myth that once existed, city by city; but Hesiod's retelling of the old stories became, according to Herodotus, the accepted version that linked all Hellenes. It's the earliest known source for the myths of Pandora, Prometheus and the Golden Age.

The creation myth in Hesiod has long been held to have Eastern influences, such as the Hittite Song of Kumarbi and the Babylonian Enuma Elis. This cultural crossover may have occurred in the eighth- and ninth-century Greek trading colonies such as Al Mina in North Syria.

The Works and Days is a poem of over 800 lines which revolves around two general truths: labour is the universal lot of Man, but he who is willing to work will get by.

This work lays out the five Ages of Man, as well as containing advice and wisdom, prescribing a life of honest labour and attacking idleness and unjust judges (like those who decided in favour of Perses) as well as the practice of usury. It describes immortals who roam the earth watching over justice and injustice. The poem regards labor as the source of all good, in that both gods and men hate the idle, who resemble drones in a hive

Vergil: Aeneid, Book 1 & 2

Online event

We're embarking on a joint reading of Vergil's Aeneid in the translation of Sarah Ruden. As customary, please select some passages you would like to read during a session. There will be at least six sessions, where we will cover two books of this 12 book epic.

Vergil (70 – 19 BC) was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period, one of Rome's greatest poets. His Aeneid is also considered a national epic of ancient Rome, a title held since composition.

The Aeneid is widely considered Virgil's finest work, and is regarded as one of the most important poems in the history of Western literature. The work (modelled after Homer's Iliad and Odyssey) chronicles a refugee of the Trojan War, named Aeneas, as he struggles to fulfill his destiny. His intentions are to reach Italy, where his descendants Romulus and Remus are to found the city of Rome.

For more see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgil

Sarah Ruden is a Classics scholar, a poet, and a writer on religion and culture. She has published seven book-length translations of Greek and Roman works.

Garry Wills wrote in 2009 in the NYRB about Sarah Ruden's translation: "This is the first translation since Dryden’s that can be read as a great English poem in itself."

There is now a new paperback edition: Yale University Press; Revised and Expanded edition (February 9, 2021).

Past events (41)

Autumn of Friendship III: Sacred Band of Thebes

Online event

Photos (57)