© 2017 Thermidor Magazine.

Designed by Jonathan.

Richard Carroll

Southerner, Catholic, monarchist, and bibliophile.

How to Read the Iliad

“The classics have more and more become a baton exclusively for the cudgelling of schoolboys, and less and less a diversion for the mature.” Ezra Pound’s observation, from a 1921 essay on translations of Homer, may have been true at the time but has, in the following decades, become somewhat optimistic. Often, schoolboys aren’t really taught the classics at all, but insofar as they are, “cudgelling” is still about right. I can’t completely blame those reluctant to read old books, since the very

Sallust and the Value of Classical History

When sorting through works from the Classical world, we can place most of them into three broad categories of history, philosophy, and literature. The value of the latter two are plain enough; early philosophers raised questions of eternal relevance and laid the foundation for those who came later, and for the poets and dramatists, true beauty is timeless. What, though, of history? After all, history's primary purpose is to tell us "what happened," and we can usually get this more easily from mo

Stately Bawdiness: The Poetry of Catullus

Having covered some of the great Greek poets, including Hesiod and Sappho, it’s time to move on to some of the Romans. With the Greeks, I tried to approach their literature roughly in chronological order, but here I’ll begin in the late Republic with Catullus. He’s among the Classical world’s most popular poets, at least among those who don’t, like Homer, have the mixed blessing of being frequently assigned to bored high schoolers, and perhaps the best way to introduce Catullus and see why is to

A Review of The Everlasting Empire: The Political Culture of Ancient China and its Imperial Legacy

When looking at an outline of Chinese history, one of the most striking things is the longevity of China's imperial structure, lasting from the unification of China in 221 B.C. all the way to 1912. As far as I'm aware, the only Western state to even approach this record is the Roman Empire, beginning (to use one common start-date) in 27 B.C., and not fully collapsing until 1453. Now, China was obviously not a serene empire, as dynasties certainly did rise and fall, sometimes with anarchic period

Immortal Fragments: Sappho's Poetry

When looking across the Western literary canon, it quickly appears that writing is, in a sense, a man's game. Take a list of recommended authors from before the era of political correctness, and one generally finds only a few women represented. To take a convenient example, Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren's list of essential authors from the first appendix to How to Read a Book (which includes fiction and non-fiction) has only one female author, with Jane Austen standing alone to represent

A Confucian Take On History: The Book Of Documents

When beginning a study of Confucianism, the most common starting-point is the Analects of Confucius, a reasonable choice since it's the most easily available book of the Confucian canon as well as the book most that gives us the most material from Confucius himself. When reading it, though, one quickly realises that Confucius draws a great deal of his teaching from prior sources. "A transmitter and not a maker," he describes himself in Book VII, Chapter I of that work, "believing in and loving t

The Things They Carried

When looking for something to read, either for myself or a recommendation for someone else, I usually look for something old. The older the better, in fact, because even aside from questions of historical significance the test of time is the surest quality filter I’m aware of. Now, though I’m quite comfortable ignoring the New York Times bestseller list, occasionally I do find something worthwhile among new works (“new” relative to the literary canon, that is, so to clarify, I basically just mea

Hesiod's Works and Days

Among Greek poets, two stand tall above all the others, Homer and Hesiod. One can easily see Homer’s appeal, with his renowned tales of heroes, war, and adventure, told with great craftsmanship and sublimity. Then you have Hesiod, who surveys the fields, tugs at his overalls, and says, “Good season for crops.” Well, okay, that's totally unfair to Hesiod, but the two epic poets’ themes and subjects matter could hardly be more different. Before getting into that, though, let’s back up a little. He