Stephanie McCarter recommends 6 translations of Greek and Roman literature

Stephanie McCarter.
Stephanie McCarter. Courtesy Image

Stephanie McCarter, a classics professor at the University of the South, is the translator of an acclaimed new version of Ovid's narrative poem, Metamorphoses. Below, McCarter recommends six other translations of classic works of literature.

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, translated by Anne Carson (2002)

Sappho is one of the few female poets we have from Greco-Roman antiquity, though her work survives mainly in tantalizing fragments. Like the source text, Carson's translation brilliantly evokes a world of female eroticism in sharp contrast with the political maneuverings of men. Buy it here.

The Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice, translated by A.E. Stallings (2019)

Attributed to Homer by the Romans, this mock Greek epic humorously describes a battle between frogs and mice, complete with gods taking sides and lending aid to their favorites. Stallings' rhyming couplets capture the poem's playful tone, while Grant Silverstein's illustrations make it fun for all ages. Buy it here.

Seneca: Six Tragedies, translated by Emily Wilson (2010)

Seneca's tragedies take traditional Greek myths and steep them in the philosophical, rhetorical, and political climate of Neronian Rome, giving them the spectacular over-the-topness you would expect of gladiatorial combat. Wilson, best known for her Odyssey, is also a brilliant translator of ancient drama. Buy it here.

Andromache, Hecuba, Trojan Women by Euripedes, translated by Diane Arnson Svarlien (2012)

Euripides famously centered female experiences in his tragedies, and his plays Andromache, Hecuba, and Trojan Women examine war's costs not for the men who die but for the women who survive. Svarlien's taut poetic renderings combine with Ruth Scodel's learned notes to make this an especially accessible volume. Buy it here.

Jason and the Argonauts by Apollonius of Rhodes, translated by Aaron Poochigian (2014)

Apollonius' epic follows Jason and the Argonauts in their pursuit of the Golden Fleece — a feat they accomplish with the help of an infatuated and immensely clever Medea. Poochigian's dexterous iambic pentameter makes this version of the 3rd-century BCE Greek tale a lively, engaging read. Buy it here.

The Golden Ass by Apuleius, translated by Sarah Ruden (2013)

This Roman novel tells of a man transformed into a donkey who goes on a quest to regain his human form. It offers intriguing glimpses into the lives of marginalized people, including women and the enslaved, and into the treatment of animals. Ruden at her finest! Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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