The Corner

Re: Loeb and Nazis

Tim, I share your admiration for The Weekly Standard’s placing the digitization of the Loeb Classical Library on its cover, and your skepticism that the digitization of the Loebs is actually all that useful. As presented by the Harvard press, it does look like a slick design (guess those Piketty profits went somewhere) and you can easily search for Greek words, but otherwise, the once-invaluable juxtaposition of a classical work and a relatively literal translation doesn’t seem a very innovative digital feature.

In fact, Harvard’s neighbors just to the north, Tufts, has been running what’s sort of like a digital version of the Loebs with more features for some time now, the Perseus Project. Its servers have been known to fail the night before your Cicero paper is due, and its collection doesn’t cover all the more obscure classical authors the Loebs do (though it has all the greats). But where the Loeb does not, Perseus offers digital versions of exhaustive Latin and Green dictionaries, a word-study tool, and your choice of uncopyrighted translations. If you look at the first verses of the Aeneid, for instance, you can compare the Latin with a relatively literal translation, or with John Dryden’s translation (in rhyming iambic pentameter — a controversial choice). And you can click on, say, “arma,” you can get a full dictionary entry for it and a scan of what grammatical case it might be. It’s very helpful for someone with rusty Latin skills, that’s all I’ll say.

But that’s not to discredit the Loebs in print: Their pleasant colors and small size did make them the kind of book that classics majors would buy out of choice rather than necessity.

Patrick Brennan was a senior communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration and is former opinion editor of National Review Online.


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