From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works of Ancient Greek philosophy, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Ancient Greek philosophy. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read works of Ancient Greek philosophy for yourself.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on Ancient Greek philosophy in no particular order.
Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction – Julia Annas
Category: Short Introduction | Length: 144 pages | Published: 2001
Publisher description: The tradition of ancient philosophy is a long, rich and varied one, in which the notes of discussion and argument constantly resound. This book introduces ancient debates, engaging us with the ancient developments of their themes. Moving away from the presentation of ancient philosophy as a succession of great thinkers, the book gives readers a sense of the freshness and liveliness of ancient philosophy, and of its wide variety of themes and styles.
Ancient Greek Philosophy: From the Presocratics to the Hellenistic Philosophers – Thomas A. Blackson
Category: General Introduction | Length: 288 pages | Published: 2011
Publisher description: Ancient Greek Philosophy: From the Presocratics to the Hellenistic Philosophers presents a comprehensive introduction to the philosophers and philosophical traditions that developed in ancient Greece from 585 BC to 529 AD.
- Provides coverage of the Presocratics through the Hellenistic philosophers
- Moves beyond traditional textbooks that conclude with Aristotle
- A uniquely balanced organization of exposition, choice excerpts and commentary, informed by classroom feedback
- Contextual commentary traces the development of lines of thought through the period, ideal for students new to the discipline
Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy: From Thales to Aristotle – S. Cohen, P. Curd & C. D. C. Reeve
Category: Anthology | Length: 736 pages | Published: 2016
Publisher description: Soon after its publication, Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy was hailed as the favorite to become “the ‘standard’ text for survey courses in ancient philosophy.”* More than twenty years later that prediction has been borne out: Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy still stands as the leading anthology of its kind. It is now stronger than ever:
The Fifth Edition of Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy features a completely revised Aristotle unit, with new translations, as well as a newly revised glossary.
The Plato unit offers new translations of the Meno and Republic. In the latter, indirect dialogue is cast into direct dialogue for greater readability. The Presocratics unit has been re-edited and streamlined, and the pages of every unit have been completely reset.
The Presocratic Philosophers – G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven & M. Schofield
Category: Anthology | Length: 516 pages | Published: 1984 (2e)
Publisher description: Beginning with a long and extensively rewritten introduction surveying the predecessors of the Presocratics, this book traces the intellectual revolution initiated by Thales in the sixth century BC to its culmination in the metaphysics of Parmenides and the complex physical theories of Anaxagoras and the Atomists in the fifth century it is based on a selection of some six hundred texts, in Greek and a close English translation which in this edition is given more prominence. These provide the basis for a detailed critical study of the principal individual thinkers of the time. Besides serving as an essential text for undergraduate and graduate courses in Greek philosophy and in the history of science, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers with interests in philosophy, theology, the history of ideas and of the ancient world, and indeed to anyone who wants an authoritative account of the Presocratics.
The Trial and Death of Socrates – Plato
Category: Classic | Length: 58 pages
The third edition of The Trial and Death of Socrates presents G. M. A. Grube’s distinguished translations, as revised by John Cooper for Plato, Complete Works. A number of new or expanded footnotes are also included along with a Select Bibliography.
The Republic – Plato
Category: Classic | Length: 300 pages
The revised edition of Grube’s classic translation follows and furthers Grube’s noted success in combining fidelity to Plato’s text with natural readability, while reflecting the fruits of new scholarship and insights into Plato’s thought since publication of the first edition in 1974. A new introduction, index, and bibliography by Professor Reeve are included in this new rendering.
Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle
Category: Classic | Length: 400 pages
Publisher description: Previously published as Ethics, Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics addresses the question of how to live well and originates the concept of cultivating a virtuous character as the basis of his ethical system. Here Aristotle sets out to examine the nature of happiness, and argues that happiness consists in ‘activity of the soul in accordance with virtue’, including moral virtues, such as courage, generosity and justice, and intellectual virtues, such as knowledge, wisdom and insight. The Ethics also discusses the nature of practical reasoning, the value and the objects of pleasure, the different forms of friendship, and the relationship between individual virtue, society and the State. Aristotle’s work has had a profound and lasting influence on all subsequent Western thought about ethical matters….
The Essential Epicurus – Epicurus
Category: Classic | Length: 101 pages
Publisher description: Epicureanism is commonly regarded as the refined satisfaction of physical desires. As a philosophy, however, it also denoted the striving after an independent state of mind and body, imperturbability, and reliance on sensory data as the true basis of knowledge.
Epicurus (ca. 341-271 B.C.) founded one of the most famous and influential philosophical schools of antiquity. In these remains of his vast output of scientific and ethical writings, we can trace Epicurus’ views on atomism, physical sensation, duty, morality, the soul, and the nature of the gods.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Philosophy of the Greeks – PHI 208 | Rutgers University
- History of Ancient Philosophy – Philosophy 200 | University of Hawaii
- Ancient Greek Philosophy – PHIL 201 | University of Mary Washington
- Ancient Greek Philosophy – Philosophy 4110 | The University of Utah
- History of Ancient Philosophy – Philosophy 320 | University of Washington
- Essential readings in Greek Philosophy?
- Could any of you recommend some books to better grasp ancient Greek philosophy (more information enclosed)?
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A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.