This Reading list covers mainly Ancient Greek and early Roman philosophy. Ancient Greece is covers places that one would not consider part of Greece. See the map below:
Why read the Ancient Greeks and early Romans?:
The Greeks and early Romans are the forerunners of the rest of philosophy. A lot of Modern philosophy is built on ancient Greek and early Roman philosophy. After one has read the Greeks one can get a deeper understanding of modern philosophy.
What to keep in mind:
A thing to keep in mind with the ancient Greek and early Roman philosophers is that they are vague when describing things. Thus, when reading the ancient Greeks and early Romans one should try and understand the deeper meaning behind the writings as things tend to be vague. One such topic for example is the infinite and finite; You should take things into context and sometimes add historical context to the writings to fully understand what the philosopher is trying to communicate. Also, some words may be used differently than the modern usage which is another thing to take into account.
Here are the list of books:
The first book is A Presocratics Reader: Selected Fragments and Testimonia (Hackett Classics) which contains an introduction that one should read as it sets up one’s journey through the ancient Greeks and early Romans. This book divides the presocratics into several groups and has a excerpt giving context to the fragments of writings. The book contains philosophers like Pythagoras, Thales, Democritus,and many of the Sophists.
The Second book is Plato: Euthyphro. Apology. Crito. Phaedo. Phaedrus (Loeb Classical Library). This is the last days of Socrates. Along with this book one should read Plato’s Meno (see the link below) before reading the Phaedo as this is goes through Plato’s description of virtue in a overall sense rather than specific virtues. Now,these dialogues are the final dialogues leading up to Socrates death in the Phaedo. Keep in mind while reading this that this account was taken by Plato. Also, the Phaedrus is not really needed as it talks about Plato’s view of rhetoric and his idea of divine madness. The other books give enough to understand Plato’s views on philosophy.
The third books is Plato’s Republic Translated by Allan Bloom. This is the classic story of Plato’s view of the just city. He does this through Socrates which is the protagonist. I suggest you read Books 1-4 (where he develops what the Just city is, and book 7 (which is the famous allegory of the cave). This book mainly cover’s Plato’s view of justice. If you have enough time I suggest you read the whole book.
Now, coming out of Plato we head into Aristotle’s works.This a compilation of Aristotle's works and this is much drier than the works above by past philosophers. I suggest reading the topics which Aristotle talks about dialectic, Physics, Politics, Rhetoric, Poetics, and finally Nicomachean Ethics(also known as virtue ethics). These are all great works by Aristotle and are definitely a must read as this goes over Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Ethics, view of Rhetoric, and Political philosophy.
This concludes the Tour of the philosophers that you can find for free. However if you have money to spare I suggest you buy the final book in this list.
That book being Greek and Roman Philosophy After Aristotle (Readings in the History of Philosophy) by Jason Lewis Saunders. This book contains Works on the Epicureans, Stoics,and Skeptics. These 3 sections are a must read, but if you have the time the other sections are just a worthy a read.
This concludes my tour of the ancient Greek and early Roman philosophers. This should give you a good outline of the thought at during this period of time.
Book list with links:
2.Plato: Euthyphro. Apology. Crito. Phaedo. Phaedrus (Loeb Classical Library) and the meno (separate text)
Suggested (not available for free):