The Old Western Culture Great Books List

Old Western Culture is a great books curriculum. But it has some differences with many other great books curriculums, as well as with your average great books list or printed series. The Old Western Culture great books list is a distinctly Christian list. It has all the famous favorites you’ll recognized from something like the Britannica Great Books of the Western World, but it also includes books that are often left out of modern editions for various reasons, most often because they are from the “Age of Faith.” We include more works from the early Church Fathers, Medieval period, and the Reformation. These are deeply influential and formative books on Western civilation, and well-worth reading. It is our Christian and cultural inheritance, and Old Western Culture exists to help you and your children recieve it!

The result of this list is a new great books series: the Old Western Culture Reader Series, a sixteen volume set still in production. Multiple volumes are already available in paperback, and hardback editions are coming soon.

Here is each individual work that students using the Old Western Culture curriculum read over four years in high school. In some cases students do not read the full work, especially for works of philosophy. But even in those cases, it is larger swaths of the original text, not small excerpts.

Year One: The Greeks

Unit One: The Epics:
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • The Odyssey by Homer
Unit Two: Drama and Lyric
  • The Agamemnon by Aeschylus
  • The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus
  • The Eumenides by Aeschylus
  • Oedipus the King by Sophocles
  • Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles
  • Antigone by Sophocles
  • The Trojan Women by Euripides
  • The Medea by Euripides
  • The Frogs by-Aristophanes
  • Sappho’s Poems by Sappho
  • Odes of Pindar by Pindar
  • Idylls of Theocritus by Theocritus
  • Works and Days by Hesiod
  • The Fall of Troy by Quintus of Smyrna.
Unit Three: The Histories
  • The Histories, by Herodotus
  • The History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides
  • Anabasis (The Persian Expedition), by Xenophon
Unit Four: The Philosophers
  • The Apology by Plato
  • The Crito by Plato
  • The Phaedo by Plato
  • The Phaedrus by Plato
  • The Republic (Book I, II, VII, VIII, IX, X) by Plato
  • The Metaphysics (Book I, XII) by Aristotle
  • Nicomachean Ethics (Book I, VIII) by Aristotle
  • The Poetics by Aristotle

Year Two: The Romans

Unit One: The Aeneid
  • The Aeneid by Vergil
  • Metamorphoses (selections) by Ovid
  • De Rerum Natura by Lucretius
  • Pharsalia by Lucanus
  • Thebaid by Publius Papinius Statius
Unit Two: The Historians
  • History of Rome, by Livy
  • The War of the Jugurtha, by Sallust
  • The War with Catiline, by Sallust
  • The Gallic Wars, by Julius Caesar
  • The Annals, by Tacitus
  • Lives, by Plutarch
  • Verres, Antony, and On Duties, by Cicero
  • The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, by Suetonius
  • Correspondence, by Pliny & Trajan
  • Institutes of Oratory, by Quintillian
Unit Three: Early Christianity
  • The Didache by Unknown
  • First Epistle of Clement by Clement of Rome
  • The Letters of Ignatius by Ignatius
  • Letter to the Philipians by Polycarp
  • A Plea to the Philipians byAthenagoras
  • Epistle to Diognetus by Unkown
  • The First Apology by Justin Martyr
  • Against Heresies by Irenaeus
  • Exhortation to the Greeks by Clement of Alexandria
  • History of the Church by Eusebius
Unit Four: Nicene Christianity
  • On the Incarnation by Athanasius
  • The Life of St. Anthony by Athanasius
  • Paschal Homily by John Chrysostom
  • Baptismal Instructions by John Chrysostom
  • On the Holy Spirit by Basil the Great
  • Funeral Oration by Gregory Nazienzen
  • Confessions by Augustine
  • The City of God by Augustine
  • The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

Year Three: Christendom

Unit One: Early Medievals
  • The Rule of Saint Benedict by St. Benedict
  • Wars of Justinian by Procopius
  • History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours
  • Book of Pastoral Rule by Gregory the Great
  • The Dialogues by Gregory the Great
  • The Confession of St. Patrick by St. Patrick
  • Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus by St. Patrick
  • The Life of St. Columba by Adomnan of Iona
  • The Voyage of Brendan by Anonymous
  • Beowulf by Anonymous
  • Ecclessiastical History of the English People by Bede
  • Life of Charlemagne by Einhard
  • Life of Alfred by Esser
  • The Fount of Knowledge by John of Damascus
Unit Two: Defense of the Faith
  • Proslogium by Anselm of Canterbury
  • Monologium by Anselm of Canterbury
  • History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth
  • The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine
  • The Conquest of Constantinople by Geoffrey de Villehardouin
  • The Life of St. Louis by Jean de Joinville
Unit Three: The Medieval Mind
  • Compendium by Thomas Aquinas
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
Unit Four: The Reformation
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Clericis Laicos & Unam Sanctam by Boniface VIII
  • Defensor Pacis by Marsilius of Padua 
  • Sacrosancta & Frequens by The Council of Constance
  • Julius Exclusus, Erasmus of Rotterdam, 
  • Ninety-Five Theses, Letter to the Christian Nobility, Babylonian Captivity of the Church, & The Freedom of the Christian by Martin Luther.
  • Exsurge Domine by Leo X
  • The Schleitheim Articles by Michael Sattler
  • Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Philip Melanchthon
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
  • The Decree of Trent by The Council of Trent
  • Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius of Loyola
  • Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism by Zacharias Ursinus
  • Book of Common Prayer by the Church of England
  • Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe
  • An Admonition to Parliment by Field and Wilcox
  • The Laws of Ecclesastical Politie by Richard Hooker
  • The Faerie Queene, Amoretti, Epithalimion by Edmund Spenser

Year Four: Early Moderns

Unit One: Rise of England
  • Sonnets 3, 73, 55, 60, 103, and 106 by William Shakespeare
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare
  • Richard III by William Shakespeare
  • The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
  • A Valediction Forbidding Mourning, Holy Sonnets X and XIV, Meditation XVII, by John Donne
  • Redemption, The Collar, and Love “3” by George Herbert
  • To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
  • On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, Sonnet 16: On His Blindness, and Sonnet 15: On the Late Massacre in Piedmont by John Milton
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
Unit Two: The Enlightenment

Exact works forthcoming. Authors:

  • René Descartes
  • Galileo Galilei
  • Francis Bacon
  • John Newton
  • David Hume
  • John Locke
  • Emmanuel Kant
Unit Three: Early Modern Poetry and Politics
  • Essay on Criticism, Essay on Man, and Ode on Solitude by Alexander Pope
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke
  • The Rhime of the Ancient Marinar by Coleridge
  • Intimations of Immortality and The Solitary Reaper by Wordsworth
  • She Walks in Beauty and The Destruction of Sennacherib by Byron
  • In First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer by Keats
  • Ode to the West Wind by Shelley
  • The Lady of Shallot, In Memorium A.H.H., The Eagle, and Crossing the Bar by Tennyson
  • Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister, My Last Duchess, and Fra Lippo Lippi by Browning
  • Dover Beach by Arnold
  • Song, A Better Resurrection, and A Birthday by Rossetti
  • God’s Grandeur, Windhover, and Pied Beauty by Hopkins
  • The Cask of Omontillado, Anabel Lee, To Helen, The Raven, and The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe
  • Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
Unit Four: The Novels
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky
  • The Bet by Chekhov
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • A Christmas Carol by Dickens
  • Selected Essays by C. S. Lewis

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