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Old Western Culture for Adults

Old Western Culture for Adults
This class is currently archived, but if you're interested in it being taught again, you can express your interest here!
08/22/2022 - 05/12/2023
Full Year
2.0 credits in Humanities
Grades Adult Education-Lifelong Learning

Taught by:

About the course

This course is a one year overview of the entire four-year Old Western Culture curriculum published by Roman Roads Press, which is in turn based on my nearly forty years of teaching the Great Books of Western Civilization. It is designed for adults, from college students through senior citizens, who want to gain some familiarity with the great books they wish they’d read or are reading, or that their children are studying, or that they are teaching or hoping to teach, or that they simply want to learn more about. It is a survey of several of the greatest works from each of the four eras covered in the Old Western Culture curriculum published by Romans Roads Press (Greek, Roman, Christendom/Medieval, and Early Modern) – a total of thirty-three works, with of course reference to many others. It will be a discussion of the basic contents and outlines of those works, the lives and cultures of their authors (lots of maps!), why those books are so important to our Western Civilization, how they got that way and how they shaped it, their relationship to other world cultures, especially the Ancient Near East and even the Far East, and what the great Christian thinkers of the past have to teach us about how to think about them.

NOTE: There will NO reading or writing assignments required! This class’s yoke is easy and its burden is light. The audience for this class is adults with busy lives and I want to make this course as valuable and interesting as possible, but I do not want to place additional burdens on them, apart from the time (and financial) commitment. There will be optional readings for those with time and interest, but I primarily want the participants to be able to sit down for a couple hours, relax, put their feet up, sip their beverage of choice, and enjoy a pleasant evening listening to a lover of history and the great books regale them with stories, because that’s what it’s all about.

Course Objectives:

  1. To familiarize the participants with the apex great books of each era of Old Western Culture and their authors, so that they have a basic idea of the contents and significance of each one, and to discuss why these particular books have become Great Books.
  2. To survey the cultures in which those works were situated and how the works reflected and challenged those cultures and how they shaped later ones.
  3. To review how the Western Christian tradition has received these works and passed them on, particularly in education, and to give a strong apologetic for studying and teaching them from a historical Christian perspective, especially in light of the modern abandonment of this cultural tradition of great books and the damage to our culture that has resulted in recent centuries.


No texts are required for this course. Designed for adults with busy lives, it is purely a lecture course (with questions and discussion of course encouraged) briefly overviewing and discussing each of the following works – all highlights of and representative of their ages. However, there will be suggested, optional short readings for each work, for those with time and interest, which will be available through Roman Roads or elsewhere on the internet.

The Greeks

  • Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey
  • Herodotus’ Histories
  • Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War
  • Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy
  • Sophocles’ Oedipus the King
  • Plato’s Symposium
  • Aristotle’s Metaphysics

The Romans

  • Cicero’s On Duties
  • Vergil’s Aeneid
  • Livy’s History of Rome
  • Ovid’s Metamorphosis
  • Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History
  • Athanasius’ The Life of Saint Anthony
  • Augustine’s Confessions and City of God

The Medievals

  • Benedict’s Rule
  • Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People
  • Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne
  • Asser’s Life of Alfred
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain
  • Aquinas’s Summa Theologica and Compendium
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy
  • Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

The Early Moderns

  • Spenser’s The Faerie Queene
  • Milton’s Paradise Lost
  • Pope’s Essay on Criticism and Essay on Man
  • Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
  • Dickens’ David Copperfield
  • Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

About the teacher

Wes Callihan Wes Callihan grew up on a farm in Idaho and earned a BA in history from the University of Idaho in 1983. He has taught at Logos School and New Saint Andrews College, in Moscow, Idaho, as well as Veritas Academy in Lancaster, PA.