2015 Great Books Challenge for Parents (and how to earn FREE curriculum)

2015 Great Books Challenge from Roman Road MediaAre you giving your kids (or have given them) the classical education you never had?

My invitation to you this new year is to dive in yourself! Old Western Culture is for parents too! While it may be daunting to pick up the Great Books and start reading, make 2015 the year you do it WITH your kids, and earn some FREE curriculum in the process!


As a parent, use our newly released unit of Old Western Culture, The AeneidWITH your kids (or if they’re still young, or graduated, try to find a companion) before May 15th, 2015. Then email us to let us know you did, and we’ll give you the next unit (or any unit of Old Western Culture of your choice) for FREE! ($56 value).

In order to qualify for a free unit, you must:

  • Be a parent.
  • Watch all 12 lectures of The Aeneid (with your kids if possible).
  • Read the assigned reading.
  • Complete (in writing or in oral discussion) at least 1 of the workbook assignments for each lesson.
  • Complete the above by May 15th, 2015.

And on top of that (as they say, “But wait, there’s more!”), get 20% off of any Old Western Culture product (you will need The Aeneid for this challenge) by using code CHALLENGE2015 during checkout.

“Why are YOU giving away free curriculum?”

We are convinced that parents who use Old Western Culture will LOVE it. And when a parent loves a curriculum, they tell their friends. And word-of-mouth is the BEST way to let people know about this curriculum. We’re spending most of our time making this the best literature curriculum available, and we need help spreading the word. So help us by USING it, and telling your friends!


Ted Cruz and Marcus Cicero

O tempora, O mores! (Oh the times! Oh the customs!)
Ted Cruz, a republican senator from Texas, made a daring move Thursday—and put a good classical education to work! In a speech against what Cruz perceives as Obama’s overreaching policies and unconstitutional moves, Ted Cruz adapted a famous speech delivered by Marcus Tullius Cicero in 63 B.C. Cicero, a Roman statesman (whose work you get to read in Old Western Culture: The Romans!), discovered a plot by Catiline to overthrow the government and ignite a general insurrection in Italy. Cicero delivered a series of speeches, now called the Catiline Orations, exposing Catiline’s plot and calling him out. The first speech, which is the most famous of the series, was addressed to the Roman senate—while Catiline was in attendance! Here’s an article that compares the two speeches, comparing the speeches word-for-word.

Regardless of your political convictions, you have to agree that Senator Cruz certainly has talent for integrating the great men of old into the present day’s issues! However, he apparently decided against using Cicero’s advice to “slap one’s thigh and beat one’s head” in certain speaking situations.
Cicero delivers his speech to the Roman senate.

Cicero delivers his speech to the Roman senate.

Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum

We’re thrilled that the Old Western Culture curriculum will be included in Cathy Duffy’s upcoming book “102 Top Picks“!

You can read Cathy Duffy’s online review of Old Western Culture here: HERE.

102 Top Picks by Cathy Duffy - Old Western Culture

The Relationship Woes of Dido and Aeneas

Advice for all men: When you mess up, fess up!

Part of what makes the Aeneid such a timeless classic is that it captures so many aspects of human nature. Wes Callihan brings these alive in the Old Western Culture curriculum.

This excerpt from The Aeneid (unit 1 of The Romans) is an example of how Wes Callihan brings the classics alive. This is learning literature re-imagined!

The Hunt of Dido and Aeneas, by Jean Raoux. AD 1730

The Hunt of Dido and Aeneas, by Jean Raoux. AD 1730

How do Credits and Transcripts work with Old Western Culture? | Webcast

Credits and Transcripts for HomeschoolersI’ve received several questions from parents about how to record Old Western Culture on a transcript, and how much credit it’s worth in terms of completeing high school.

I created a 10 min webcast to answer these questions. I hope this helps you, and don’t hesitate to post a question or comment below, or be emailing info@romanroadsmedia.com.


– A blank high school transcript. Download: Word (RTF)  or PDF
– Completed example transcript: PDF


Old Western Culture is an integrated humanities, double credit high school course. Those credits most often fit into the “Social Studies” category. Depending on the unit, Old Western History can be “de-integrated” for the purpose of fulfilling specific transcript requirements. It can fill requirements for Ancient Literature, Ancient History, Medieval History, Medieval Literatures, Early Modern History, British Literature, Poetry, Theology/Doctrine, Philosophy, Art History, and English and Writing (see video).

Wes Callihan LIVE? Yes please! (And a special offer)

Wes Callihan reading John of Damascus during Hill AbbeyWes Callihan, the author of the Old Western Culture curriculum, has been offering live classes through Schola Classical Tutorials since 1997. In addition to “Great Books I-IV” (corresponding to Old Western Culture years 1-4: The Greeks, The Romans, Christendom, and Early Moderns), Wes Callihan also teaches Homeric Greek, Rhetoric, Church History, and Astronomy.

A pioneer of the modern Classical education movement and a teacher of teachers, a live class with Wes Callihan is not something to be missed! He is known for his ability to bring the essence of the Great Books that shaped the Western world into story form, and create an environment of community and camaraderie among his student, who can live-chat questions during his lectures. As a generation of Schola graduates now demonstrate, the end result are students who leave his classes with the love of learning and the kernel of curiosity planted in their hearts and minds.


Schola Classical TutorialsAs a special promotion running SEPTEMBER 1st – 7th, receive 1 unit from The Greeks  FREE with any NEW course sign-up from Schola Classical Tutorials ($56 value)! Once you’ve signed up at the Schola website, send an email to info@romanroadsmedia.com with your unit of choice from The Greeks and we’ll send you the DVD set!

Enjoy Wes Callihan live AND have his teaching in DVD form!

In what way is Old Western Culture a “Christian Approach” to the Great Books?

crossOld Western Culture is a distinctly Christian course. The creators of the course believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, the Providence of God working in history, and that all truth is God’s truth wherever it may be found.

A Christian worldview is not “taught” as an afterthought, but assumed throughout and thoroughly integrated in the approach to the material. Below are two small excerpts from the course which demonstrate how this works itself out in Old Western Culture.


Platonic Heresies and the Church (excerpt from The Philosophers).

The Bitterness of Achilles (excerpt from The Epics).

Does Old Western Culture present the perspective of a specific denomination?

Wes Callihan, the author, makes this statement:

I teach explicitly as a Christian and in the light of the historic, universal Christian faith. In nearly every class I make connections to that faith and to the radically
redemptive character of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection and of the church’s mission for individuals and nations. I affirm three things as most important:

  1. the Nicene Creed as a faithful summary of the Christian faith,
  2. the gospel as declared in John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13, and I Corinthians 15:1-4, and
  3. the absolute necessity of Christian unity and love in the bond of peace as expressed in Galatians 5:22-23 and throughout I John.

I am largely in agreement with the major Reformational Protestant confessions, especially the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 39 Articles of the Church of England, but am deeply appreciative of and often sympathetic to the historic Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

None of this is required of students – the only spiritual requirements are a good attitude and a willingness to learn – but it should be expected that the teaching will clearly, explicitly, and regularly reflect a historical and classical Christian perspective.

If Old Western Culture is a Christian course, why does it include Pagan literature?

More on why you should study Pagan literature:
– Q&A with Wes Callihan: Why Should we Study Pagan Authors? (10 min video)
– Course Excerpt from The Philosophers: St. Paul alludes to Socrates (2:44 min video)

Germanic Jesus | Peter Leithart

The following article was written by Peter J Leithart as a guest post for Roman Roads Media. 

Germanic Jesus

A Roman mosaic which is said to be the head of Christ

A Roman mosaic which is said to be the head of Christ

The Germanic presence in Northern Europe posed a significant challenge to Christian missionaries, writers, and poets, which are well described by Peter Brown at the end of his Rise of Western Christendom.

On the one hand, there was the intellectual difficulty. Christianity originally arose within the Greco-Roman sphere, and even though it was Jewish, the Judaism in which Jesus and Paul operated was nestled within the Roman Empire, and had been flavored by compromise and  conflicts with various Gentile powers since the Babylonian exile. Sorting through how Christian faith related to Greek and Roman culture was tricky, but there was at least biblical warrant for seeing the Roman empire as the providential context for the Messiah’s coming and the rise of the church (Daniel 2, 7, eg).

But the empire weakened and “barbarians” invaded, the Germans posed a new problem: How did the Germanic peoples fit into a Christian account of history? Some Christian writers argued that the Lord had raised up the Germanic tribes to discipline a degenerate empire, Christian only in name. Once the Northern tribes converted, though, how were Christians to make sense of the Germanic past? The church fathers had viewed Greco-Roman culture, for all its paganism and flaws, as a preparatio evangelii, a preparation for the gospel. Was Germanic civilization the same?

9th century depiction of Christ as a heroic warrior (Stuttgart Psalter, fol. 23, illustration of Psalm 91:13)

9th century depiction of Christ as a heroic warrior (Stuttgart Psalter, fol. 23, illustration of Psalm 91:13)

There was also a political dimension to this problem. As Brown points out, northern European kings who promoted Christianity and protected the church depended on genealogy for their legitimacy. Their pagan ancestors gave them legitimacy in the Christian present. They couldn’t simply discard their pagan past without undermining their basis of power. Further, the pagan past, expressed in oral legends and poems – though very little was written – provided a “rule book” for the Germanic aristocracy, embodying the ethos of the ruling class, which was shaped by these poems and sagas and legends as ancient Greeks were educated by Homer.

As Brown puts it,

“They knew very well what it was to be noble. They grew up in an overwhelmingly oral culture which was awash with stories and maxims. These told them how to behave as noble men and noble women. To be noble was to stand out. It was to live well and to be seen by others to live well. It was to foster with gusto the memory of a past which lay on the edge of the Christian present. This was a past which was always a little larger than life. It was a past where human glory, human tragedy, and the working out of human obligations were so much more vivid and so much more clear-cut, so much more brimming over with magnificent lack of measure, than was the grey, Christian present. To be noble was to toast one’s companions with great drinking-horns that carried as much liquor as a present-day bottle of Moselle; to engage in high talk and loud laughter; to listen to the ancient sound of the harpist.”

Germanic rulers had a vested interest in preserving ancient stories and legends. Charlemagne, for instance, saw himself as “Roman,” yet according to his biographer Einhard he had “the unwritten laws of all the tribes that came under his rule to be compiled and reduced to writing. He also directed that the age-old, non-Latin poems in which were celebrated the warlike deeds of the kings of ancient times should be written out and preserved.”

They preserved not only legends about the exploits of ancient kings and warriors but myths about the wars and loves of pagan gods. Brown writes that the gods ” were seen as part of a glorious past. The past still gave a charge to the present. Hence the gods remained. Solemn figures even in their decline, they were like an ancient dynasty which had once ruled the earth until forced to abdicate in favor of the Christ of modern times. Without a touch of the gods ‘in the blood,’ as it were, modern kings could not be great. And if they could not be great, they could not act as effective defenders of the Church.”

Monk copying a manuscript

Monk copying a manuscript

In one of the deepest ironies of Western culture, Christian clergymen and monks were responsible for writing down, often for the first time, the pagan legends and sagas and epics of Northern Europe. Brown puts the point dramatically: “there is not a word which was written about northern paganism that did not pass through the pens of Christian monks and clergymen. Apart from the writers of runes . . . the clergy remained the only literate class in northern Europe. And yet it was the clergy who went out of their way to consign to writing – and so have made available to us – all that we know of the pre-Christian narratives, the poetry, and the laws of Ireland, England, Scandinavia, and Germany.” Brown argues that “those who wrote down the legends and poetry of the pre-Christian past in Ireland, Anglo-Saxon England, and Iceland were not grudging recorders, catching in written words the last vestiges of a pagan mythology doomed to extinction by the coming of the Christian church. The situation was not like that at all. Rather, Christian monks and clergymen should be seen as the last great myth-makers of northern Europe. They transformed a living pagan past, so as to use it in their own, Christian present.”

In this way, the legends and epics of heroic northern Europe became part of the heritage of Christendom. Given the power of the “cult of the classics” in the modern world, we often forget that from the eighth and ninth centuries at least, the culture of Christian Europe drew on Jewish and Christian sources, but was also inspired by Greek, Roman, and Germanic paganism.

Figure carved on the Frankish grave stele of Niederdollendorf (7th century), known as the earliest material witness of Christian presence in the German Rhineland; the figure is presumably a depiction of Christ as a heroic warrior wielding a lance, with a halo or crown of rays emanating from his head

Figure carved on the Frankish grave stele of Niederdollendorf (7th century), known as the earliest material witness of Christian presence in the German Rhineland; the figure is presumably a depiction of Christ as a heroic warrior wielding a lance.

Entering Christendom Germanic culture was considerably modified, as of course was Greco-Roman culture. The portrait of the hero in Beowulf, for instance, is quite other than the image of the heroic warrior in the Greek and Roman epics. Northern Europe also formed a new kind of hero, the saint, shaped by the cult of the saints that challenged the brutal power of heroic warriors.

Beowulf is the most subtle example of the tension between pagan past and Christian present. It is far from the only example, and some lesser-known works have more evangelistic aims. One of these is the remarkable ninth-century Saxon poem, Heiland, “The Savior,” a series of songs that retell the story of Jesus that is translated for the Germanic warrior culture. Jesus is called a “Chieftain” and the disciples are depicted as his earls and warriors. The feasts are Saxon, with ring givers and apple wine, and an angel warns John the Baptist not to drink hard cider all his life. Heaven is “God’s meadow,” and Jesus’ teaching is described as “runes” and his teaching on prayer is described in terms of teaching a new “spell.”

In song 58, during Jesus’ arrest, Peter intervenes to protect him. As one commentator points out, he acts like one of the Nordic warriors called “berserkers” who were transformed by their battle rage into a superhuman incarnation of battle lust. Peter cannot contain his rage and is so angry he cannot speak, and the description is a typical epic battle description with vivid wounds and lots of blood.

Gǣð ā Wyrd swā hīo scel! Fate goes ever as it must. ~ Beowulf~

Gǣð ā Wyrd swā hīo scel! Fate goes ever as it must. -Beowulf

Like Beowulf, Heiland refers occasionally to fate or “wyrd,” the force that determines when a man is going to die. This pagan concept is synthesized with an emphasis on the sovereignty and creativity of God, so that wyrd is transformed into something like natural law: God initiates everything, puts new processes to work, but then they develop according to an immanent power that God has infused into them. Talking about John the Baptist, the poet says that the “power of God. . . .was felt” and Elizabeth became pregnant, but then “the woman awaited the workings of wyrd,” that is, the day of birth.

In his treatment of fate, we can see what the poet is doing. Even as he’s “heroizing” Jesus, he is Christianizing heroism. Within the apparent germanization of the gospel, the poem aims at an evangelization of the Saxons. The Germanic warrior code is all here: Fate (wyrd) has a prominent place, death is certain but the timing is impossible to know. Yet Jesus overcomes fate, as He lays down His life in the way and at the time He chooses, and then overcomes death itself in His resurrection.

In the poem, mortality is linked to blindness, especially blindness about fate and the future. When he heals a blind man in Jericho, it is described as a triumph over fate. Christ cures the blindness that is inherent in the human condition, and this makes him the greatest of all heroes, as He fulfills the hopes and aspirations of Saxon warrior culture. Unlike John’s birth, Jesus’ birth is described without reference to fate at all. Jesus does all things by his own power because He has unique power over all things.

The poet contextualizes the sermon on the mount to the Saxon warrior ethic. While it makes the sermon as palatable to warriors as possible, it also challenges their way of life at a fundamental level. Love for enemies and the prohibition of vengeance, after all, strike at the foundations of the warrior culture.

St. Boniface, cutting down the "Woden tree"

St. Boniface, cutting down the “Woden tree”

The poem contains several allusions to Boniface’s felling of the tree of Woden. Words for “felling” trees are used, but instead of trees, pagans are cut down, and the axe is the word of Jesus. Christ is presented as a power greater than Woden. The Spirit-dove on His shoulder rivals and replaces the raven on the shoulder of Woden. Jesus is a teller of secrets and revealer of runes. He walks on water and comes from heaven, like Thor.

Heiland is, in short, not only a example of the synthesis of Germanic-Christian culture, but illustrates some of the ways the church filled the wineskins of pagan heroic culture with the wine of the gospel, until paganism burst open and something new was born.

Peter LeithartDr. Peter Leithart received an A.B. in English and History from Hillsdale College in 1981, and a Master of Arts in Religion and a Master of Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1986 and 1987. In 1998 he received his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England. He has served in two pastorates: He was pastor of Reformed Heritage Presbyterian Church (now Trinity Presbyterian Church), Birmingham, Alabama from 1989 to 1995, and was founding pastor of Trinity Reformed Church, Moscow, Idaho, and served on the pastoral staff at Trinity from 2003-2013.. From 1998 and 2013 he taught theology and literature at New St. Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho, where he continues to teach as an adjunct Senior Fellow. He now serves as President of Trinity House. He and his wife, Noel, have ten children and five grandchildren. He currently blogs at First Things