Find out more HERE.
Find out more HERE.
I’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 email@example.com.
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, 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.
As 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
Old 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:
- the Nicene Creed as a faithful summary of the Christian faith,
- the gospel as declared in John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13, and I Corinthians 15:1-4, and
- 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)
The following article was written by Peter J Leithart as a guest post for Roman Roads Media.
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
The study of history is a moral requirement for Christians.
Think of the Israelites who were required to remember the past.
Think of Paul in the NT: ‘These things were written for our instruction.’
– Wesley Callihan, Porch of our Fathers
Each year of the Old Western Culture curriculum is neatly divided into quarters. Because of this every unit can stand alone as its own unit study.
Between July 1st and July 15th, purchase any 1 unit from The Greeks (year 1 of Old Western Culture), send an email to email@example.com letting us know you’re planning on doing a review, and submit your review of that unit by August 30th. You will then be able to choose a second unit of your choice from The Greeks or The Romans, and we’ll send it to you for free!
Already own Old Western Culture? No problem! Between July 1st, and July15th, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know you plan to submit a review, let us know which unit you’ll be reviewing, and we’ll add you to the list. If you already own The Greeks (good for you!), you may choose a unit from The Romans.
Review must be submitted to email@example.com by midnight, August 30th. To qualify as a review, it must be a minimum of 150 words (500 would be ideal), use generally correct grammar (we reserve the right to correct typos and basic grammar, but please write carefully), and represent a basic knowledge of the course. The use of screenshots, photos, and other graphics or media are highly encouraged, but not required. Your review will be posted on the Roman Roads Media website with your first name and the initial of your last name. If you blog, you may post the review to your own blog (in fact, this is the preferred method!), and send us a link to the relevant page at firstname.lastname@example.org. After your review has been received, we will send your second unit of choice from either The Greeks or The Romans.
The words of John Adams in his letter to his wife Abigail the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence are often quoted by Patriots on the 4th of July, and should be! But the full context of that letter shows a more solemn side that we don’t quote as often. In a letter to Abigail, dated the same day (July 3rd – the Constitution was actually signed July 2nd), John Adams says,
“When I look back…and recollect the series of political Events, the Chain of Causes and Effects, I am surprised at the Suddenness, as well as the Greatness of this Revolution. Britain has been fill’d with Folly, and America with Wisdom, at least this is my Judgement.–Time must determine.”
After stating that he believes American may endure worse hardships ahead, he continues,
“The Furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming, in every Part, will require a Purification from our Vices, and an Augmentation of our Virtues or they will be no Blessings. The People will have unbounded Power. And the People are extremely addicted to Corruption and Venality, as well as the Great.–I am not without Apprehensions from this Quarter. But I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the Faith may be, I firmly believe.”
This shows the great solemnity with which he and the other Founders approached the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This was not done lightly. Adams is not only describing the raw cost of freedom, but also its foundation: a virtuous people.
It is in a letter dated the same day, also to his wife Abigail, that he ends with the famous prediction about how American will celebrate (and ought to celebrate!) what has become Independence Day. But even this letter starts with a solemn tone, in which he speaks of the delays in the signing, caused by malaria among the troops. His conclusion about this delay was as follows:
“Time has been given to the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen in there Judgements, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act.”
It is only then that he concludes his letter with his famous statement about the celebration of Independence among future generations:
But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.
Happy 4th of July! May your festivities by both joyous and solemn as we ponder the sacrifice that gave us our freedoms, and the waning of those freedoms by a nation quickly abandoning virtue, and no longer submitted to the Almighty. Pray for Reformation, and celebrate in Faith!
John Adams wrote to his son, John Quincy Adams, soon after the Declaration of Independence, exhorting him to read Thucydides as a way to be best prepared for the days ahead of him as a leader. Here is the full letter:
My dear Son,
As the War in which your Country is engaged will probably hereafter attract your Attention, more than it does at this Time, and as the future Circumstances of your Country, may require other Wars, as well as Councils and Negotiations, similar to those which are now in Agitation, I wish to turn your Thoughts early to such Studies, as will afford you the most solid Instruction and Improvement for the Part which may be allotted you to act on the Stage of Life.There is no History, perhaps, better adapted to this usefull Purpose than that of Thucidides, an Author, of whom I hope you will make yourself perfect Master, in original Language, which is Greek, the most perfect of all human Languages. In order to understand him fully in his own Tongue, you must however take Advantage, of every Help you can procure and particularly of Translations of him into your own Mother Tongue.You will find in your Fathers Library, the Works of Mr. Hobbes, in which among a great deal of mischievous Philosophy, you will find a learned and exact Translation of Thucidides, which will be usefull to you.But there is another Translation of him, much more elegant, intituled “The History of the Peloponnesian War, translated from the Greek of Thucidides in two Volumes Quarto, by William Smith A.M. Rector of the Parish of the holy Trinity in Chester, and Chaplain to the Right Honourable the Earl of Derby.”If you preserve this Letter, it may hereafter remind you, to procure the Book.You will find it full of Instruction to the Orator, the Statesman, the General, as well as to the Historian and the Philosopher. You may find Something of the Peloponnesian War, in Rollin.I am with much Affection your Father,John Adams
The goal of Roman Roads Media is to make the classical subjects friendly to the homeschool. Many curriculums are designed by educators with the classroom in mind. The curriculum we produce has the homeschooler in mind from conception to delivery, with emphasis placed upon communicating a love of learning.