Psalm 13 & G. F. Handel’s Suite No. 4 in D Minor

handelDr. David Erb recently composed a new setting to Psalm 13 influenced by Handel’s Suite No. 4 in D Minor (HWV 437) Sarabande, and it’s beautiful!

Hear Dr. Erb explain how this came about in this little out-take from the recording of Psalm 13.

And here is rendition of the original piece by G.F. Handel:

(If audio player does no appear, click HERE)

Now listen to Dr. Erb’s Psalm 13 recording:

YouTube version HERE.

If you would like to hear Psalm settings by Dr. Erb, click here:

Guédelon: A Modern Building of an Ancient Castle

Guédelon: One Man's Castle in the Sky Gets Down-to-Earth

Guédelon: One Man’s Castle in the Sky Gets Down-to-Earth

Have you ever found yourself reading a very old book and wondering “How did they do it all?” The castles, the battles, the art, the clothing? I still can’t read a history book, or even a historical novel, without trying to imagine the historical context around each story. So when I found out about Guédelon, I got really excited! In a century when houses are built in less than a year, and even skyscrapers take only a few years, it’s hard for us to fathom what the architectural feats of yesteryear actually involved. Guédelon bridges the gap between our imaginations and reality. Visionary Michel Guyot and a team of historians, archeologists, stone-masons, wood-cutters, and builders have combined historical study with a kind of reverse archeology to build, from scratch, a medieval castle–using only medieval building techniques! Talk about bringing history to life!

Homeschool field trip anyone? You can read more about their amazing project here: The Guédelon adventure- An introduction

Next Week’s Friday Foray: How the Chrysler Motor Company looked to ancient Rome as they designed their cars.

Valerie FoucachonValerie grew up in France where her father Francis Foucachon was a church planter with Mission to the World. She studied under Wes Callihan in high school through Schola Classical Tutorials, and then attended Logos School where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. She is currently a Senior at New Saint Andrews College, and an official Latin Nerd. She shows her love for the classics by quoting from the Aeneid at random times (in Latin of course). 

Roman Feasting | Friday Foray

Friday Foray is a series of posts about fun and interesting facts about the classical world, education, or trivia. Enjoy and share!

Roman Feasting

"A Roman Feast," oil on canvas by Roberto Bompiani. Late 1800s.

“A Roman Feast,” oil on canvas by Roberto Bompiani. Late 1800s.

Gastronomy is nothing new under the sun. In fact, the Romans beat many of even our most avant-garde efforts. Sumptuous feasts were a way to impress your friends and potential allies, so no expense was spared by rich citizens. One Roman, Lucullus, even had different rooms where he would receive different guests of varying worth–and of varying cost to himself. The highest guests were said to cost around 25,000 sesterces (circa $2,500) per person. The wilder the food and rarer the delicacy, the better! One satirical account from first century author Petronius lists extravagances like dormice and pastry eggs stuffed with birds, while one of the oldest known gastronomes was apparently fond of flamingo tongues. Exotic was the mot d’ordre.

In order to enjoy the long feasts even more, the Romans developed the particularly nasty concept of a vomitorium–yes, you guessed it, a way to relieve yourself of the first part of the meal so that you can start fresh on the next course. Lavish entertainments filled the feasts as well, with dancers and music and numerous attendants. The Romans were indeed called decadent for a reason.

However, there is one thing we can be grateful to their epicurean taste for. If it were not for the Romans bringing their savoir-faire, their “know-how,” into their colonies, France would possibly never have become the wine center of the world! Bordeaux, France’s most well-known wine-producing region, was first planted with grapes imported by the Romans in the 1st century AD, and Burgundy flourished under their viticultural influences. Chateau Ausone, the highly prestigious Bordeaux wine estate, even claims that its land was once owned by Ausonius, the fourth century Gallo-Roman poet who wrote about the wines of Bordeaux. Of course, the Romans would think our drinking practices barbaric–they drank their wine well-diluted with water, and looked down on those barbarians who drank it pure! O tempora, o mores!

Valerie FoucachonValerie grew up in France where her father Francis Foucachon was a church planter with Mission to the World. She studied under Wes Callihan in high school through Schola Classical Tutorials, and then attended Logos School where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. She is currently a Senior at New Saint Andrews College, and an official Latin Nerd. She shows her love for the classics by quoting from the Aeneid at random times (in Latin of course). 

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


– 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 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)

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With

Reading is romanticI recently read an article about why readers, scientifically speaking, are the best people to fall in love with. I agree! I married a woman who loves to read, and loves to learn! She read all the right books while growing up! (Incidentally, she took Wes Callihan’s Great Books courses online in high school).

The article points to several benefits that reading will bring a reader. It enables them to speak to someone in a meaningful way. It allows a person to understand other people; it teaches the art of empathy. And it gives wisdom that years of actual experience could never give.

Because reading is something that molds you and adds to your character. Each triumph, lesson and pivotal moment of the protagonist becomes your own.
Every ache, pain and harsh truth becomes yours to bear. You’ve traveled with authors and experienced the pain, sorrow and anguish they suffered while writing through it. You’ve lived a thousand lives and come back to learn from each of them.

This is very similar to what Wes Callihan says when he encouraged the reading of imaginative literature, which he called “bootcamp for life.”

Stories are Bootcamp for Life

So read often, read good books, and read varied books!

If you want to be guided through the reading of the greatest books, check out Old Western Culture!

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

History: A Moral Requirement


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

History: A Moral Obligation

Summer Unit Study + Review = Free Curriculum!

The Greeks - Old Western Culture by Wes CallihanEach 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 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, 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 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 After your review has been received, we will send your second unit of choice from either The Greeks or The Romans.