Living Books on Ancient Greece

Dear Reader,

A break from the theology– below are the books we have used this year in studying ancient Greece. You can find all my lists of living books here. My kids are all in middle or high school now so while some of these may work for elementary, that is not my focus.

Living Books on Ancient Greece

We are not doing a spine book together this year but some of the extras like art, science, and myth. We continued to use the relevant portions of Hillyer’s A Child’s History of Art. Not too surprisingly, he has quite a bit on Greek art. The volume I have contains all his smaller works on painting, sculpture and architecture. This is an elementary level book but I find it has enough substance to use with my older kids.

I have each of my kids reading some version of the Odyssey (see below) so for our myth together we read Padraic Colum’s The Golden Fleece. This also could be elementary, at least as a read-aloud.  It includes a number of other myths within it as tales told by Orpheus so it covers a lot of ground. I highly recommend this one.

 

I looked at a couple of books on words that have come into our language from Greek myths. One was Isaac Asimov’s Words from Myths which I was really excited about, based on the author, but was ultimately disappointed in ad it just didn’t seem engaging. It jumped too quickly from one subject to another. A similar book which I happened to have on my shelf as a hand-me-down is By Jove! Brush Up Your Mythology by Michael Macrone. This one is a little better as it offers one section on each word. We read about things like fascination and enthusiasm and how those words came into English and changed their meaning. It was okay but not spectacular.

With my younger two I also read portions of Eva Marie Tappan’s Greece and Rome. This is a compilation of first hand sources. Tappan is a too-often-neglected author I think we would all do well to rediscover, She has some 8 volumes like this with primary sources from different cultures as well as other history books (see below).

Each of my children read a book on Greek history and a version of the Odyssey.

My oldest (12th grade) read Isaac Asimov’s The Greeks: A Great Adventure. He used Asimov on the Egyptians earlier this year. My 11th grader read Edith Hamilton’s The Greek Way which focuses on Greek culture and influence a bit more. There is also a sequel we didn’t have time for, The Echo of Greece. I thought this would be a good fit for her as she is aiming for art school. My 8th grader read The Book of the Ancient Greeks by Dorothy Mills. I found her volume on Egypt and the Ancient Near East too curt for my taste but this one is much meatier. Finally, my 7th grader read Eva Marie Tappan’s Story of the Greek People. I much prefer Tappan’s books to the similar (and very popular) ones by Guerber.  

As I said, we each read a version of the Odyssey. With my two high schoolers, I read the whole thing — Homer’s the Odyssey as translated by Robert Fagles. I had gotten Leland Ryken’s study guide thinking we might need help but we actually found it pretty easy. It is divided up and laid out nicely in usually manageable paragraphs within reasonable chapters. Two or three times a week we just sat together and went around reading a chapter, a paragraph per person. We did not narrate or discuss.

My 8th grader used The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer by Alfred Church. This is,as its title says, both the Iliad and the Odyssey.  My 7th grader read The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tale of Troy by Padraic Colum and Willy Pogany. Both seem good for simpler versions of the tale. Even briefer is Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Wandering of Odysseus which would be good for upper elementary. Another elementary choice would be Mary Pope Osborne’s books of myths.

There are always lots of other good books we don’t have time for. Here are some I looked at:

I’ve liked some of the books in the “very brief introduction” series but decided the one on ancient Greece was too brief and dry for my tastes. Cotrell’s Minoan Civilization was intriguing but I didn’t want to devote that much time to Minoans alone. The Battle of Salamis looks impressive for an older boy who would really get into battle specifics. And finally, Peter Connolly’s books have lovely illustrations. They would be great for giving you things to put in your Book of Centuries. I was sorry to not have time (or extra kids) to use one of them at least.

Still to come this year: Rome!

Nebby

 

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