Great Books 1: Foundational Texts of Ancient Greece

Grades 9-12+2High school students may be awarded 1 History and 1 Literature credit upon completion of this course.

his rigorous Socratic tutorial covers the literary, historic, and philosophic classics of the ancient Greeks. The class provides a unique vehicle for understanding the roots of our culture: the fundamental concepts and choices of the past 4500 years.

This class meets once a week. Classes are two hours in length. Students should expect approximately 6 hours of homework (reading, study questions, and composition) per week. Because of this rigorous amount of work, the course may be counted for up to two high school credits, depending on your state's requirements.

Great Books I is a course in Literature, Composition, and History:

Classical Literature:

Major themes in the course come from the works themselves including the values they endorse and the metaphors for understanding life they offer. Learner-active strategies are employed including a wide range of student response essays and engaging Socratic discussions. Texts include the following in their entirety:

1)     Homer - Iliad, Odyssey

2)     Aeschylus - Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides

3)     Sophocles - Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone

4)     Euripides - Medea


The composition component of Great Books I covers the history and basic principles of classical rhetoric. Students learn how to determine the structure of spoken communication (speeches, debates, arguments) and of written works of many genres. Students read and discuss primary sources from the Great Books I Literature and History texts and compose weekly summae – written responses of approximately 300 words in response to ideas presented in the texts. Other writing assignments include classical rhetorical exercises, literary analysis, writing about history, persuasive writing, and occasional creative responses to texts. The writing process is emphasized — from outline to draft to revision. Students receive extensive feedback from the instructor at each stage of this process with multiple opportunities to revise and re-submit their work. The instructor corrects spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, paragraph composition, etc. Students also learn to use “academic style”, MLA format for in-text citations, and bibliographic references for each essay and summa.

"We absolutely love Sue Ellen Turscak! She makes material that would usually not be of high interest for my daughter extremely engaging and enjoyable. The amount of effort she puts into grading and giving the students feedback on their writing is amazing. She is a rare gem!" -- Lisa L., Virginia

"Great Books I really prepared my daughter for future academic work.  The class taught her rhetoric, critical reading and thinking skills, and made her extremely comfortable writing a five paragraph essay in a short amount of time." -- Shawna J., California


To study and understand the long stream of history and thought, and to comprehend our place in that stream, is to increase our appreciation of our cultural inheritance, our ability to use wisely and build faithfully upon that inheritance, and our ability to understand and respond to history. This course will engage with the events, persons, and ideas of Greek antiquity through Socratic discussion, debate, and analysis. Texts include the following in their entirety:

1)     Herodotus - Histories

2)     Thucydides - Peloponnesian War

3)     Plutarch - Greek Lives

4)     Plato - Euthyphro, Apology, Republic

5)     Aristotle, Ethics

Thank you for the amazing experience of your Great Books class. The reading selection was so wonderful and had an amazing historical arc. I loved the study questions and enjoyed the writing topics. I especially enjoyed writing the summae which were a great way to practice writing within a loose structure while still having lots of room for creative topics. This class really pushed me in directions I didn't even know I could go. My writing has improved a tremendous amount. 

I am appreciative of the many email conversations we had and the time you spent giving me advice. For my first online class, this was outstanding! I don't think I will ever forget this class as long as I live. - Dominic G, Michigan 

Additional note:

The CLRC Great Books program focuses on literary and historical primary sources from the ancient world through the Renaissance and the early modern world. The literature is read for its own merit and studied within the historical and cultural time period in which it was written.

In Year 1, as we read the Iliad and Odyssey, the backdrop of Homer’s great epic is an assumed faith in the Olympian pantheon. Students are not required to express belief in Zeus, Hera, Apollo and the other Olympian gods. The class will not seek to criticize or disprove the religious underpinning of the text. However, students must understand that this is the religious assumption on which the epic is based. Similarly, Year 2 focuses on the Foundational Texts of Ancient Rome. In the first semester students study the pre-Christian authors Vergil, Caesar, Livy, Sallust, Tacitus and Plutarch. The second semester moves on to the period of history which is dominated by the rise of the Christian Church. Students read Eusebius, Augustine, Athanasius and other early Christian writers. These texts and this period of history are essential to an understanding of the texts studied in Great Books 3 – the period of the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance – which is dominated by the conflict of Faith and Reason. As with the religion of Ancient Greece and Rome, students are not required to subscribe to belief in particular Christian doctrines, but they should understand that foundational texts of the Christian faith will be read in the second half of Year 2.

Students from all faiths and creeds are encouraged to read, understand, and write about the texts through the lens of their own beliefs, in an environment of open, caring, and conscientiously moderated discussion. Students who have questions or doubts reading ancient Greek and Roman texts, or texts of the early Christian church, may wish to contact the instructor for more information or choose a CLRC Literature and Composition class instead.

Prerequisites: Must be a strong critical reader and writer. CLRC's Introduction to Literature and Composition is excellent and recommended preparation.

"The level of analytical and critical thinking skills taught in Mrs. Turscak’s Great Books class is remarkable.  Great Books is the single best homeschool class that any of my children have taken!  I am beyond thrilled with the thoughtful and careful reading that is required and taught, with the writing assignments that are given and produced, and above all, with Mrs. Turscak's detailed feedback on every assignment!!" -- Tanya D., Massachusetts

"I have been homeschooling my son since 1st grade and I consider your class to be the best I have ever experienced. My husband teaches at Georgetown University and has a similarly high view of your class. We are quite grateful to you for what our son has learned and how he has been challenged - all in a caring environment." - Liz C., Virginia

What students have to say about the importance of reading, discussing, and wrestling deeply with the Great Books:

"By reading the “Great Books” we gain the insight and knowledge of our ancestors and begin to understand how we have been formed. These books are our guide through life by giving us morals, understanding, and perspective beyond ourselves.

These fundamental themes of Western Culture help us come to a better understanding of how our society was formed, and help us understand the problems and issues we face in our daily lives."

For the complete text of this student's essay, CLICK HERE.