Great Books II: Foundational Texts of Ancient Rome

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

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. Along with literature, this course will engage with the events, persons, and ideas of Roman antiquity through Socratic discussion, debate, and analysis.

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 II is a course in Literature, History, and Composition.

Literature and History:

Major themes in the course come from the works themselves including the values they endorse and the metaphors for understanding life they offer. Texts include the following in their entirety:

Texts include the following in their entirety:
1) Virgil - Aeneid
2) Livy - The Early History of Rome
3) Plutarch - Lives
4) Sallust - Jugurthine War, Conspiracy of Catiline
5) Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul
6) Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
7) Shakespeare, Antony & Cleopatra 
8) Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome
9) Early Christian Fathers (Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin, Irenaeus)
10) Eusebius - The History of the Church
11) Athanasius - On the Incarnation
12) Augustine - Confessions


This course continues to refine students’ writing skills through the study of classical rhetoric. Students will be able to identify and analyze the structure of spoken and written communication, applying the techniques to their own writing about the literature and history of Rome, and the writings of the early Church fathers, as Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Students read and discuss primary sources from the Great Books II 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. Students learn to use MLA format for in-text citations and bibliographic references for each essay and summa.

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 preChristian 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.

The Great Books program is non-sectarian. Texts of religious content are read for their historical significance in the development of Western civilization. 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.

“Thank you for suggesting that my daughter consider taking Mrs. Turscak’s Great Books course series.  The reading, writing, context and discussions have formed, informed, refined, and prepared her profoundly.”
-- Tonya L., Louisiana

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

"The Great Books do not discuss beliefs and ideas that are 'ancient,' but rather ones that transcend time and culture, are part of our lives today, and likely will be as long as humanity endures."

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