The entire Old Western Culture curriculum, which includes 192 lectures (approx 128 hr runtime) covering over 130 of the great books of Old Western Culture, starting with Homer’s Iliad, through the Early Moderns, ending with a hat-tip to the 20th Century authors C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and J. R. R. Tolkien in the unit The Novels (unit 16). In addition to the video lectures, each includes a Student Workbook, a Reader containing all assigned readings, Exams (two Student Exams and Teacher’s Edition with grading guide), and a Guide to the Art (for The Greeks and The Romans).
OLD WESTERN CULTURE BY THE UNIT
YEAR ONE: THE GREEKS
Unit 1: The Epics
The Epics covers the two great poems of Homer: The Iliad and the Odyssey. Join Wesley Callihan, a veteran teacher of the classics, as he guides the student through the world of Homer. In story-like fashion, he steers the reader through the plot, poetic devices, background, philosophy, history, and beauty of the poems, as well as how we should approach these monuments of Western culture from a Christian perspective.
Unit 2: Drama and Lyrics
Drama and Lyric covers the beginning of drama and some of the earliest comedies and tragedies known to the Western world. This course includes lectures on the three primary tragedians from the Ancient Greek world by Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides and also one of the most famous writers of Greek comedy, Aristophanes. The course also offers an introduction to Greek lyric poetry from the same era, including passages by Pindar, Sappho, and Quintus of Smyrna. A lecture on the minor epic poetry of Hesiod is also included as a complement to part Greeks: The Epics.
Unit 3: The Histories
The Histories introduces students to three of history’s most influential early historians. Students will learn about Herodotus, the “Father of History”, as they read his masterpiece, The Histories, and its inquiries into the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. They will read and learn about Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War and its forays into the earliest expressions of political philosophy. And last they will read Xenophon’s Anabasis, the famous account which reads like a novel as it chronicles the march of ten thousand Greeks soldiers on their treacherous journey home through enemy territory.
Unit 4: The Philosophers
The Philosophers covers the most important works of Plato and Aristotle and introduces students to the ideas that have been wrestled with by Western Civilization for over two thousand years. The texts covered in this unit include Plato’s Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Phaedrus, and Republic; and Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Ethics, and Poetics. Wesley Callihan draws from decades of teaching experience as he unpacks the concepts, dispels common misconceptions, and explains how the Christian church and society at large have been influenced by the ideas of these men—both for good and for ill.
YEAR TWO: THE ROMANS
Unit 1: The Aeneid
The Aeneid unpacks one the greatest classics of the West, the Aeneid of Vergil, whose impact profoundly influenced both Roman society and medieval Christianity. Wesley Callihan guides the student through the plot, poetic devices, background, philosophy, history, and aesthetics of the poem, as well as its lasting influence on Western culture and civilization.
Unit 2: The Historians
The Historians guides students through the writings of Livy, Tacitus, Sallust, Julius Caesar, Plutarch, Quintilian, and Cicero. Discover the original works that chronicle the early history of Rome from Monarchy, through Republic, to Empire. In this unit you will discover how the Roman philosophy of history shaped the lives and culture of the Roman people, how the Roman historians recognized the signs of cultural decay in their own day, and finally, how the persecution of the Early Church played a critical role in the spread of Christianity throughout the empire.
Unit 3: Early Christianity
Early Christianity introduces students to the writings of the post-apostolic authors and their historical context. Learn about the persecutions of the early Christians and how they held fast to the faith as chronicled by the historian Eusebius. As the Church becomes more established, learn how early theologians defended the faith against various false doctrines, as was the case with Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyon. Learn about the writings of The Apologists, Clement of Alexandria, and Justin Martyr, as well as one of the earliest Christian text after the close of the Canon, the Didache.
Unit 4: Nicene Christianity
Nicene Christianity introduces students to the creeds and councils of the early Church and the fascinating story of how they came about. Wesley Callihan guides students through Augustine’s Confessions and City of God, and selections from John Chrysostom, Athanasius, and Boethius. Learn how the late Roman Christians viewed themselves as the last remnants of Paganism fell, and the Christian defense mounted by Augustine against the accusations that Rome fell because she abandoned the Pagan gods. Learn how Athanasius influenced the Council of Nicea as the Church gathered to discuss the deity of Christ.
YEAR THREE: CHRISTENDOM
Unit 1: Early Medievals
Early Medievals, The Growth of European Christianity, introduces students to life in the Middle Ages from a Christian perspective. Students will read about the military exploits of the Eastern Roman Empire under the emperor Justinian as chronicled by Procopius, the last great historian of the Roman world. Learn how the development of monasticism preserved learning and culture after the fall of the Roman Empire. Learn about the central role that Irish Christianity played in the spread of the gospel through the lives of St. Patrick, Bede, and others. Enjoy the timeless tales of Beowulf, Alfred and Great, and the origins of Arthurian legend that have shaped the Anglo-Saxon imagination for centuries.
Unit 2: Defense of the Faith
Defense of the Faith, Scholasticism in the High Middle Ages, immerses students into one of the most misunderstood periods of history. Start by learning about Anselm’s theological defense of the faith as he explains his ontological argument for the existence of God. Through Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, learn about the background to the Crusades. Finally, learn about the Crusades themselves, both the good, and the bad. Don’t miss the harrowing tales of Vikings escaping Constantinople and knights fighting for the faith!
Unit 3: The Medieval Mind
The Medieval Mind begins by guiding students through the basics of Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium, introducing students to the medieval mindset which greatly influenced later theologians and philosophers. With this foundation, students embark on a journey through Dante’s conception of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in The Divine Comedy, exploring medieval concepts of guilt, atonement, beauty, and the cosmos. Meet many classic characters from the Greeks to Dante’s present day as Dante uses his allegory to explore human nature, as well as the politics of his day.
Unit 4: The Reformation
The Reformation introduces students to the great minds of the Reformation: John Calvin, Martin Luther, Thomas Cranmer, and Erasmus. But a study of this tumultuous period of history would be sorely lacking without a thorough understanding of the historical setting of the Reformation. Wesley Callihan and Dr. Chris Schlect team up to lay a solid foundation for understanding the origins and struggles of the Reformation, as well as its theology and influence. Students will read part of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, as well as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Spenser’s Faerie Queene.
YEAR FOUR: EARLY MODERNS
Unit 1: Rise of England
Rise of England introduces students to some of the greatest poetry composed in the English language. Dr. Peter Leithart guides students through the three major play types by looking at the tragedy of King Lear, the history of Richard III, and the comedy of The Merchant of Venice, as well as six of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Wesley Callihan then guides students through the great epic poem: John Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as the poetry of George Herbert, John Donne, and Marvell.
Learn about the influence this poetry had on England in its day, and the lasting legacy of these works in culture to this day.
Unit 2: Poetry and Politics
Poetry and Politics guides students through a tumultuous period of significant change in Western civilization. Nations and individuals grapple with questions of identity, what it means to be free, and what it means to be human. Enjoy the poetry of Pope, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Browing, Arnold, Rossetti, Hopkins, and Poe. Explore the political treatises of Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville. Learn how these works reflect the period and influenced future generations.
Unit 3: The Enlightenment
The Enlightenment begins with an introduction by Dr. Mitch Stokes to background of the Enlightenment of the 18th century, starting with the Greek Pythagoreans and the “problem of change” and tracing those issues to the Scientific Revolution. Students learn about the search for certainty that led to skepticism through the works of Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Hume, Kant, and finally Reid, as each philosopher grapples with the nature of knowledge.
Unit 4: The Novels
The Novels guides students through Dickens’s heartwarming A Christmas Carol, and then turns to Dostoevsky’s darker Russian tale, The Brothers Karamozov, as well as Chekhov’s The Bet. A study of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice looks at both the story and the social setting of England during this period. Old Western Culture concludes with a hat-tip to two of the 20th-century revivors of the great books: C. S. Lewis, who coined the term “old Western culture,” and J. R. R. Tolkien, with guest lecturer Jonathan McIntosh, who guides students through the story and themes of The Lord of the Rings.
WHAT IS “OLD WESTERN CULTURE”?
“Old Western Culture” is a literature curriculum named after a term coined by C.S. Lewis to describe the fabric of ideas that shaped Western Civilization. For centuries, a “Great Books” education lay at the heart of what it meant to be educated. It was the education of the Church Fathers, of the Medieval Church, of the Reformers, and of all the Founding Fathers of the Unites States.
– It is a CLASSICAL EDUCATION, based on the great books of western civilization.
– It is a CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, which sees the history and literature of the West through the eyes of the Bible and historic Christianity.
– It is an INTEGRATED HUMANITIES CURRICULUM, bringing together literature, history, philosophy, doctrine, geography, and art.
– It is a HOMESCHOOL oriented curriculum, made by homeschoolers with the needs of homeschooled in mind, including flexibility, affordability, and ease-of-use for home and co-ops.
We bring a master-teacher into your home or co-op, and encourage parents to gain an overview of Western Civilization themselves by watching the video lessons with their children.
HOW DOES OLD WESTERN CULTURE WORK?
Old Western Culture is a video course. It is built around a master teacher, Wes Callihan. With decades of teaching experience, he guides students through the story of Western civilization. Each unit contains 12 video lessons (48 lectures in year 1, approx 30-40 min each).
Each lesson begins with a brief review before jumping into summary, commentary, analysis, and inter-disciplinary connections of the works covered. After each lesson, students complete the assigned readings, and answer comprehension questions in the Student Workbook or online workbook.
WHY DO PEOPLE LOVE WES CALLIHAN?
Wes Callihan is a master storyteller! With a remarkable ability to communicate a passion for history and literature, he makes profound ideas accessible, relevant, and interesting. Also known for his distinctive “rabbit trailers,” forays into funny and obscure historical anecdotes, which have a way of showing up at the dinner table. (After all, rabbit trails are “hooks for the imagination and memory.”) Wes Callihan is a true classical scholar, fluent in both Latin and Greek. He lectures only from the notes in the margins of his worn copies of the Great Books. “Meet him” through THIS VIDEO TOUR of his personal library, which doubled as a mini-lecture!
Old Western Culture is intended for mature and discerning students. We recommend this course for ages 14 and up. The course will deal with mature themes such as paganism, sexual immorality, battle scenes (mostly in actual reading), and classical paintings. Old Western Culture is meant to equip your child with a Biblical lens from which to process these themes. We assume your child has a working knowledge of the Bible and basic Christian doctrine.
Each year of Old Western Culture is a double-credit Humanities course which is most commonly broken down into 1 Literature credit and 1 History credit. The double-credit assumes that the student will watch all the videos, read the required reading, answer the daily worksheets, and take 4 exams (one for each unit). This a robust course academically, and requires a fair bit of reading. Wesley Callihan will coach your student on how to approach the reading in the video. Average daily reading load is 30-40 pages.
As an “integrated humanities” course, Old Western Culture will constantly be incorporating history, literature, theology, philosophy, art, and art history, all through the eyes of the Great Books.
COMPLETE LECTURE LIST FOR THE GREEKS
Lecture 1 – Introduction to Old Western Culture
Lecture 2 – The Backdrop to the Iliad.
Lecture 3 – The Anger of Achilleus. (Iliad I-IV)
Lecture 4 – The First Critical Turning Point. (Iliad V-IX)
Lecture 5 – The Deception of Zeus. (Iliad X-XV)
Lecture 6 – The Second Critical Turning Point. (Iliad XVI-XXI)
Lecture 7 – The Death of Hektor. (Iliad XXII-XXIV)
Lecture 8 – The Telemachy. (Odyssey I-IV)
Lecture 9 – The Court of Alkinoös. (Odyssey V-VIII)
Lecture 10 – Odysseus Tells of his Wanderings. (Odyssey IX-XII)
Lecture 11 – The Homescoming of Odysseus & The Judgement of the Suitors. (Odyssey XIII-XXIV)
Lecture 12 – he Legacy of Homer in Western Civilization.
DRAMA AND LYRIC:
Lecture 1 – Background of Greek Drama: Development of Theater
Lecture 2 – Background of Greek Drama: The Period, the Poets, and the Presentation
Lecture 3 – Aeschylus’ Oresteia: The Agamemnon
Lecture 4 – Aeschylus’ Oresteia: The Libation-bearers and The Eumenides
Lecture 5 – Sophocles’ Oedipus the King
Lecture 6 – Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus
Lecture 7 – Euripides’ Medea and Trojan Women
Lecture 8 – Aristophanes’ The Frogs and The Clouds
Lecture 9 – Lyric Poetry: Sappho and Pindar, and Theocritus
Lecture 10 – Lyric Poetry: Hesiod
Lecture 11 – Lesser Epics: Quintus of Smyrna, The Fall of Troy
Lecture 12 – Lesser Epics: Apollonius of Rhodes, The Argonautica
Lecture 1 – Overview of Greek History
Lecture 2 – Herodotus 1: Introduction and Croesus
Lecture 3 – Herodotus 2: Stories of Egypt and the other nations
Lecture 4 – Herodotus 3: The Beginning of the Persian Wars and the Battle of Marathon
Lecture 5 – Herodotus 4: The Battle of Thermopylae
Lecture 6 – Herodotus 5: The Battle of Salamis, and the End of the Persian Wars
Lecture 7 – Thucydides 1: Introduction, Thucydides’ Philosophy of History, and the Beginning of the Peloponnesian War
Lecture 8 – Thucydides 2: The Early Years, Pericles, and the Great Plague
Lecture 9 – Thucydides 3: Mytiline, Exile, Revolution, and Melos
Lecture 10 – Thucydides 4: The Sicilian Campaign, and the Downfall of Athens
Lecture 11 – Xenophon: The March of the Ten Thousand
Lecture 12 – The Lessons of Greek History
Lecture 1 – Overview of Greek philosophy, introduction to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle
Lecture 2 – Plato: The Apology: Socrates, St. Paul, and The Doctrine of Wisdom
Lecture 3 – Plato: The Crito and Phaedo: Socrates, Christianity, and the doctrine of body and soul
Lecture 4 – Plato: The Phaedrus: Socrates, Augustine, Dante, C. S. Lewis, and the Dialectic of Desire; True teaching
Lecture 5 – Plato: The Republic: understanding morality
Lecture 6 – Plato: The Republic: The Forms and the influence on Medieval Christendom
Lecture 7 – Aristotle: The Metaphysics: Aristotle, Aquinas, and the Doctrine of Wisdom
Lecture 8 – Aristotle: The Metaphysics: the Cosmos in Antiquity and the Middle Ages
Lecture 9 – Aristotle: The Ethics: Happiness the Chief End of Man
Lecture 10 – Aristotle: The Ethics: Friendship
Lecture 11 – Aristotle: The Poetics: Stories, Oedipus, and Jane Austen
Lecture 12 – The Lessons of Greek Philosophy
COMPLETE LECTURE LIST FOR THE ROMANS
1. Introduction to The Romans: Overview of Roman History, its importance to Old Western Culture, and a Survey of the books Covered in this series
2. Introduction to the Aeneid: Vergil, Secondary Epic, and the Writing, Worldview, and Influence of the Aeneid
3. Rome is an Idea (Aeneid Book I)
4. The Fall of Troy and The Wanderings of Aeneas (Aeneid Book II & III)
5. The Tragedy of Dido (Aeneid Book IV)
6. The Underworld (Aeneid Book V & VI)
7. The Broken Truce and the Shield of Aeneas (Aeneid Book VII & VIII)
8. The Tragedy of Nisus and Euryalos (Aeneid Book IX & X)
9. Camilla, Juno’s Surrender, and the Death of Turnus (Aeneid Book XI & XII)
10. Metamorphoses I
11. Metamorphoses II
12. The Epics of Lucretius, Lucan, and Statius
1. Livy I: Philosophy of history and the monarchy
2. Livy II: Beginning and Heroes of the Republic
3. Livy III: Threats to the Republic
4. Tacitus I: Philosophy of history and Tiberius
5. Tacitus II:Claudius
6. Tacitus III:Nero
7. Sallust: The Jugurthine War and the The Conspiracy of Catiline: The Republic in Decay
8. Julius Caesar: The Gallic wars
9. Plutarch’s Lives I: Demosthenes and Cicero
10. Plutarch’s Lives II: Alexander and Caesar
11. Cicero: Against Verres and Against Antony
12. Overview of The Historians
1. The Roman Background of Christianity
2. The Jewish Background of Christianity
3. The Didache
4. The First Letter of Clement
5. The Roman World in the Second and Third Centuries
6. Ignatius and Polycarp
7. The Apologists
8. Justin Martyr
10. Clement of Alexandria and Origen
11. Eusebius I
12. Eusebius II
1. Constantine and The Council of Nicea
2. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Age
3. Athanasius’s On the Incarnation
4. Athanasius’s Life of Anthony
5. John Chrysostom
6. Augustine’s Confessions I
7. Augustine’s Confessions II
8. Augustine’s City of God I
9. Augustine’s City of God II
10. Augustine’s City of God III
11. Augustine’s City of God IV
12. Boethius and the Consolation of Philosophy
COMPLETE LECTURE LIST FOR CHRISTENDOM
Early Medievals Lesson List:
1. Historical Overview of Christendom
2. Benedict’s Rule and Monasticism
3. Transition to the Middle Ages
4. Procopius and Gregory
5. Maximus the Confessor
6. Celtic Christians
8. Bede I: Early History of England
9. Bede II: The Coming of Christianity
10. Bede III: The Confirming of Christianity
11. Lives of Charlemagne and Alfred
12. John of Damascus
Defense of the Faith:
1. Historical Overview of the High Middle Ages
2. Anselm’s Ontological Argument
3. Anselm’s Monologium 1
4. Anselm’s Monologium 2
5. Anselm’s Why God Became Man 1
6. Anselm’s Why God Became Man 2
7. History of the Kings of Britain 1
8. History of the Kings of Britain 2
9. The Golden Legend
10. Historical Overview of the Crusades
11. The Conquest of Constantinople
12. The Life of St. Louis
The Medieval Mind:
1. Introduction to The Medieval Mind
2. Aquinas’ Compendium I
3. Aquinas’ Compendium II
4. Aquinas’ Compendium III
5. Introduction to Dante
6. The Inferno I
7. The Inferno II
8. Purgatorio I
9. Purgatorio II
10. Paradiso I
11. Paradiso II
Lecture 1: Introduction to Renaissance and Reformation (Callihan)
Lecture 2: Canterbury Tales 1 (Callihan)
Lecture 3: Canterbury Tales 2 (Callihan)
Lecture 4: Canterbury Tales 3 (Callihan)
Lecture 5: From Premodern to Modern Times (Schlect)
Lecture 6: Predecessors to the Reformation (Schlect)
Lecture 7: Luther and 16th Century Reform (Schlect)
Lecture 8: International Calvinism (Schlect)
Lecture 9: The Reformation in England (Schlect)
Lecture 10: Spenser 1 (Callihan)
Lecture 11: Spenser 2 (Callihan)
Lecture 12: Spenser 3 (Callihan)
COMPLETE LECTURE LIST FOR EARLY MODERNS
Rise of England:
1. Introduction to Early Moderns (Wesley Callihan)
2. Introduction to Shakespeare (Peter Leithart)
3. Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Peter Leithart)
4. Shakespeare’s King Lear (Peter Leithart)
5. Shakespeare’s Richard III (Peter Leithart)
6. Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (Peter Leithart)
7. Metaphysical Poets: John Donne (Wesley Callihan)
8. Metaphysical Poets: George Herbert and Marvell (Wesley Callihan)
9. Introduction to Milton (Wesley Callihan)
10. Paradise Lost I (Wesley Callihan)
11. Paradise Lost II (Wesley Callihan)
12. Paradise Lost III (Wesley Callihan)
Poetry and Politics:
1. Introduction to Enlightenment
2. Alexander Pope I
3. Alexander Pope II
4. Edmund Burke I
5. Edmund Burke II
6. Romantic Poetry I
7. Romantic Poetry II
8. Victorian Poetry and Democracy in America
9. Edgar Allen Poe
10. Victorian Poetry I
11. Victorian Poetry II
12. Victorian Poetry III
1. Introduction: What Is the Enlightenment?
2. The Scientific Revolution: An Overview
3. Galileo Moves the Earth
4. The Galileo Affair
5. Descartes & Skepticism
6. Descartes’ Search for Certainty
7. Did Descartes Succeed?
8. Descartes & the Scientific Revolution
9. Isaac Newton Takes the Throne
10. Hume: Taking Skepticism Seriously
11. Kant’s Answer to Hume
12. Thomas Reid & Genuine Enlightenment
1. Introduction to The Novels (Callihan)
2. Jane Austen I (Callihan)
3. Jane Austen II (Callihan)
4. Charles Dickens (Callihan)
5. Fyodor Dostoevsky (Callihan)
6. Russian Short Stories (Callihan)
7. J. R. R. Tolkien I: Fairy-Stories and The Lord of the Rings (McIntosh)
8. J. R. R. Tolkien II: Escape, Consolation, and Eucatastrophe (McIntosh)
9. J. R. R. Tolkien III: Themes in The Lord of the Ring (McIntosh)
10. C. S. Lewis I (Callihan)
11. C. S. Lewis II (Callihan)
12. Overview of Old Western Culture and the 20th Century (Callihan)