6 Great Books To Read While Studying Ancient History

6 Great Books To Read While Studying Ancient History

As someone who loves history, I am fully ready to admit ancient history can be a tough time period to get interested in.  Dave Raymond’s Antiquity history series is the most full and engaging ancient history curriculum that I’ve seen or experienced. 

I have taken a few of Mr. Raymond’s book recommendations and added some of my own for a short list that might help your students’ interest in Antiquity.  I have read and enjoyed all of these books multiple times throughout my education.  All are about Roman, Greek, or Church history, since those are two of the more widely covered time periods of ancient history. Read these 6 Great Books to Read While Studying Ancient History!

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3 Books for Students in Middle School:

Twice Freed

A fantastic book of historical fiction about Onesimus, the escaped slave of Philemon, and his journey from revenge to forgiveness.  Patricia St. John brings to life a briefly mentioned event in Biblical history and expands a world that is slowly being forgotten. 

Her characters, both real and fictionalized, are relatable and interesting.  I remember reading it in middle school and greatly enjoying it; it was a school book I consistently reread for fun.  As historical fiction, many of the plot points and characters are made up, but it will spark your student’s interest in everyday life in the Roman Empire.

You can buy the book on Amazon.

Peril and Peace

The second volume in a series of books (History Lives) about the Christian church throughout the ages.  This one specifically address the spread of the church throughout the Roman Empire and the intense persecution it faced.  Beginning by defining what the ancient church was, the chapters variate between stories about martyrs (Polycarp, Athenasius, Justin) and short sections about specific aspects of the ancient church: creeds, councils, and worship to name a few. 

The stories are short and engaging and describe the harshness of that time period without detailing how graphic it was.  I would highly recommend it for middle school students.

You can buy the book on Amazon.

Edith Hamilton’s Greek Myths

Perhaps one of the best mythological compilations, Edith Hamilton condenses the magnitude of Greek mythology to a comprehensible level, yet keeps the integrity of the stories.  This book has been in my bookshelf for many years, and I actually took it to college with me. 

Like Twice Freed, I enjoy reading the myths for fun as well as for school.  Since it is mythology, there are a few stories some younger students should avoid: “The House of Atreus” and “The Royal House of Thebes”.  These are the stories with the most unavoidable violence and promiscuous behavior. 

However, Hamilton does not dwell on these aspects of Greek mythology and states only whatever is necessary to the stories’ plots.  It is a book every student, middle school and up, should have close by.

You can buy the book on Amazon.

3 Books for Students in High School:

The Robe

A story similar to Ben-Hur, The Robe describes the journey of a Roman centurion who helps crucify Jesus.  Lloyd C. Douglas brings to life the world of the Roman Empire and Israel through relatable and sympathetic characters that illustrate the overlap of Roman and Israeli ways of life. 

One of the reasons I enjoy this book so much is the fact that while Jesus is a predominant character, no one ever meets Him face to face: He is only referenced. It is difficult as humans to comprehend how Jesus could be both God and man, and I think it is always wise for authors to avoid putting words in Jesus’ mouth.  I would highly recommend this book for high school students who are studying the Roman Empire or the Bible.

You can buy the book on Amazon.

The Man Born to Be King

Written by Dorothy Sayers, a popular mystery author, this is a play that spans Jesus’ entire life.  This play is the only exception to the opinion above regarding Jesus as a speaking character. 

Not only does Sayers brilliantly expand characters’ personalities, she weaves consistent, Biblical theology into the story.  This pulls both plot and doctrine together, adding to the richness of the Gospel.  It was one of my favorite reads in high school and one that should be reread multiple times. It is a must-read for all high school students.

You can buy the book on Amazon.

The Iliad

Many high schoolers, specifically homeschooled ones, will read this or The Odyssey at some point before they graduate, so listing The Iliad may be repetitious, but after recently reading it for the first time, I was struck by how moving it is. 

There is a lot of graphic fighting, but, like The Robe, the characters are relatable and sympathetic.  As a homeschool graduate, I wish I had read this epic in high school, or just sections of it, because it prompts thoughts and conversations that are important to round out literature in high school.  

You can buy the book on Amazon.

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