Today is Monday, May 29. And this is William Michael, of the classical liberal arts academy. One question that I’ve been asked 1000 times over the course of my teaching career is, why should Christians study classical authors? Why Should Christians study ancient Greek and Roman authors? After all, we have the Bible, which is inspired by God. We have the writings of the church fathers. We have writings of saints. All of these Christian writings are available to us, and would take a whole lifetime to read. And if this is true, why would we use any of that time to read non Christian authors? And it’s a good question. And to be honest, I respect any sincere Christian who desires to devote all of his time to the study of Christian writings. But I would warn such a Christian that if he does devote himself to those Christian writings, he’s going to run into some trouble. One of the problems he’s going to have, as he gets into all of that Christian reading, is he’s going to learn that the church’s greatest teachers and saints studied classical writings. And so it’s just going to bring him back around to his question in the end. And so if anyone asks this question, why should we study the writings of classical authors, Greek and Roman authors? We can simply rephrase that, and ask, Well, why did the saints study classical authors? And this is where the question gets very interesting. Now, we’ll often find places in Christian writings like in the epistles of St. Paul, or in the confessions of St. Augustine, where the study of classical literature is criticized. St. Paul warns against being deceived through vain philosophy. St. Augustine laments, the time he spent studying classical literature. But these things we read have to be kept in their context. And we’ve got to make sure we’re reading them with a sound interpretation. Because it’s certainly not suggesting to us that the study of all philosophy is vain. And it’s not teaching us that the study of all Christian literature is lamentable, we’ve got to be careful. In these readings, we’ve got to make sure we pay attention to the details of what’s said and the context in which it said that’s why pulling quotes out of works and passing quotes around is not something that a reasonable truthful man would do, because he knows how important context is in interpreting a statement. Truly. We have to consider carefully why Christians should study classical authors and I’d like to take some time to share some thoughts, thoughts that I have shared in the past and maybe some new thoughts again on why Christians should study classical authors authors have Ancient Greece and Rome, most specifically, one important distinction we need to make right at the beginning. And I’ve written on this in the past. We need to distinguish a difference. Among classical authors, there’s an important difference. We have to make a distinction between non Catholic authors and anti Catholic authors. There’s a big difference. We have to distinguish between non Catholic authors and anti Catholic authors. Cicero, for example, was not a Catholic. But that’s because he lived a century before the incarnation. It wasn’t even possible for Cicero, to be a Catholic. Aristotle lived for centuries before the Christian era. He was not a Catholic either, but it was because he couldn’t possibly have been a Catholic. Cicero and Aristotle are examples of non Catholic authors. They’re not anti Catholic authors. Martin Luther is an anti Catholic author. So, we need to make a distinction. Anytime we talk about this subject between non Catholic authors and anti Catholic authors, and when we look back into classical literature, most of the authors are non Catholic authors, we could think of them as pre Christian authors. However, there are some sources whose teaching is in fact, anti Catholic. A good example would be Epicurus, the teacher of epicurean philosophy, his philosophy, in its content is anti Catholic philosophy, whereas, the philosophy of of Aristotle and of much of Plato and Pythagoras and Seneca and Cicero would be non Catholic, but not anti Catholic philosophy. So, this is an important distinction that we always have to make. And what we find is that many non Catholic authors were working to discover the truth. And they were successfully discovering the truth. They simply ran out of time, or in God’s providence, they were born before the fulfillment of truth, and all prophecy and all promises and expectations of our race were fulfilled in the coming of Christ and some wrote during the Christian era. But they wrote at a time when the gospel was still just getting into different areas. A good example of this would be the Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who was a Roman Emperor. He was actually involved in the persecution of Christians. But it was an ignorant persecution. He was acting as a head of state and trying to put down a cause of what he considered to be a civil disturbance. He persecuted the Christians in ignorance in the same way that St. Paul did before his conversion. And we have to remember what Jesus said upon the cross. When he was crucified, he said, Forgive them Father, for they do not know what do much of the ancient resistance to Christ was ignorant. And therefore to a degree pardonable. And many of those ancient men who lived at the dawn of the Christian era, simply didn’t have the opportunity to know and see what we know and see today. And so we’ve got to be careful to judge them with just judgment and realize what great advantages we enjoy sitting 2000 years into the Christian era, knowing things that they couldn’t have imagined, could possibly not be known. And so much of the criticism of classical authors is ignorant from people who have never even read their works, or who have read bits and pieces of their writings without any context. And from an irrational 21st century vantage point that causes us to think we’re a lot smarter than we are not realizing that the men we criticize, couldn’t possibly have known, the things that we know any more than a man born crippled, could run and climb in the same way that we can born hole. So we’ve got to avoid an irrational and unjust criticism of ancient men. Now, one of the problems when people talk about classical authors is, as I mentioned before, they often just see quotes posted on the internet. And if you follow me on social media, if you’ve followed me through the years, you’ll know that I’ve often challenged people who share quotes, and I’ve called them out saying that this quote that you’ve posted from Cicero, or Plato, or Aristotle, can’t possibly be a real quote from any of them, because he would never say that. And those challenges, just about always proved true. Many of the quotes are just made up, you’ll see a quote, and it’ll say, by Aristotle, or by Socrates, and there was no reference to where the quote came from. And usually, it’s just a fake quote. And people allow themselves to be influenced by this kind of treatment of the classical authors, quotes and reference quotes without references that are used to criticize ancient authors. And secondly, most people who talk about ancient authors have never actually read their works. This is especially true of someone like Socrates, because he never wrote anything. So when we see Socrates being quoted, we need to immediately pump the brakes and ask Where exactly does this quote come from? Because we have no writings of Socrates, it’s really most likely a quote from Plato, or it’s just being made up and attributed to Socrates. Most people in modern circles have not studied any of the classical authors, their their knowledge and understanding of them is minimal, at best, and the criticism is just irrational. Thirdly, and maybe even worse to vol. Is that what most people have you learned about classical authors has been taught to them. In courses where they don’t even read the writings, they simply are given summaries and overviews or they read, selected passages of Selected Works and the opinion of the course teacher forms their opinion of the ancient authors and in many Christian schools and colleges. especially the obnoxious Christian arrogance that assumes that anything that’s not Christian is stupid, creates a prejudice in the minds of younger Christians, and they go into adult life, having an ignorant and arrogant view of the ancients not even understanding anything that they taught or wrote about. And this is very common. This is one of the reasons why I get most upset by the fake classical Christian schools is because the students in those schools are in the greatest danger of all students. They’re in the danger that Socrates actually warned about all through his teaching. Socrates taught, at least as Plato represents him. In the dialogues, he taught that the greatest danger for a man was to be ignorant of something, but to think that he knows it. That was the greatest danger. It would be better for a man to be ignorant of something, but know that he doesn’t know it. Then to be a man who doesn’t know it, but thinks he does. And what these fake classical schools and I would even say, classics departments in modern universities, what they do that’s most dangerous of all, is that they produce students who arrogantly imagine that they’ve studied classical literature, who imagined that they know what they in fact, don’t know. They go into the world with an arrogance that dismisses and mocks and you can you can tell this arrogance, because of the the tone with which these people speak about other authors. They dismiss them as if they’re silly fools. And yet, no one can give an account for how these silly fools were able to turn whole civilizations upside down and change the world. They weren’t kings, they weren’t wealthy, powerful men. They weren’t. Commanders of great armies. They were humble teachers, who have been remembered long after all of the terrible kings and military heroes have been forgotten. And yet these these great wise men are spoken of as if they’re silly, superstitious fools, by arrogant modern teachers and students who imagine that they know things that they don’t know. And this is the kind of arrogance and self deception that Socrates warned about. And of course, he made a career of humiliating these kinds of people through his interrogations. But most of the people who have this attitude aren’t willing to subject themselves to any interrogation. But they always sit in the seat of scoffer or mocker. So before we even discuss why we should study the classical authors, I think we first have to take some time to reflect on the great influence that these men had in the ancient world and even through the medieval world and into the modern world. We need to realize how influential they were. How admirably they were spoken of and how they were remembered and studied generation after generation after generation for centuries and centuries. And allow that reality. To check any lazy and arrogant scoffing against them. If we find someone scoffing at the teachings of the ancient wise men, we can be sure that we’re listening to someone who has no idea what he’s talking about. So first, we need to consider how influential these men were. How these men’s lives and their teachings and their writings created points in history where human society pivoted and moved in a great degree nearer to what would prove to be God’s word. The truth, which was to be revealed, in and through Jesus Christ, and which continues to be made known to us, not by new revelations, but by increasing clarifications through the church. These men’s lives provided pivots in human learning, and changed human civilization. And we need to begin with an attitude of respect for their influence. That’s the first step. Let’s begin by respecting the influence of the classical authors. Second, after we’ve established a general sense of respect for their influence, let’s also respect the circumstances in which they lived and studied and taught. When we talk about men like Pythagoras, and Homer, and Cicero, and Aristotle and Seneca and Epictetus. We’ve got to consider the circumstances in which they lived and taught and wrote and studied and realize that their philosophical and literary achievements were accomplished in times that lacked many of the tools and resources that we enjoy access to. And it’s, it’s often hard for us to remember this, it’s hard for us to imagine what it must have been like, for example, for someone like Heraclitus, to collect and assemble the history of the Persian Wars. With no computers, no libraries, no telephones, no videos, hardly access to any books, even. The work that these men did, was often incomprehensible. We take it for granted, we open up for example, Virgil’s Aeneid, and we just start reading and we start following the story. We read his descriptions of the different places and the different events and characters. And we’re lost in the story of Virgil’s Aeneid without taking a minute and asking ourselves, How in the world does this guy know all this stuff? How does he know what the islands of the Aegean Sea are? Like? How does he know what Troy looks like? How does he know what it’s like in Carthage? How in the world? Did Virgil know these things? And if we start to poke around and and dig into the lives of these different authors, and learn about the works that they produced, we learned that these men traveled the world collecting information over decades and decades to put these works together and when they’re scoffed at or mocked by people who barely get off it Ouch, we can just see the ridiculousness of the criticism. Plenty, for example, traveled all throughout the world, to compose his natural history. Virgil, like I said, spent 20 years putting the Aeneid together. The achievements of these men were incredible, not only for us to think about historically, but in their own generations, their peers, considered them to be superhuman. That’s why they attributed their works to the Muses, they they, they didn’t believe they were within human power, that there had to be some kind of divine influence that enabled them to do this work. And if you’ve ever been in the presence of a real genius, you get that sense that everything just comes so clearly, so quickly, not easily, not easily. Because there is work and there’s art, there’s labor. But it comes with a quality that can’t be imitated. And this was true of these ancient masters, their peers knew that there was something extraordinary about them. And that’s why in their way of thinking, they often deified them, honoring them as gods, and that’s really not as offensive as many people pretend it is today, because their idea of gods were, was very similar to our idea of saints. Imagine if we refer to the saints as gods, that would make a lot more sense out of the ancient Greek and Roman, talk about men who are made gods because of their great deeds. These men lived in pagan civilizations, these men did not have the benefit of divine revelation. As the Jews did, these men did not have a knowledge of the articles of faith, as all Christians do. They didn’t know for example, that the resurrection was possible. They didn’t live after Christ rose from the dead and showed us what eternal life looks like. They lived on the other side of history, wondering what comes after death. They lived immersed in pagan culture where it was very difficult to understand what was right and wrong and based on what standard? How could the end of man even be understood? If things like the resurrection were not yet established. They lived in times where morals were much looser than they are, or I should say that they were. In Christian society, they lived in times where marriage was not till death do us part. They lived in times when men were allowed to have multiple wives or were allowed to have concubines in addition to wives. They lived in times where many thought pedophilia or homosexuality was acceptable. And yet these men thought through these things, and rejected them. These men lived in pre Christian societies and rejected much of the moral behavior that would later be rejected by Christianity. These men often suffered for their opposition to immorality. The most famous example, of course, is Socrates himself. Socrates was put to death by being forced to drink poison because he denied the Greek idea of polytheism which was later also rejected by philosopher like Aristotle. These men were made to suffer. Seneca the Stoic philosopher, was also forced to commit suicide by crazy Nero, who also put to death. Saints Peter and Paul. These ancient philosophers lived in non Christian societies, pre Christian societies, and we can say, anti Christian societies and they chose to live virtuously, they studied to live according to reason, their thoughts about God, were reasonable, based on what information they had access to. And they chose to live according to that reason, which is the whole purpose of human life, to live in accordance with reason. And so we have to be careful, as I said, to judge these men, in light of their circumstances, and when we do so we’ll find that they have much in common with Christian people and with the Christian life, and they’re a great source of inspiration. I know when I was in college, I was a leader of a campus group at Rutgers University, a campus group for Christians at Rutgers University, and I knew what it was like to be persecuted for the sake of the Christian faith. I was often challenged by professors in the middle of large lecture halls, I remember being argued with by the gay and lesbian group at Rutgers when our campus fellowship group used to meet in the evenings in the student center. And while I was going through that, in my own Christian life, I was also reading these classical authors, and I found them to be a source of great inspiration and encouragement, because I thought to myself, these men were willing to suffer for the sake of truth and righteousness. Without any of the spiritual benefits that I enjoy. They were willing to suffer the loss of their lives. So that they could live in accordance with reason. Not so that they could be faithful to Christ, not so that they could offer their lives out of love for their Savior, but simply because it was reasonable. And I found their virtue to be so challenging to me, so inspiring. And very encouraging. Because I knew that the, the ancient wise men, they set the bar for courage, they set the bar for virtuous living. And I thought to myself as a Christian, the Christian life has to start at that bar, and go upwards. And I know that many Christians are not even living according to the virtue that ancient wise men lived before the Christian era, even began. And yet for me, in my thinking, as a Christian, I knew that the virtue of the pagans was where my Christian life needed to begin. And if I didn’t prove myself to be more virtuous than those who are called the virtuous pagans, I couldn’t possibly count myself to be a faithful Christian. So let’s always remember to keep these two things in mind. Remember, to respect these ancient men for the great influence that they had in the ancient world. You influence that our world wouldn’t even make sense without. We have to remember that they investigated complex, complex questions and problems and solve them, which led to advances in human culture without which our society wouldn’t even make sense today. And we need to speak of them with a sense of gratitude. And secondly, we need to admire the achievements that they made in light of the circumstances in which they made them circumstances which were very different from ours. So with those two things in mind, I think we can begin to talk about the ancients, the classical authors, and consider their greatness. Now we can look at Catholic authors like Dante, and we can say, Oh, the Divine Comedy is amazing. But it’s nowhere near as amazing as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, because when Dante wrote His Divine Comedy, he was able to imitate Virgil’s Aeneid, he was able to imitate Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, even Virgil, Virgil was able to imitate the writings of Homer but Homer, Homer was the master. And I encourage you to take up the study of, of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, realize that these works were written 750 years before Christ. There was no one for homer to imitate. There was no previous epic. For homer to study before he started writing his own, he couldn’t write a response or a reaction to a previous work like his own because none existed, and to try to try to think about that, that he produced that almost X Niccolo, as we say out of nothing. That’s what makes the Iliad and the Odyssey, most amazing. Now, what most Christians will do again, with this arrogance, this love of fault finding and criticism, that’s, that’s irrational. They’ll love to read the Iliad and the Odyssey, and find faults, faults in religious teaching faults, in morals and so on. They don’t consider the time when the work was written. They don’t consider the circumstances in which it was written and think about this. Homer could have sought to entertain his audiences. With any subject he pleased, he could have spoken of immoral stories he could have told, crude jokes, as modern comedians do. But what did he choose to sing about? He chose to sing about virtue. He chose to celebrate the courage of Achilles. He chose to celebrate the craftiness of Odysseus. And all through those poems. We have endless lessons on moral virtue. Homer didn’t need to write about such honorable topics. He could have been filthy and immoral. Like many of our authors are today, many of our movie makers are today. He chose to write, or sing, I should say, a virtue. And I’ve taught the Iliad and Odyssey through the years and I’m always amazed at what excellent lessons can be provided out of those texts to teach just about any moral lesson that could be imagined and to make very easy A segues into Christian teaching. And they were composed 750 years before Christ came into the world. So I would encourage you as a starting point for classical literature, to invest some time in reading Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey with the right disposition, with an attitude of respect for Homer as an ancient author, and out of respect for the unparalleled influence that he had in human literature, again, all of the great works that followed, imitated, and responded to Homer. And they should be read with that kind of respect. And if you read them with that disposition, I think you’ll find them incredibly valuable, but only if you read them with that disposition. And this is why our literature courses in the classical liberal arts academy start with a thorough study of the two epics composed by Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Now, there are many, many works in ancient literature. But there are definitely different levels. There are the master works, that I would recommend you spend most of your time on, and then there are minor works that are worth reading. But only if you’ve already become familiar with the major or master works. So in Greek literature, for example, in ancient Greece and will be called Classical Greece, we have Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, which are the master works. And then after them we we get to the Classical Age and I’d recommend the Greek poets, I’m sorry, the Greek playwrights. And one work in particular, that you you should study is the Oedipus Rex. By the poet Sophocles do read Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles it was a play, produced in classical Greece, which tells the story of Oedipus the King. Aristotle considered it to be the greatest story ever told. So begin with Homer. And then read Sophocles, and there are a few other poets worth reading. One is named Euripides. Another is Aesculus. And they’re tragic. playwrights, they write tragic plays. And you’ll see another name Aristophanes, who was a comic playwright. They all have valuable stories in their plays, but I would recommend you spend time reading Oedipus Rex carefully after you’ve read the Iliad and the Odyssey. The other most important works of of Greek literature, would be the histories. There are a number of famous histories you’ll you’ll hear these names, Herodotus and Thucydides. If you’re interested in historical reading, and notice I said if because I don’t necessarily recommend these. But if you’re interested in historical reading, there are two most famous Greek historians, Heraclitus His name is spelled like hero Dotrice. He wrote the history of the wars between Greece and Persia. The history of the Persian Wars that history was recorded by Heraclitus, who’s called the Father of history because he was one of the first authors to ever attempt what we would consider historiography or the writing of a history, the collection of historical details on a period or event at least in the Greek world. So you can read Herodotus, his history of the Persian Wars, and then through acidities through cities, wrote the history of what’s called the Peloponnesian War, which is the war between Sparta and Athens that ultimately led to the collapse of Greek civilization through acidities, the History of the Peloponnesian War. So those are the great Greek historians. So I’ve given you just four or five works, to study from Greek history, but really, I would recommend the Iliad and the Odyssey, give all of your time to them. And if you’re going to go beyond them, read some of the Greek plays, starting with Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, and don’t go much further than that. The reason I say don’t go much further than that, in literature is because you’ve got philosophy to deal with which is where the Greeks are really famous. Greek literature should really focus on philosophy. And their philosophy is profound. Now, their philosophy starts well before Plato and Socrates. In more ancient philosophers like Pythagoras, whose name most of us are familiar with. But very few are familiar with the philosophy of Pythagoras. And there are reasons for that. First of all, it’s very difficult to understand because it’s obscure because the ancient philosophers protected their teaching. He presented his philosophy in terms of mathematics. And it’s very difficult for anyone to understand who hasn’t already studied classical arithmetic and geometry. We can read the writings of Pythagoras today, but you’re not going to find them easily, easily available or understandable. And so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you try to study Pythagoras, you’ll learn enough about Pythagoras. When you read later, philosophers who refer and explain to his doctrines. The main, or most commonly read of the Greek philosophers is Plato. And this is really unfortunate. Plato is famous because his dialogues seem to be easy to read. Many likes to talk about reading Plato, because like I said, it seems easy to read. There are simple dialogues, they’re often quite entertaining. And one can make his way through them and find some interesting lines or passages that can give one a little bit of wit, I guess, and make for some interesting quotes. But the problem with Plato is that his philosophical teaching is buried in those dialogues. And it’s actually very complex. And worst of all, it’s partly false. And so while you can play around on the surface with Plato and read his dialogues and talk about things and maybe, quote, some clever lines of Socrates is discussions, you’re really likely not going to understand Plato’s philosophy. And if you do take the time, to work, to wrap your head around Plato’s actual teaching. It’s going to be time poorly spent because Aristotle is going to prove it to be false. And that brings us to Aristotle. Aristotle lived and wrote in the fourth century. And there’s a reason why he’s referred to as the philosopher by Thomas Aquinas. In his he is the philosopher, He is the great ancient wise man. He is the capital P philosopher, or I should say capital fi philosopher to be exact. But he is the philosopher Aristotle. And like Pythagoras, Aristotle wrote, with an obscure style intentionally making his teaching, difficult to understand, because, as I said, the ancient philosophers took philosophy seriously. And they didn’t want to cast their pearls before swine, they intentionally made the truth of their teaching, difficult to uncover, because they didn’t want pretenders to get a hold of their teachings in some superficial way, and go run with them to try to make money, which is what sophists do, which is what modern scholars do, which is what many people do with classical writing in modern society, they don’t study it, they don’t learn it, they don’t understand it, they learned just enough to appear, to know it, to those who are ignorant. And then they try to use it, they use that appearance of wisdom, to make money. And that’s the kind of sophistry that Aristotle condemned and wanted to guard his teaching from so Aristotle is not going to be studied and understood in any leisure reading. So I wouldn’t recommend Aristotle for leisure reading. If you want to study Aristotle, you really need to commit to formal classical philosophy studies. And I can help you with that in the classical liberal arts academy, but this is why I don’t support the so called Great Books, education, because it’s just superficial and really silly. It’s not a serious approach to classical literature. So to summarize quickly, Greek literature, I would say, focus on the Iliad and the Odyssey. And add to that, Oedipus Rex by Sophocles that will probably keep you busy, for years and years, and you can read and reread The Iliad and The Odyssey. And they just get better and better. The more you read them, like like a great movie that you watch again and again, and keep finding more details, the more you watch it, that’s, that’s what you’ll find in the Iliad and the Odyssey. So that brings us through Greek literature. Outside of that, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t waste much more time in Greek literature, but there is a lot more to be studied if you’re serious. When we come to Roman literature, we find a very different spirit than was found among the Greeks, the Greeks were concerned with philosophy because of the havoc that was being wrought by the Sophists. They were in something of an emergency state the philosophers that is they had to discover the truth, because they were watching sophists destroy their society. And there was nothing that they could do about it until they figured out how to solve the so called arguments of the Sophists. And it was Aristotle, who was the great puzzle solver who exposed the Sophists and taught the entire system of reasoning, and consequently taught in the philosophical sciences. That established philosophical truth that was so well established that 1600 years later, St. Thomas Aquinas would be quoting Aristotle, to defend improve the Catholic faith. So by the time we come to the Roman authors, we really don’t have as much attention given two philosophical investigations. The core truths of philosophy were already established. So we can start with a writer, like Cicero, who is by far the most famous Roman philosopher. And there are a number of philosophical treatises written by Cicero, and what’s great about Cicero’s philosophy is, as I said, the proof found and most complex questions were already established. They were already answered by Aristotle. And so by the time of the Romans, attention focused on the application of that knowledge to more practical questions, and so, when we look at the writings of Cicero, we find him writing treatises on things like friendship, or on old age, dealing with death and so on. We find another treatise by Cicero titled on the nature of the gods. We find another on duties, a moral treatise, where Cicero seeks to systematize in his own way, moral philosophy, and these are easy to read and very helpful, works in practical moral philosophy that I would recommend. I think you would enjoy reading Cicero on friendship on old age, on the nature of the gods and on duties. So I’d recommend Cicero Cicero also wrote on the liberal arts, he wrote works on rhetoric, for example, several works, which would be part of a formal classical education. If you’re interested, if you if you’ve become a fan of Cicero, you you can also read speeches that he gave, which were very influential speeches in the history of Rome. speeches that some say saved Rome from destruction and led to the founding of the Roman Empire, and all of the greatness of Rome, they can be traced back to Cicero. So you can learn about different speeches that Cicero had given. And you can read those full speeches in English translation. In the classical liberal arts academy, we read the Epistles or letters of Cicero, in our Latin reading, to course, just so you know. So Cicero is the great master of Roman literature, and anything you can read from Cicero, as a Christian, I think you’ll enjoy his. He’s more or less stoic, in his philosophical view, and very practical. He was a, he was a lawyer, he was a member of the Roman Senate. He was a politician. And so most of his attention is on practical matters, applying philosophical truth to practical problems, many of which we still face in our day. So it’s, it’s great to study Cicero in Roman literature, and most of his works are available in English translation. After Cicero, if you want to get into poetry, there are two great Roman poets. There are many, but there are two master poets. The first would be Virgil, who wrote The Aeneid, which is Rome’s version of a Homeric epic, which celebrates the origin of the Roman people. This was written by Virgil just before the Christian era, at the time when the Roman Empire was being established. And it tells a story that explains where the Roman people came from and argues that they actually came from Troy. So when the Greeks had defeated Troy, remember the Gods love to Troy that was one of the problems that we read about in the Iliad. And as we read of Odysseus is sailing home after the Trojan War, there was another, another famous person sailing away from Troy and that was the Trojan a NIS, and a NIS, in Virgil’s poem, the Anointed sails from Troy, back to what we now refer to as Italy and becomes the founder of the race of men that would one day become the mighty Romans. And so the Aeneid is sort of the epic poem that explains this destined Rise of the Roman people right at the time when the Roman Empire was being established. This again is Virgil’s Aeneid and we also read this in the academies literature courses. We read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and then we read Virgil’s Aeneid Second grade Roman poet or master poet is Ovid ov ID of it or sometimes it’s pronounced Ovid in English. He wrote a work, and most famous work called the metamorphosis of its metamorphosis. Most of the mythological stories and legends that you’ve heard of came from of its metamorphosis. So if you want to learn about the Roman view of the origin of the world, and all of the gods and goddesses and mythological stories, they’re all found in of its metamorphosis. So, the two great poets as I said, the two master poets of Roman civilization would be Virgil, his needed, which is the story of Eneas and the founding of the Roman people. And Ovid, his metamorphosis, which is the source of all of the mythological teaching of Roman mythology. Now, what’s very important to understand about Virgil and Ovid is that they became very influential in European literature. Christians took the mythology of Ovid and moralized it, they treated it like it was allegorical and use it to teach moral lessons. So we find a great deal of reference and well, I should say many references back to the metamorphosis throughout Christian literature, most importantly, in the writings of Shakespeare. So if you want to study Shakespeare, you’re going to find that Shakespeare is very difficult to understand, if you don’t already know the great classical poets. So Virgil and Ovid, the great Roman poets. The other important authors that I would mention from Roman civilization would be two more philosophers, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. Seneca was a stoic philosopher he served under the Emperor Nero, and, according to tradition, corresponded with St. Paul and converted to Christianity before he died. Seneca wrote many moral epistles and he also wrote plays, I should mention that he was a playwright himself, and he wrote, he wrote to apply and teach the moral philosophy of the stoics. Very easy to read, very practical, very, very helpful for Christians in understanding true moral philosophy. So I’d recommend the writings of Cicero I’m sorry, Seneca. Seneca is moral epistles and moral essays. And if you get through those and like Seneca you can get into his plays his tragedies. The other philosopher I mentioned was Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius was another stoic philosopher. He was a Roman Emperor. If you’ve ever seen the movie Gladiator, the wise old emperor that was living at the beginning of the movie that was supposed to be Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius lived in the second century of the Christian era. And as I said, he was that he was an emperor of Rome, Anna, and a stoic philosophy, he wrote a work called the meditations, which was something of a philosophical journal that he kept, which is considered one of the greatest works of Western civilization very influential, until modern times when men stopped reading stuff like that. So I would look into the writings of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. And that will provide you with enough material to keep yourself busy. And in those works beyond those works, I really wouldn’t recommend anything else. Because I think the best thing that you could do is immerse yourself in those writings and become very, very familiar with all the details of them, I think you’ll find them incredibly helpful as a Christian. And, again, to get back to the original question that I started with in this talk, why study the classical authors? This is my answer, and I mentioned it before when I talked about my experience in college The reason why reading the classical authors is so important is because when we, when we see how high they reached, in their pursuit of truth, in their pursuit of moral virtue, we see the bar is set, the bar of natural human ability, human beings, seeking truth and virtue by means of reason, alone, set the bar. And if we study the classical authors, and we learn how high that bar was set, when we consider our Christian lives, will be challenged to realize that the Christian life has to start here. It has to start where this bar has been set. And by the grace of God by the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, Christians should rise above and beyond that bar. And if we don’t, we really have to ask the question, what exactly are we doing? If we’re less zealous for the truth than the pagans were? What are we really doing? If we’re less virtuous, and we live with lower moral standards than the pre Christian pagans did? Then what are we really doing, talking about? The Christian life because Christ came to teach the way of perfection, he came to perfect human learning, he came to lead us above and beyond the abilities of human philosophy, of human invention of human creativity. And if we’re not rising above the bar that was set by the pagan poets and philosophers and historians, and working harder than they did, now that we have so much more light and so much more power available to us in the sacramental life, what are we really doing? It’s to challenge ourselves in that way, and to set the bar for human ability so that we’re challenged to rise above it. That I believe is the reason to study the classical authors. I hope that’s helpful. God bless
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Mr. William C. Michael, O.P. is the founding headmaster of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. Mr. Michael is a Lay Dominican in the Catholic Church and is a homeschooling father to ten children, all of whom have studied in the Academy. He graduated from Rutgers University with an honors degree in Classics & Ancient History, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and is currently studying at Harvard University. Mr. Michael has worked in private education as a Classics teacher and administrator for over 20 years. Mr. Michael is known for his talks on the Academy YouTube channel and his sponsorship of Classical Catholic Radio.