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Ancient Greece—Book Summaries

    Comprehensive History     Military History     Biography
    Mythology     Adapted Literature     Historical Fiction

 
Colored stars indicate texts of special interest or importance.
Red Stars indicate comprehensive histories. Most study questions are based on these texts.
Gold Stars indicate recommended books of exceptional interest and quality.
Green Stars are assigned to high quality, but easy-to-read books for younger readers.
Black Stars indicate that only selected chapters pertain to the subject civilization.

Click on Title Link to add Book to Reading List.         Reading credits indicate book length.
 

Comprehensive History

Stories from Greek History   by Ethelwyn Lemon   36 credits
In this short, but beautifully told book, only six of the many inspiring stories from Geek History could be told. They include the story of Solon, the law-giver of Athens, Themistocles and the battle of Salamis, Pelopidas and Epaminondas and the Boeotian Wars, Timoloen and the liberation of Sicily, Demosthenes, the orator of Athens, and Alexander the Great.

Famous Men of Greece   by John Haaren   94 credits
Biographical sketches of thirty-five of the most prominent characters in Greek history, from legendary times to the fall of Greece. It begins with the great heroes of Greek Mythology and then follows prominent Greek leaders from the earliest days of Spartan and Athens to the decline of Greece during the Hellenistic era . Each story is told in a clear, simple manner and is well calculated to awaken the youthful imagination.

Story of the Greeks   by Helene Guerber   116 credits
Elementary history of Greece, made up principally of stories about persons, giving at the same time a clear idea of the most important events in the ancient world and calculated to enforce the lessons of perseverance, courage, patriotism, and virtue that are taught by the noble lives described. Beginning with the legends of Jason, Theseus, and events surrounding the Trojan War, the narrative moves on to present the contrasting city-states of Sparta and Athens, the war against Persia, their conflicts with each other, the feats of Alexander the Great, and annexation by Rome.

Story of Greece   by Mary Macgregor   167 credits
These stories from the history of ancient Greece begin with myths and legends of gods and heroes and end with the conquests of Alexander the Great. The book is accessible and well organized, but it is considerably more detailed than some other introductory texts. It covers Greek history from the age of Mythology to the rise of Alexander, but because of its length we do not recommend it for 5th grade or younger. It is an excellent reference, thoroughly engaging, and a good candidate for a somewhat older student's first foray into Greek history.

Story of the Greek People   by E. M. Tappan   114 credits
This introductory history of Greece spends some time discussing the customs, habits and home life of common people, as well as covering all the major characters and events in Ancient Greek history. Tappan dedicates the first few chapters to introducing some of the most important myths and legends of Greece, and then presents a comprehensive, concise history from the age of Lycurgus until Alexander the Great. This text was written for classroom use and Includes discussion questions and ideas for written assignments, but it is still highly engaging.

Greek Gods - Heroes - and Men   by S. B. Harding   59 credits
The major portion of this books tells delightful stories of the Greek Gods and Heroes of old. Included are the Gods of Olympus as well as lesser known stories such as that of Helios, Eros, and Pan. The stories of the well know Greek Heroes, both mythical and real-life follow. The stories of Lycurgus and Leonidas follow those of Jason and Theseus in such a way that the distinction between myth and true history seems almost blurred.

On the Shores of the Great Sea   by M. B. Synge   78 credits
Book I of the Story of the World series. Focuses on the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea from the time of Abraham to the birth of Christ. Brief histories of the Ancient Israelites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Scythians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans are given, concluding with the conquest of the entire Mediterranean by Rome. Important myths and legends that preceded recorded history are also related.

Stories of the Ancient Greeks   by Charles D. Shaw   103 credits
Delightful collection of mythological and historical stories of the ancient Greeks, written for youngsters, yet appealing to all ages. This book provides an excellent introduction to ancient Greece, beginning with dozens of the best-known myths and then continuing with short history stories in chronological order.

Historical Tales: 10—Greek   by Charles Morris   141 credits
Starting from the destruction of Troy, the author of this book has emphasized the most important stories from Greek history, and rewritten them in detail in a manner especially interesting to young adults. Familiar characters such as Lycurgus, Xerxes, and Socrates are introduced, but so are more obscure characters such as Polycrates, Democedes, and Timoleon. Morris is a terrific author and these retellings provide an excellent review for anyone whose Greek History needs an enjoyable refresher.

Pictures from Greek Life and Story   by Alfred J. Church   102 credits
This is not a comprehensive history of Greece, but rather a series of stories and anecdotes pertaining to the golden age of Athens, from the age of Solon (about 600 B.C.) to the death of Socrates (400 B.C.). Although a few Spartans and Thebans (Leonidas, Pausanias, Epaminondas) are mentioned, the heroes of Athens: Miltiades, Aristides, Themistocles, Pericles, Alcibiades and others are the central characters. Rather than giving an introductory account, this books assumes a familiarity with Greek history and tells the stories of its heroes in fascinating detail appropriate for high school or older students.

Stories of the East From Herodotus   by Alfred J. Church   79 credits
This book is based on the "Histories" of Herodotus and relates many stories concerning the Persian empire, including the histories of Croesus, Cyrus the Great, Cambyses, and Darius. Many interesting stories about Egypt, India, Scythia, Babylon, and Tyre are also given. This version preserves most of the detail and style of the original, but is rendered in simpler language. It is so well edited that it provides much of the benefit of reading Herodotus in the original, with only a fraction of the effort.


Military History

Story of the Persian War   by Alfred J. Church   82 credits
This book is based on the Histories of Herodotus and covers the period from the Ionian revolt against Darius to the final battles of the Persian War at Salamis and Plataea. Herodotus is the most complete account we have of this period of Greek history. Church's rendition preserves the tone and style of the original, but is rendered in simpler language. It is very well edited, and concise, so it provides much of the benefit of reading Herodotus in the original, with much less effort. The story of the Persian War includes terrific insight into both Greek and Persian machinations and is thoroughly engaging.

Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition   by Alfred J. Church   43 credits
The Sicilian Expedition was the greatest debacle of the Peloponnesian War, and did more to destroy the empire of Athens than any other event. Church follows Thucydides' account faithfully and provides great insight into the internal politics of Athens during this period, as well as detailed accounts of important battles and the character of the Athenian generals. The books should be of great interest to anyone who enjoys military history.

Helmet and Spear   by Alfred J. Church   112 credits
This fascinating military history provides a review of some of the most important conflicts of Ancient times in an engaging manner, rich in detail. Six clashes between the Ancient civilizations and their barbarian neighbors are covered: the Persian invasion of Greece, the fight between Greece and Carthage for Sicily, the Macedonian invasion of Persia, the Punic Wars, Rome's early encounters with Barbarian Celts and Germans, and Rome's fall to the Barbarians.

Retreat of the Ten Thousand   by F. Younghusband   80 credits
This book is based on the Xenophon's famous Anabasis, an account of the tribulations of 10,000 Greek Mercenaries who were trapped in hostile Persian territory, over 3000 miles from the sea. Although they were surrounded by enemies on all sides, their reputation as vigorous warriors provided some protection, and most returned to the coast of Asia Minor safely after a series of misadventures.


Biography

Children's Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks   by F. J. Gould   64 credits
The Children's Plutarch provides a brief biography of most of the Greeks that Plutarch wrote lives for, including Solon, Lycurgus, Aristides, Lysander, Agis, Agesilaus, Demosthenes, Alexander, Dion, Timoleon, and many others. The essays are not complete biographies, but brief sketches that usually illustrate a few simple moral lessons about the character of the subject. The complexity level is very appropriate for younger children.

Plutarch's Lives   by W. H. Weston   167 credits
This is our favorite rendition of Plutarch's Lives. Instead of including all fifty biographies, Weston focuses only on twelve of Plutarch's most famous subjects. His work is therefore able to retain a great deal more of the character of Plutarch's original narrative than more highly condensed versions. Since Plutarch was a moral philosopher as well as a biographer, retaining the tone and dialogue of the original collection is key to understanding his contribution to Western thought. Plutarch's complete lives run over a thousand pages. This is an excellent condensation.

Old World Hero Stories   by E. M. Tappan   58 credits
The short biographies of important characters of ancient Greece and Rome given in this books are most appropriate for beginning students. They are best read in conjunction with introductory histories because the author can only provide limited context in the space available. Some of the subjects include Homer, Lycurgus, Solon, Xerxes, Pericles, Plato, Alexander, Cincinnatus, Hannibal, Caesar, Augustus, and many others.

Cyrus the Great   by Jacob Abbott   77 credits
Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Persian Empire, and the story of his life gives great insights into the politics of the empires of central Asia in the sixth century B.C. Highlights of Cyrus's history include his romantic childhood, his conquest of Media with the aid of traitors from his grandfather's court, the story of Croesus--wealthy king of Lydia, the sieges of Tyre and Babylon, the restoration of the Jews, and the ill-fated campaign in Scythia.

Darius the Great   by Jacob Abbott   78 credits
The story of Darius began with Cambyses' ascension to the Persian throne and his subsequent conquest of Egypt. On Cambyses' death, a usurper assumed the throne. Darius dispatched the usurper and was awarded the throne. He then embarked on a series of misadventures including a thwarted excursion to Scythia, crushing a rebellion in Ionia, and two unsuccessful campaigns to conquer Greece, including the famous battle of Marathon.

Xerxes   by Jacob Abbott   82 credits
On the demise of Darius, the Persian throne descended to his son Xerxes. After putting down a rebellion in Egypt, he formed a plan to invade Greece with an enormous army drawn from every province of the vast Persian Empire. The land battles of Thermopylae and Plataea as well as the naval battles of Artemisium, Salamis, and Mycale are described here, complete with the complicated but heroic stratagems of the Greek hero Themistocles.

Alexander the Great   by Jacob Abbott   75 credits
Although Alexander ruled only thirteen years, his conquests are among the most significant in world history. Abbott's history covers his childhood influences, his early conquests in Greece, and his major battles in Persia, including Granicus River, Issus, the Siege of Tyre, and Gaugamela. The story concludes with the decline and corruption of Alexander's character, resulting in his early death at age thirty-three.

Pyrrhus   by Jacob Abbott   83 credits
The decades following the death of Alexander the Great involved a long and complicated series of wars between his generals, which split his empire. Pyrrhus, a prince of Epirus, was a leading historical character during this time, and Abbott uses his life to illuminate the entire era. Other characters including Alexander's villainous mother Olympias and his trusted advisor Antipater figure prominently in this story. Pyrrhus himself is a fascinating character, combining great talent and energy with fatal weaknesses.

Our Young Folks' Plutarch   by Rosalie Kaufman   259 credits
Our Young Folks' Plutarch is an excellent reference book for anyone studying Greek or Roman History. The author provides shortened, but still thorough biographies of every life that Plutarch wrote--over fifty characters from ancient times in all. Missing of course, is much of Plutarch's original commentary and his comparisons between Greeks and Romans, but that is unavoidable in a significantly abridged work.


Mythology

Story of the Golden Age of Greek Heroes   by James Baldwin   104 credits
This book paves the way to an enjoyable reading of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey by presenting the legends about the causes of the Trojan War in a continuous narrative, ending where the story of the Iliad begins. The youthful Odysseus is the hero as he journeys to visit his grandfather Autolycus, then Nestor and Menelaus, hearing the old stories as he goes.

Old Greek Stories   by James Baldwin   72 credits
Baldwin recounts many legends and stories from Ancient Greek in manner appropriate to grammar school children. Most of the Greek tales are told in the manner of fairy tales and should be appealing to students of any age. Some of the more famous stories retold in this volume include the legends of Atlanta, Cadmus and Europa, Prometheus, Io and Hera, and Medusa.

Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew   by J. P. Peabody   38 credits
The little book of Old Greek Folk Stories, written in the late 1800's was written to supplement the myths told in Hawthorne's classics, the Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales. It is shorter and simpler than Hawthorne's work and appropriate for younger children. Some of the characters it features include Prometheus, who brought fire to earth, Orpheus, the most talented of musicians, the cunning Daedalus who created the Labyrinth on Crete, Phaethon, Apollo, and many other well-known gods and heroes.

Book of Myths   by Jeanie Lang   147 credits
The stories of thirty-four mythical characters, primarily from Greek folklore and presented in this beautifully written and illustrated volume. The stories are written with great interest at about a middle school level. Pygmalion, Atalanta, Arachne, Niobe, Hyancithus, King Midus, Echo and Narcissus, and Icarus are only a few of the wonderful Greek stories told. Other myths include the stories of Lorelei, Freya, Baldur, Roland and Deirdre.

Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles   by Padraic Colum   119 credits
This book is a very well-known retelling of the story of Jason and the Argonauts appropriate for young teens. It includes tales of their various adventures and tells the stories of many of the Argonauts, including Atlanta, Theseus, and Hercules. It is still in print and has been popular with young people since it was first published over 90 years ago.

Golden Porch   by W. M. L. Hutchinson   87 credits
This book of Greek Myths takes an unusual approach and covers some material that is not commonly covered in children's stories. It is based on the Odes of Pindar rather than traditional mythology. It includes several well-known stories, such as the tale of Jason and the birth of Castor and Pollux, but also several much lesser known tales, as told by one of the greatest of the Greek Poets of the Classic age.

Greek Heroes   by Charles Kingsley   100 credits
Kingsley was a romantic British writer of the Victorian age. In this children's book he focuses on only three Greek heroes: Perseus, Jason, and Theseus. This allows him to tell their stories in detail with great interest. Like many Victorians, Kingsley was a moralist and his rendition develops the heroes in considerable depth.

Wonder Book for Girls and Boys   by N. Hawthorne   96 credits
The Wonder Book was written in the mid 1800, and is one of Hawthorne's most popular classics for children. It re-tells the stories of six classic Greek legends in considerable detail and with delightful literary flourish. The subjects are the legends of Perseus, Midas, Pandora's Box, Philemon and Baucus, Bellerophon and Pegasus, and the Garden of Hesperides.

Tanglewood Tales   by N. Hawthorne   73 credits
Following the enormous success of the Wonder Book Hawthorne produced another volume of Greek legends rewritten for children. This time his subjects are Theseus and the Minotaur, Antaeus and the Pygmies, Cadmus and the Dragons' teeth, Circe, Prosperina and Pluto, and Jason and the Golden Fleece. Each story is beautifully told in much detail. Tanglewood Tales was equally popular and both books have been American children's classics for over one hundred and fifty years.


Adapted Literature

Stories from the Iliad Told to the Children   by Jeanie Lang   39 credits
This version of Homer's Iliad is part of the Told to the Children series. It is greatly condensed, beautifully illustrated, and recounted in a suitable manner for younger children. The story of The Iliad, begins with the legend of the goddesses and the golden apple, and ends with the death of Hector, but does not include the fall of Troy. A good first introduction to Homer for young grammar school students.

Stories from the Odyssey Told to the Children   by Jeanie Lang   39 credits
This short version of Homer's Odyssey is part of the Told to the Children series. It is significantly shorted, nicely illustrated, and told in a manner that is suitable for young children. The adventures of Odysseus, a Greek soldier returning from the Trojan war, begin in the land of the Lotus Eater, and continue with his encounters with Cyclopes, Circe, the Sirens, and Calypso before he returns home to Ithaca, where his faithful wife Penelope awaits him.

Aesop for Children   by Milo Winter   82 credits
This beautifully illustrated version of Aesop's fables is one of the most popular renditions of Aesop's Fables ever published. It is just as delightful for adults and older children as it is for beginning readers, and like much of the other literature that descends to us from Ancient Greece, reminds us of the sophisticated wisdom of the classical sages. The illustrations are exceptional and make these delightful stories even more memorable.

Iliad for Boys and Girls   by Alfred J. Church   63 credits
Vigorous retelling of Homer's Iliad, relating the incidents of the great siege of Troy, from the quarrel of the chiefs to the ransoming of Hector's body. This versions provides a more complicated retelling of Homer's famous than some other adaptations, but is still directed at intermediate students rather than young adults. Alfred Church was a British high school instructor whose career was dedicated to popularizing the classics for young people and this is one of his most well-known books.

Odyssey for Boys and Girls   by Alfred J. Church   62 credits
This lively version of Homer's Odyssey tells of the wanderings of Ulysses and his adventures with the giant Cyclops and the enchantress Circe as he makes his way home to his beloved Ithaca. There, after slaying the suitors who have been wooing his wife Penelope, he is reunited with his family after twenty long years. This version is especially appropriate for middle school students because it highlights many details that are usually omitted in children's version, and yet is still very accessible to younger teens.

Stories from the Greek Tragedians   by Alfred J. Church   78 credits
Many of the most famous Greek Tragedies by Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus are collected in this work. Some dialogue is retained to preserve the flavor of the original, but much of the book is prose summaries. Stories include Seven Against Thebes, Antigone, the Death of Hercules, the Vengeance of Medea, the Oresteia Trilogy, Alcestis, and others.

Stories from the Greek Comedians   by Alfred J. Church   137 credits
Many of Aristophanes' most famous plays, including Frogs, Wasps, Clouds, Birds, Parliament of Women, and others, are presented in this book. Church preserves enough dialogue and verse to give a flavor of the originals, but greatly condenses the material. Most of Aristophanes plays were set against the backdrop of the Peloponnesian War, and his works provide insight into the internal politics of Athens during this time. Several plays from later playwrights, including Philemon, Meander, and Apollodorus, are also given.


Historical Fiction

Our Little Athenian Cousin of Long Ago   by Julia D. Cowles   43 credits
This book tells the story of an Athenian boy named Hiero who lived in Athens during the age of Pericles, around the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. One of the main characters is a sculptor and the story emphasizes the artistic achievements of the Greeks during the golden age of the Athenian empire.

Our Little Spartan Cousin of Long Ago   by Julia D. Cowles   57 credits
This book tells the story of Chartas, a young Spartan growing up during the years immediately preceding the Persian War. Many Spartan customs are described and the manner in which young boys were raised from an early age to be soldiers is well portrayed. The book closes before the famous battle of Thermopylae, but the events in Greece leading up to the war are covered and several well-known Spartans who played a role in that conflict are introduced.

Spartan Twins   by Lucy F. Perkins   43 credits
This book provides an excellent glimpse into the lives of two young Spartan children. Ten-year-old Dion and Daphne live the simple life of Spartans on an island near Athens. One day their father takes them on a journey to Athens, where they admire for the first time the splendor of the city. During their visit they become involved in several adventures and meet the great leader Pericles.

Three Greek Children: A Story of Home in Old Time   by Alfred J. Church   57 credits
This is Church's only book of historical fiction intended for grammar school students. It is a story of three Athenian children growing up during the Peloponnesian War, attended by their Spartan nurse. It does not actually focus much on the historical events of the war, but instead relates many legends, fables, and hero stories relating to Greek history as they are told to the children by their elders.

Callias - The Fall of Athens   by Alfred J. Church   128 credits
This story follows Callias, a young Athenian, through the last days of the Peloponnesian War. He participates in the battles of Arginusae and Aegospotami and is present during the siege of Athens. He visits Alcibiades in exile, befriends Socrates, and accompanies Xenophon on the Retreat of the Ten Thousand. As part of Socrates' inner circle, he hears a first hand account of his trial and death before being caught up himself in post-war politics in Athens.

Young Macedonian in the Army of Alexander the Great   by Alfred J. Church   108 credits
This story follows two friends, one a Greek, one a Macedonian, who join Alexander's army for the invasion of Persia. They meet during the destruction of Thebes and are present at all of Alexander's major battles, including Granicus River, Issus, the Siege of Tyre, and Gaugamela. The change in Alexander's character from a brave and generous noble to a corrupted and impulsive libertine is well drawn.

Hammer   by Alfred J. Church   135 credits
This story is based on the first book of Maccabees from the Old Testament. It is set during the Macedonian occupation of Judea (around 250 B.C.), a very critical period in Jewish history, and tells the story of a young Jewish man who is first attracted to the "modern" Greek way of life, but eventually joins the Maccabee brothers in their desperate revolt against their Macedonian overlords. The conflict between the cosmopolitan and decadent Greek manner of life, and the customs of traditional Judaism is well portrayed .