Church Simplified Classics

Authors: Rev. Alfred J. Church
Dates: 1879–1909
Publisher: McMillan & co., New York; Seeley & co., London

Rev. Alfred J. Church is one of the most prolific authors that can be found on the pages of Heritage History. Trained as a classicist, he began writing books for a general reading audience in the late 1870’s. His first books were simplified classics, and although he wrote in many other genres, he is most well known as an author who rewrote a variety of classical works, mostly from Latin and Greek, in manner that is accessible and entertaining to the non-scholar, and yet retains a great deal of the flavor and scope of the original. His two books based on Herodotus for example, The Persian War, and Stories from Herodotus are a reworking of much of the most famous sections of Herodotus’ Histories. Church’s versions are much less cumbersome than the original, but retain the same flavor, humor, and style of the original. His Stories from Greek Tragedians, and Stories from Greek Comedians provide significantly abridged versions of many famous Greek plays, but use excerpts from some of the best English translations at key points in order to preserve the humor, depth and cadence of the original. His summaries communicate not only the basic plot line, but also the poetry of the classical playwrights.

Two of Church’s first works, translated and simplified from the original Latin, were Stories From Livy and Stories from Virgil. In Last Days of Jerusalem, Church recounts the fall of Jerusalem, as told by the historian Josephus. Other works from Greek and Latin sources include Sicilian Expedition which is based on Thucydides account, and The Greek Gulliver based on Lucan.

In addition to these ancient classics however, Church wrote modern renditions of several mediaeval classics. Fairie Queen and Her Knights is based on the famous poem by Spenser. Stories of Charlemagne is based on the Caxton translation of the great classics of Chivalry, and Stories of the Magicians, which are retellings of several famous Persian Hero stories, are based on Southey’s Oriental Romances. In each Church book reflects the tone of the original. This is particularly noticeable in the mediaeval romances, where the Swashbuckling bravado of the great age of chivalry is especially well preserved.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Stories From Livy   by Alfred J. Church   78 credits
This is a faithful rendition of Livy's History of Rome, but simplified for the general reader. It covers the period from the founding of Rome through the Samnite Wars (about 750 to 300 B.C.). Famous stories of the Roman kings, and such early heroes as Horatius, Coriolanus, Cincinnatus, Camillus, Manlius, and Mucius Scaevola are related.

Last Days of Jerusalem: From Josephus   by Alfred J. Church   48 credits
Based on War of the Jews by Josephus, this book tells the dramatic story of the bravery, fanaticism, and treachery which lead to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Josephus was an eyewitness to the events, first as Jewish leader in a neighboring town that fell to the Romans, then as Roman captive. He tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the zealots holding Jerusalem and save the city from destruction.

Stories of Charlemagne and the Twelve Peers of France   by Alfred J. Church   113 credits
In these stories taken from the Charlemagne Romances, the swashbuckling bravado of the great age of chivalry is well preserved. Stories of Reynaud, Fierabras, Roland, Oliver, and Huon are all told with much gusto. Modern renditions of these stories sometimes tone down the comical bluster of these stories and thereby miss the humor in them. This is not so of Church's version.

Stories of the Magicians   by Alfred J. Church   93 credits
These stories from the Persian chronicles have been retold with great skill by a master storyteller. In addition to many well-known stories about the Persian hero Rustem, the Stories of the Thalaba and Kehama are also given. Most of the legends in this book pertain to the doing of magicians and sorcerers who read the stars, cast spells and bestow magic power on people.

Stories from Virgil   by Alfred J. Church  


Fairie Queen and her Knights   by Alfred J. Church