Trivium Pursuit

Evaluating Ancient Authors

Excerpt from Ancient History From Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn

(pages 14-15)

General Guidelines

This book can be used profitably by youth (twelve and up) as well as by adults. However, each family has its own standards, and a parent should not assume that all literary selections meet their standards of appropriateness for their children. In classical literature, particularly Greek and Roman literature, one may occasionally encounter suggestive and descriptive passages of foul and degenerate thought and behavior which are simply inappropriate for anyone, and particularly inappropriate for children.

In the “Timeline of Ancient Literature,” we have taken care to cite better examples of literature, but even in some of the best literature, an author will sometimes insert an occasional (and unnecessary) comment which many parents will not find acceptable. (We may compare this to modern media, which often inserts a moment of unnecessary profanity, lewdness, or depravity in the middle of what might otherwise be an acceptable presentation.) So we recommend that a parent or teacher read the literature first, then make an independent determination regarding its acceptability.

Below, we have divided Greek and Roman authors into three main classifications according to our own considered opinion of general standards of “acceptability,” with several categories within each classification. None of these classifications is absolute, and we note only a few of the many exceptions.

1. Authors Who Are Useful
(But Should Be Pre-Read)

Generally speaking, the more useful works are found in the categories of history, geography, biography, oratory, rhetoric, logic, grammar, science, medicine, mathematics, architecture, military, agriculture, and fables. We recommend that they be pre-read by parents. Remember, all of these works are written from a pagan worldview, so none of them can be considered truly “neutral.”

Historians, Geographers, & Biographers

Ammianus
Appian of Alexandria
Aristotle
Arrian
Augustus
Dio Cassius
Diodorus Siculus
Diogenes Laertius
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Eusebius
Eutropius
Herodian
Herodotus
Josephus
Julian the Apostate
Julius Caesar
Justin
Livy
Lucan
Nepos
Nicolaus of Damascus
Pausanias
Philo
Plutarch
Polybius
Priscus
Quintus Curtius
Sallust
Socrates Scholasticus
Sozomen
Strabo
Suetonius
Tacitus
Theodoret
Theodosius II
Thucydides
Velleius
Xenophon

Orators

Aeschines
Antiphon
Cicero
Demosthenes
Dio Chrysostom
Isocrates
Lysias
Pericles (included in Thucydides)
Pliny the Younger

Rhetoricians, Logicians, & Grammarians

Aristotle
Cicero
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Gellius
Quintilian
Varro

Scientists, Physicians, Mathematicians, Architects, Military, & Agriculture

Aristarchus
Aristotle
Archimedes
Cato the Elder
Celsus
Eratosthenes
Euclid
Frontinus
Galen
Hippocrates
Nicomachus of Gerasa
Pliny the Elder
Varro
Vegetius
Vitruvius

Fables

Aesop
Avianus

2. Authors for Mature Christians

After they are firmly grounded in Christian philosophy and theology, more mature Christians may read the philosophers and the Christian apologists. Remember, there is nothing truly neutral about the philosophers, and even the Christian apologists have many unbiblical ideas in their thinking.

Philosophers

Anaxagorus
Anaximander
Aristotle
Cicero – Stoic
Epictetus – Stoic
Epicurus – founder of Epicurean school
Lucretius – Epicurean
Marcus Aurelius – Stoic
Philo – Jewish
Plato
Pyrrho – founder of Skeptic school
Pythagoras
Seneca – Stoic
Socrates (found in Plato and Xenophon)
Thales – first philosopher
Xenophon – follower of Socrates
Zeno – founder of Stoic school

Christian Apologists
(Some of these writings may be appropriate for younger students, but many of these writings are philosophical in nature.)

Ambrose
Aristides
Athanasius
Augustine
Clement of Alexandria
Clement of Rome
Commodianus
Cyprian
Ignatius
Irenaeus
Jerome
John Chrysostom
Justin Martyr
Lactantius
Origen
Prudentius
Salvian
Tertullian
Theodoret

3. Authors with Much Questionable and Graphic Content

With few exceptions, the poets, satirists, tragedians, and comedians wrote questionable and graphic content which is simply inappropriate. Mature adults who have a special purpose may find a need to handle this material, but put on the chore boots first, and take a thorough shower after you’re finished.

Poets and Satirists
(Some exceptions: The political poetry of Solon and Tyrtaeus is useful. Virgil’s Georgics may be useful. Lucian’s Life of Peregrinus is useful.)

Catullus
Hesiod
Homer
Horace
Juvenal
Lucian of Samosata
Lucilius
Martial
Menander
Ovid
Pindar
Sappho
Solon
Theocritus
Tyrtaeus
Virgil

Tragedians and Comedians
(Exception: The historical play The Persians by Aeschylus may be useful.)

Accius
Aeschylus
Aristophanes
Ennius
Euripides
Pacuvius
Plautus
Seneca
Sophocles
Terence

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