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4.09.2017

Take advantage of the old pedagogues

Every Christian should read Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Not because, as some did in the past, to match historical events with the Book of Revelation (Historicism) but to see the patterns of history nevertheless (which does help with reading Revelation). To also get a general, classic presentation of the nature of power and the nature of human nature itself. To get perspective and understanding from where we stand in history and in the events of our own country and culture and civilization.

Since, though, Roman history is divided into three main sections: the Kingdom; the Republic; and the Empire; it may be useful, before reading Gibbon (which gives a complete history of the third section, the Empire) to glance through the Kingdom and Republic parts.

For that there is a book written in 1885 by an American educator and founder of a college (a pedagogue with interest in educating young people with easy-to-read yet serious overviews of various subject matter, a type of writer that seemed prominent in the 19th century) named Arthur Gilman. He wrote a book titled The Story of Rome from the Earliest Times to the End of the Republic. See, he gives the Kingdom and the Republic part of Roman history. Gibbon covers the Empire from there.

You can find Gilman's book for free at Amazon's Kindle store (and probably at other internet sites that have old books in electronic formats). It's free, it's well-written, it's worth it.

Along the same lines there is a similar writer from the same century, though in this case an Englishman, who wrote an incredibly helpful book on the Peloponnesian War. Reading Thucydides is a difficult task. It's difficult to envision the geography and events and timeline of the action. The book I'm talking about is by H. L. Havell titled Stories from Thucydides. The title makes it sound like a book written for children, but it's not. It's a good 400 pages and follows Thucydides' history closely, but just narrates it in a way that makes the entire narrative easy to envision and get perspective on. If you've read through Thucydides once, as I have, and then you read this book there will be a lot of 'Ah's and "OK, now I see" and so forth. It really is a necessary book to get understanding of Thucydides classic history. Not even modern books written with the intent of making Thucydides easier to grasp come close to the usefulness and competence of this book. Well worth looking for. It's free too at Amazon Kindle or any other site that has free, old books in electronic formats.

PS: Another similar writer from the 19th century is Alfred John Church, or A. J. Church. He may be focused on younger people, but it's a similar vein.

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