While any student eagerly awaiting their departure for an Abbey Roads trip is most likely very well-prepared for the amazing opportunity that awaits them, I personally felt like I wanted to add to my knowledge of Ancient Civilizations by reading some books and watching some movies that depicted relevant information on the topics I will be studying on my trip. This list will be specific preparation to the Abbey Roads program that I will be attending in particular (Western Civilization), so if you have any interest in this program or in Ancient and Classical Civilizations, read on!
This book is one of the main reasons I became interested in Ancient Greece. I absolutely fell in love with classic tales and ancient legends, and whether you are in grade school or just happen to want to break into the world of Greek Mythology, this is the perfect introduction. With beautiful illustrations and easy-to-read breakdowns of some of the most famous mythological tales, I could not recommend this more highly. While some may argue that this is indeed technically a children’s book, studying mythology of any kind can often get confusing and lost in translation, and I have yet to find a better compilation of some of my favorite stories than D’Aulaires’.
While many may consider tackling this arguably most ageless tale of all time daunting, I believe that any lover of classics must at least attempt to understand a basic summary of this story. My personal favorite translation is that of Robert Fagles- the text is very accessible and very highly acclaimed for its precise translation (and is also not to mention the best selling translation as well). Often considered the “greatest epic of Western literature” and referenced numerous times in both pop culture and daily conversation (not to mention other works of literature), this is a must-read!
Of course, the second of Homer’s epic poems have also made my list of must reads- or at least is worth a quick scan. This tale perfectly encompasses both Greek Mythology and the daily life of ancient heroes during the build-up to the Trojan war. This edition/translation by Robert Fagles is just as understandable and best-selling as his translation of the Odyssey- and I believe the two not only go perfectly hand in hand but present beautiful tales and accounts of adventure- making it a perfect summer read.
While I admittedly have not yet tackled this text, I am more than prioritizing this read before I leave for my program. This text is a record of the events of the life of Julius Caesar, detailing the conflict of the Roman Republic in his own personal narrative. I believe this is an important text to read because not only does it detail the life of one of the most famous figures in Roman history, but also offers a broader depiction of the Roman World as an-almost primary source. Though this is for sure not exactly a “beach-friendly read,” I think it would be a truly great addition to my knowledge of the Roman Empire and especially enhance my trip there through Abbey Roads.
Yet another text that I have yet to officially read but more than plan on paging through before I depart for Western Europe, this novel details the life of mythological hero Theseus. While I am aware that I have already listed my suggestion for a mythological text to read, I have always wanted to read this historical novel. Rather than just summarizing the life and accomplishments of a hero, this book not only discusses the myth itself but actually goes into detail regarding the author’s opinions on why the myth is perceived the way it is through various archaeological and anthropological evidence. As those are two of my main interests of study, I can not wait to read this book and believe it would truly be beneficial to at the very least skim before I board the plane.
While many classical scholars have bashed this movie for it’s “over-Hollywoodized take” on Homer’s classic tale, I believe that this movie is a great introduction (as well as an alternative to the intimidating novel) to the many men involved in the infamous assault on Troy. With Hollywood names such as Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom depicting famous heroes of the battle, this movie made this classic tale accessible to modern viewers. Just be warned, this movie is definitely for older audiences!
Though I am admittedly a lover of older movies and many prefer the newer remake of this classic film, this movie beautifully details the slave revolt against the Roman Republic led by the infamous Spartacus. While classicists know little about the actual true life of Spartacus, this movie is still truly entertaining and provides a great glimpse into the life of Ancient Romans.
This movie has been on my must-watch list for far too long! An extremely critically acclaimed tale about religious conflict in the Roman Empire (AD 26) with over 11 Oscars to its name, this film tells the story of a once-wealthy aristocrat forced into slavery with dreams of revenge for both the persecution of his family and his own name. With a memorable and often-referenced chariot race and numerous battles at sea, this movie details the more negative sides of the Roman Empire and religious oppression in a truly cinematic display. This is next on my list for movie night, and though I have not seen it and therefore cannot truly recommend it, I believe the reviews and record-breaking number of Oscars that it won says enough.