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10 Best Classical Civilisation Books to Read in 2023


Classical Civilisation is a fascinating voyage through the ancient world, exploring the foundations of Western culture and the enduring legacy of Greece and Rome. If you're passionate about uncovering the stories, art, and ideas that have shaped our world, Oxford Summer Courses invites you to delve into this captivating field. Embark on a transformative journey through our Classical Civilisation summer school, where you'll immerse yourself in the wisdom of the ancients and their profound influence on modern society.


Please note that the following list of books is recommended reading to broaden your knowledge and deepen your appreciation of classical civilisation. While some of these books may be included in the Oxford Summer Courses curriculum, the specific content of the summer school can vary. If you wish to study classical civilisation with us, you can apply to our Classical Civilisation summer school.


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1. The Iliad, by Homer

  • "Sing, O goddess, the anger of Peleus' son Achilles, that caused the Greeks untold pain."
  • "The Iliad" is a cornerstone of Classical Civilisation, depicting the Trojan War and the wrath of Achilles. This epic poem, attributed to Homer, offers a vivid portrayal of ancient Greek heroism and the consequences of war.
  • Discussion: How do the themes of heroism and the consequences of conflict in "The Iliad" resonate with contemporary society?

2. The Histories, by Herodotus

  • "Herodotus of Halicarnassus here presents his research so that human events do not fade with time."
  • Herodotus, often called the "Father of History," chronicles the Greco-Persian Wars and explores the cultures of the ancient world. His work lays the foundation for the study of history.
  • Discussion: How does Herodotus' approach to documenting history influence modern historiography?

3. The Republic, by Plato

  • "The measure of a man is what he does with power."
  • Plato's "The Republic" delves into philosophy, justice, and governance. It introduces the concept of the philosopher-king and remains influential in political thought.
  • Discussion: How do Plato's ideas about justice and governance in "The Republic" relate to contemporary political philosophy?

4. The Aeneid, by Virgil

  • "I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate, first came from the coast of Troy to Italy." Virgil's epic, "The Aeneid," narrates the legendary journey of Aeneas from the ruins of Troy to the founding of Rome. It's a tale of destiny, heroism, and the shaping of a nation.
  • Discussion: How does the journey of Aeneas in "The Aeneid" reflect the concept of national identity and destiny?

5. The Symposium, by Plato

  • "At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet."
  • Plato's "The Symposium" explores the nature of love through a series of speeches at a banquet. It provides insights into Greek attitudes towards love and beauty.
  • Discussion: How do the philosophical ideas about love in "The Symposium" resonate with modern concepts of love and desire?

6. The Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides

  • "The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom is courage."
  • Thucydides' historical account of the Peloponnesian War offers an in-depth analysis of the conflict between Athens and Sparta. It's a foundational work in the study of international relations.
  • Discussion: How do the causes and consequences of the Peloponnesian War in Thucydides' work relate to modern geopolitics?

7. The Oresteia, by Aeschylus

  • "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
  • Aeschylus' "The Oresteia" is a trilogy of Greek tragedies, including "Agamemnon," "The Libation Bearers," and "The Eumenides." It explores themes of justice, vengeance, and the evolution of societal order.
  • Discussion: How do the themes of justice and societal transformation in "The Oresteia" resonate with contemporary discussions of legal systems and ethics?

8. The Metamorphoses, by Ovid

  • "I want to speak about bodies changed into new forms."
  • Ovid's "Metamorphoses" is a narrative poem that weaves together countless myths from Greek and Roman traditions, exploring themes of transformation and storytelling.
  • Discussion: How does Ovid's exploration of transformation in "Metamorphoses" relate to contemporary ideas of identity and change?

9. The Golden Ass, by Apuleius

  • "I, then, ignorant and miserable, and above all men most unhappy, hunted by every divine and human penalty."
  • Apuleius' "The Golden Ass" is a comedic and picaresque novel that follows the misadventures of Lucius, who is transformed into a donkey. It's a story of metamorphosis, magic, and redemption.
  • Discussion: How does the theme of transformation in "The Golden Ass" resonate with modern narratives of personal growth and change?

10. The Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

  • "Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking."
  • "The Meditations" is a series of personal writings by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It offers wisdom on ethics, stoicism, and the pursuit of a virtuous life.
  • Discussion: How do the stoic principles and ethical reflections in "The Meditations" relate to contemporary philosophy and self-improvement?


Oxford Summer Courses invites you to immerse yourself in the captivating world of Classical Civilisation. In this blog post, we present a meticulously curated list of 10 classic texts that will transport you to ancient times and deepen your understanding of classical history, philosophy, and culture. From Homer's epic "The Iliad" to Marcus Aurelius' introspective "Meditations," these texts will guide you on a transformative journey through the classical world. Join us in exploring the profound legacy of classical civilisations and uncovering the timeless wisdom they offer. Who knows, you might just discover a newfound passion for Classical Civilisation and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Apply now to study Classical Civilisation at Oxford Summer Courses and embark on a journey of cultural discovery. Join a community of enthusiastic learners from around the world and experience the richness of classical heritage. Apply here.

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Ignite your passion for classical civilisation at Oxford Summer Courses. Immerse yourself in a carefully selected list of books that delve into the rich tapestry of ancient cultures, myths, and the enduring influence of classical civilisation. Gain valuable insights from experts in the field and embark on a transformative journey to enhance your expertise in classical studies.

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