There are few civilizations more fascinating to study than the ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans. Their histories read like a fiction novel filled with courage and bravery, but also treachery and deceit. Mary Macgregor is a Canadian author who has tackled these interesting and challenging times in her books The
Story of Greece ($16.95) and The Story of Rome ($18.95). Both books were written for children ages 10-14, but they would likely be enjoyed by children younger and older. The focus of the books is on understanding the real history of the events and people of these eras, although both books read more as novels than dry history texts.
If you are looking for a short history of Greece or Rome, then these may not be the books for you! The
Story of Greece is 505 pages and covers from the early days of Greece through the conquests of Alexander the Great. The
Story of Rome is 593 pages and covers from the early days of the Romans through the reign of Caesar Augustus. They are both broken down into very manageable, short chapters and would be an easy read for middle school kids. Having just studied the Greeks and Romans in-depth in our homeschool, I enjoyed reliving some of the amazing stories! Both books would be excellent read-aloud stories for all ages, or a great novel to sit down and enjoy over several cups of hot chocolate! They are written in a poetic high style which makes them read as though they were written in the time periods portrayed, although the average middle schooler should have no difficulty with the reading as the vocabulary and concepts are kept understandable for this age-group. Black and white pictures throughout the texts provide an added glimpse into the historical periods. It should be noted that they are written basically as though from the perspective of the culture, including frequent references to their worship of Greek and Roman deities. Macgregor makes an interesting statement towards the beginning of The Story of Greece: "the reason the old [Greek] gods fell [when Jesus was crucified] was that the strange Man upon the Cross was mightier than they. But in the days of ancient Greece the gods were alive and strong; of that the Hellenes were very sure." It might be worth discussing the pagan beliefs of the Greeks and Romans before reading these stories so that children are prepared to understand what they are hearing from a Christian perspective.
What did we think of these two historical books? We found the stories to be very engaging and interesting, historically accurate from my limited understanding of both cultures, and helpful for a range of ages. I think they would make a wonderful read-aloud, even for younger children, or a great review for high schoolers, even though they were written primarily for middle schoolers. The length could be somewhat daunting, but they are fairly easy reading. As The
Story of Rome only covers through the Roman Republic, it would be great to have a follow-up book about the fascinating Roman Empire. If you are studying these time periods and cultures, or your children are just interested, I would highly recommend The
Story of Greece and The Story of Rome as excellent historical accounts!