Ancient History


It is remarkable how many good books have been written for youth in the twentieth century.

It is remarkable how many good books have been written for youth in the twentieth century. It is also surprising to learn that most of these books were written by the late 1960's when the cultural revolution ushered in a drought of well-crafted youth books that inspire instead of degrade.

Many of these books are out of print and hard to get hold of either in libraries or book stores (used or otherwise). Fortunately, Bethlehem Books is doing great work in re-printing a host of the best titles that have fallen out of print.

I can only begin reviewing the book by saying that Hittite Warrior is an outstanding work of historical fiction for youth. Well written and fast paced, Hittite Warrior is also worthy of note because the story is set in an unusual period for historical fiction-the non-classical ancient world of the Middle East. Joanne Williamson, in telling the adventure of Uriah the young Hittite Warrior, expertly relates the larger story of the clash and intermingling of the ancient civilizations of the Middle East-the Hittites, the Canaanites, the Israelites, the Egyptians, and the also Achaeans (Greeks)-approximately 1200 years before the time of Christ.


Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson, Bethlehem Books * Ignatius Press 237 pp. Ages 10 and up. _____________________________________________________________


The Ides of April by Mary Ray, Bethlehem Books * Ignatius Press 165 pp. Ages 14 and up. _____________________________________________________________

Uriah gets caught up in a whirl-wind of events that culminates in the great Battle of Esdraelon where Barak, encouraged by the prophetess Deborah, leads the host of Israel in battle against the army of Tyre. Through Uriah's recounting of the story of his life, the reader sees the history of these ancient peoples in the context of God's salvific plan for all mankind.

Mary Ray crafted a wonderful story in The Ides of April that cleverly combines a murder mystery with a historical novel of ancient Rome during the reign of the Emperor Nero. It is 62 AD and a recently married nobleman, a young slave, and a member of a new secret religion (Christianity) work together to solve the mystery of the murder of the nobleman's father-in-law, Senator Caius Pomponius. They must work quickly, because unless they find the murderer soon all the household slaves will be put to death.

Mary Ray not only tells an exciting story but also gives the reader insight into daily life of all the classes of the ancient Roman society. And she writes extremely well. Here is a sample.

The streets that wound across the shallow slops of the Caelian hill were narrow, with many high blank walls and dark gateways. It was hard to tell if they concealed a warehouse or the villa of a patrician household, secure from the noise and dirt of pack animals passing to the new great market. Hylas, when he had left the Villa Pomponia an hour before, had dropped the problems of the family as one drops a heavy cloak on the floor. As Camillus knocked on the double gates, the weight of them came down on him again.

Caveat. Besides the murder that takes place off page, so to speak, one of the novel's characters commits suicide. Parents decide for yourselves at what age it would be appropriate for your child to read this superb book of historical fiction.


John O'Connell. “Ancient History.” The Catholic Faith 5, no. 6 (November/December 1999): 48.

Reprinted by permission of The Catholic Faith. The Catholic Faith is published bi-monthly and may be ordered from Ignatius Press, P.O. Box 591090, San Francisco, CA 94159-1090. 1-800-651-1531.


John O'Connell is the editor of The Catholic Faith.

Copyright © 1999 The Catholic Faith

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