Ben Hur by Lew Wallace
Highly successful as a book and in later adaptations for the stage and
motion pictures, Ben-Hur stimulated widespread interest in romantic
novels based on Biblical themes.
Ben-Hur, subtitled A Tale of the Christ, is a novel by the American author Lew Wallace, first published in 1880 and reissued in many editions. It became one of the best-selling books in American publishing history, selling more than 2.5 million copies in the United States alone.
The story is set primarily in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Christian era. John the Baptist and Jesus appear in the story, which is, however, principally concerned with the adventures of its hero Judah Ben-Hur, a young Jewish nobleman who is converted to Christianity after many years of hardship and adventure.
In the story, Ben-Hur is unjustly accused of treason by his friend Messala, a Roman, of attempting to assassinate the Roman governor of Judea. He is condemned to be a galley slave, and his mother and sister are imprisoned, contracting leprosy.
Ben-Hur escapes from the galleys and saves the life of a powerful Roman, who adopts him and brings him to Rome. Although he has gained freedom and wealth, Ben-Hur returns to Jerusalem. After many "exciting adventures, Ben-Hur avenges himself in a chariot race in which he defeats and wounds Messala. He becomes a Christian after Jesus has miraculously cured his mother and sister of leprosy.
Ben-Hur has been presented many times on the stage and has served as the basis of two spectacularly successful films (1926 and 1959).