CC365: Getting Schooled in Antiquity



Project OutlineBibliographyWeb Resources

Required Texts

Students are asked to purchase only the three following texts. All other readings will be handed out in class, available on the seminar website or on reserve in Scribner Library.

• Henri I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (University of Wisconsin, 1982).
• Cooper and Hutchinson (eds.), Plato: Complete Works (Hackett, 1997).
• Jeffrey Henderson (trans.), Aristophanes: Clouds (Focus/R. Pullins, 1993).


Education is one of the most fundamental aspects of any civilization. The process by which the individual is educated reveals much about the character of a society; it also determines the future directions in which that society will develop, for better or for worse. The ancient Greeks and Romans were acutely aware of the role played by education in their respective cultures: the theme of education is extraordinarily pervasive in both Greek and Latin literature. Significantly, the Greeks came to use the same word – paideia – both for the process of educating the child and for culture in general. Likewise, the Latin word cultura (from which our word culture is derived) also has as one of its basic meanings the cultivation of the minds of the young.

Investigation of the abundant ancient evidence on the education is valuable in at least two major ways. First, it brings into focus many easily overlooked aspects of classical civilization and clarifies much about the ancient world that is otherwise puzzling or obscure. For this reason, the study of ancient education and related fields is now experiencing a renaissance after several decades of relative torpor.

Second, and perhaps more important, consideration of the theories and practices of ancient education provides us with a perspective from which to consider and critique our own society’s approach to education. This is true not only because ancient ideas of education were sometimes very different from our own, but also because some of our own most basic assumptions about education have their origins more than 2,000 years ago, in remote antiquity.


The goals for this seminar are as follows:

• to become familiar with the major primary sources for education in antiquity and what those sources can reveal to us
• to understand major aspects of the theories and practices of education in Greece and Rome and their historical development
• to consider the relevance of ancient approaches to education to modern educational ideas and problems
• to gain experience in research techniques and proper approaches to selecting and interpreting primary and secondary sources
• to strengthen critical thinking and oral and written communication skills

Program of Study

The focus of the seminar will be in-class discussions of primary and secondary readings on a wide variety of topics. At the same time, each student over the course of the semester will pursue in-depth research into a particular topic or question of his or her own choosing, collaborate with other members of the seminar in leading two in-class discussions, and, at some point during the final two-thirds of the semester, present a report on a scholarly article.

Ideally, all these activities should reinforce one another as students seek to develop their understanding of the ways in which education was conducted in Greece and Rome. Students will draw on what they have learned through their individual investigations as they contribute to in-class discussions. At the same time, insights and information gleaned from discussions will inform and enrich students’ own research.

Grading and Requirements

• Class Participation: 30%
• Leading Discussions: 15%
• Article Report: 15%
• Research Paper: 40%

Class Participation involves regular attendance and informed participation in discussion. The strength of a seminar lies in the motivated interaction of its participants; by contrast, a successful seminar is virtually impossible without the active engagement of everyone involved. Students are expected to have carefully done the readings for each class and to have given thorough consideration to the discussion questions associated with those readings. In class, students should share their reactions to the readings, their insights, and their questions and engage in spirited but respectful discussion about the issues raised by the readings, the instructor, and each other.

Leading Discussions: Twice in the course of the semester, each student will lead class discussion in collaboration with one other student. Discussion leaders will read the material for a a particular day in advance of the rest of the class, prepare discussion questions for the members of the seminar to consider, and attempt to facilitate productive and interesting discussion of the readings and topics for that day. Discussion leaders will meet in advance with the instructor to address any questions they have about the readings and consider possible approaches to the material.

Article Report: Once during the semester, each student will present a 20-25 minute report to the seminar on a scholarly article which the other students will not have read. The article report should not only summarize the article’s thesis for the rest of the seminar but should also include discussions of the article’s context within the scholarship on ancient education, an explanation of the methodology and evidence employed by the author(s) of the article, and a critique of the article’s approach and conclusions. Detailed guidelines for the article reports will be made available in class and on the seminar website.

Research Paper: The research paper can be on any topic of the student’s choosing that falls within the sphere of Greek and Roman education. For example, a student might consider some aspect of the education of women, the educational theories of a major ancient writer such as Plato or Quintilian, the social status of teachers, the role of corporal punishment in the classroom, or anything else that appeals to the student’s particular interest. Beyond this, the major requirements for the paper are as follows:

(1) The paper must be roughly 15-20 pages long and include footnotes and a bibliography. This means that the topic chosen cannot be too big to be adequately addressed within the specified length, nor should it be so limited that its interest is exhausted within a few pages.

(2) The paper must be clearly written, must address a clearly articulated question on the chosen topic, and must seek to sustain a clearly stated thesis in answer to that question.

(3) The paper must rely on at least 15 sources compiled over the course of the semester.

(4) The paper must conclude by reflecting on the possible relevance of the student’s research to modern educational theories and practices.

The research paper will be written in a series of stages over the course of the semester, beginning with the selection of a topic by Tuesday, February 26th and continuing with the preparation of two annotated bibliographies (due Thurday, March 6th and Thurday, March 20th) and a rough draft (Thursday, April 10th). Students will present the results of their research during the last two days of class (Thursday, April 24th and Tuesday, April 29th) and the final, completed version of the paper will be due on Friday, May 9th. A complete schedule with detailed guidelines and grading percentages for each stage of the project will be made available on the course web site by the beginning of February. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with the instructor over the course of the semester on the progress of their papers.