Pompeiian fresco, 1st c. AD

Democracy Inaction

MWF 1.25-2.20
(Lib 213) W 4.10-5.05 (Ladd 106)
Prof. Michael Arnush Starbuck 201D x8113
marnush@skidmore.edu Hours: MW 11-12
W 2.30-3.30
4th credit hour
Classics Department
Skidmore College
Class participation and attendance: 10%

Class participation is an active process and your grade depends upon your efforts to engage the material of this course and demonstrate that engagement over the course of the semester. That means both regular attendance and active participation in class discussions. You may take three unexcused absences over the course of the semester. Beyond those three, every absence will result in a lowering of one full grade for your final course grade. I equate showing up late for class with an unexcused absence; thus, it is your responsibility to come to class on time.

Participation means much more than just attending class: active engaged learning includes doing the reading on schedule, thinking about the issues the reading raises and formulating questions and comments, and then sharing those observations with the class. You can also participate in, or spur, discussion via email - another opportunity to voice your views. In order to earn the class participation grade, you need to participate regularly - i.e., weekly - in the class dialogue.

Please review the entire syllabus at the beginning of the semester and make sure you schedule no plane flights or any other travel that conflict with the requirements of the course. I shall make no exceptions for anyone in the Seminar - all due dates, and exams, are mandatory for successful completion of the course.

Short Essays: 30% (15% each essay)

You will write two short essays (4 pages each) during the first half of the semester. These exercises are designed to help you develop confidence both in your prose writing and in your ability to critique your own work and that of your peers.

In the first assignment, you will analyze an aspect of Athenian democracy – specifically, the principles that guided the evolution of democracy in Athens, from the pre-Solonian community to the early classical age, when Athenian citizens participated routinely in legislative and judicial proceedings. This assignment asks you to focus on the literary and archaeological primary sources in your analysis, meet in pairs with me to discuss the draft, and then hand in the final version. Draft due week 3, Fri., Sept. 23; final version due week 5, Mon., Oct. 3.

The second assignment gives you the opportunity to examine the definition of leadership, as exemplified by Kreon (or Creon) in The Burial at Thebes and Pericles in Athenian politics and life, and juxtapose it with your own views on what makes a successful leader. Pericles, as a strategos elected by the Athenian demos, provided leadership for Athens for 30 years. His policies included reinforcing Athens’ walls and strengthening her navy; opening governance in the courts and in the arkhonship to more citizens; solidifying the league as an empire; imposing democracies on reluctant allies; adorning Athens with temples, civic buildings, and an overall vision for beautification; providing job opportunities for thousands of citizens. Many have argued that the Athenian "experiment," the golden age of Athens, could never have transpired without the leadership of Pericles.

As you contemplate Pericles' leadership, consider as well the character of Creon. Creon inherited the mantle of leadership in Thebes, saw to the conclusion of a divisive and bitter civil war, and attempted to guide the citizens of Thebes to a prosperous life. In many ways, his monarchy could also be held up as a paradigm of effective leadership. But was it?

Your essay can take many forms, but keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to articulate what you envision as an effective leader. Were the decisions of Periciles and Creon wise ones that benefitted the community, or were they self-serving? Did each make decisions that strengthened their communities? Did they lead to a better sense of Athenian, or Theban, identity? What were the risks, and costs, of such policies? What are the criteria the Athenians, or the Thebans, used for choosing leaders? How should we choose our leaders? What are the criteria you think a democracy should employ in choosing its leaders? Who are effective leaders, and why? What do you seek in a leader, and for what reasons? And, to whom are our leaders responsible?

You need not address all of the questions raised here; indeed, feel free to raise your own questions about leadership. Use the examples of Pericles and Creon - one historical, the other fictional; one a democratically-elected leader of Athenian citizens for 30 years, the other a fictional monarch depicted on the Athenian stage in a tragedy written by an Athenian citizen/poet/leader (remember: Sophocles joined Pericles in the effort to crush the rebellion by the citizens of the island of Samos when they tried to leave the Delian League/Athenian Empire in 441/0).

The standard rules apply for this paper: a rough draft is a complete version of the paper, still in need of revision, but fully argued, supplemented with supporting evidence, appropriate citations, etc.; it should be four pages in length, paginated, double-spaced, 1" margins, 12-point type, stapled; it need have only your name, the name of the course and the date on the top of the first page. You will exchange drafts with one other colleague, subject your colleague's papers and your own to criticism, consult with a Writing Center tutor about your own paper, and then hand in the final version. Bring three copies (one for me, one for a colleague, one for yourself) of the draft to class on time on Wed., Oct. 12; the final version is due Fri., Oct. 21 by 12pm in my office (Study Day). During our 4th credit hour meeting that week - 4.10-5.05 in Ladd 106 - you and your partner will begin the peer critiquing process. Then, over the next several days you and your critiquing partner will need to meet at least once and respond to each other's papers. In your critique, you should hold the draft to the highest standards - in terms of clear expository prose, proper use of sources, organization, and development of a thesis and argument.

Final Project: 40% (30% for the written project + 10% for the oral presentation)

In the final project (7 pages) you will develop a proposal for a contemporary, functioning democratic system that draws upon lessons learned from ancient Athens and Rome, and modern-day Saratoga Springs. You will design the research component of this project individually, drawing upon readings and monuments from all three cultural horizons. The project will develop in stages, and each will earn a grade.

  • phase 1: thesis proposal – due Nov. 11
  • phase 2: introductory paragraph and working bibliography – due Nov. 18
  • phase 3: draft – due Nov. 30
  • phase 4: final draft – due Dec. 12. You will make a ten-minute presentation of your final project at the end of the semester, on Dec. 5, 7 or 9. Submission of the final draft will include a portfolio of all of the preliminary work that you have done on this project, so save all drafts.
The grade of each version will be based upon three core criteria:
  • clarity of expression – proper grammar, syntax, use of citations
  • organization – paragraph construction, transitions, and flow of
  • argument content – use and understanding of appropriate sources, and persuasiveness of argument
Examinations: 20%, 10% each
An in-class midterm exam on Oct. 24th will provide you the opportunity to demonstrate your grasp of Athenian democratic practices, drawing upon both the readings and classroom discussions. A final exam on Dec. 21 will provide you the opportunity to demonstrate your grasp of all of the course's material.
Disability accommodations:
Any student with special needs requiring accommodations should give me his or her memo of accommodations in a timely manner. It is the student’s responsibility to follow up with me regarding all accommodations that require my participation. The student is advised to ensure full use of testing accommodations by coming to talk to me within the first two weeks of the semester. The Coordinator for Students with Disabilities is located in the Office of Student Academic Services. You can make an appointment with her by calling x5180.