HI 201: Greek History — Overview


Description/Course Objectives:

The Archaic and Classical Periods of Greek history (ca. 750 B.C. – 323 B.C.) witnessed a rapid flowering of Greek culture that defined much of the later course of western civilization. During centuries of rapid and often violent political and social change, the sphere of Greek influence expanded, first through colonization and trade and later by conquest, to encompass much of the Mediterranean world.

Despite the durability of ancient Greek political and cultural achievements, however, our historical evidence for ancient Greece is limited and often untrustworthy. In addition to acquainting students with the basic historical narrative of ancient Greece, this course aims to introduce them to the problems inherent in our source material and to some of the techniques that ancient historians use in attempting to work around these problems. The course will present students with the evidence of material culture, topography and archaeological remains as well as literary evidence like myth, poetry, philosophy and rhetoric. A special focus of the course will be the ancient historians of Greece, especially the western world’s first two historians, Herodotus and Thucydides, from whom we shall read extensive selections.

Program of Study:

The course will be organized around lectures exploring the assigned readings for a particular day, but many days will also include in-class discussions based on the same readings, and students are urged to participate fully and to ask questions. Over the course of the semester, students will be asked to complete five short essays (1-2 pages) dealing with problems of historical evidence.

Course Requirements:

Readings: The amount of reading required for this course will vary substantially from day to day. For some days, there will be relatively little reading required (perhaps only 10-15 pages); for others, the assigned reading will be much more substantial (up to as much as 100 pages). Students should look ahead so as to try to balance their reading schedule over the course of the semester.

Class participation: Class participation consists of attendance and participation in class discussions. The reading assignments will frequently be accompanied by discussion questions (particularly for classes where especially problematic or interesting topics are being considered) and students should think about these questions while doing the readings. Class discussions will reflect the assigned discussion questions and students are strongly encouraged to participate in these discussions.

Map quiz: Without a general understanding of the geography of Greece, much of Greek history can seem vague and slightly unreal. To force students to familiarize themselves with the major regions, cities, seas and other geographical features of Greece, there will be a brief map quiz at the beginning of the third week of class. Students will be given a list of possible locations for the quiz. (Some map questions may also appear on the midterm and final.)

Exams: There will be a midterm and a final examination, both of which will consist of short identifications, essays, map questions, and analysis of historical sources encountered in the readings or lectures. Review sessions will be scheduled before each exam and students will be given lists of possible identifications, map questions and essay topics. The midterm will cover material from the first half of the course; the final will be cumulative.

Short essays: During the semester, students will be asked to write five short essays (no shorter than 1 double-spaced typed page and no longer than 2.5 double-spaced typed pages) dealing with controversial issues in Greek history or with analysis of sources. Students will be able to choose from a list of ten essay topics that will be posted on the course web site during the second week of class. The due dates for the ten possible essays will be spaced over the course of semester, roughly one per week. Students must do at least two of the essays scheduled before the midterm, and at least one of the essays on the Peloponnesian War.