Greece in the Classical Age: 490 to 323 B.C.
One of the great periods in all of human history was the Classical Age in Greece, when the Greeks developed so much of what is significant in the modern world: democracy, trial by jury, the rule of law, philosophy, the concept and writing of history, and mathematics, as well as the theater, with comedy and tragedy. These were the years of the preeminence of Athens with the building program of Pericles on the Acropolis and the victory of Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, followed by the rise of the Macedonian monarchy led by Philip and Alexander. In this course, students will explore many of the achievements, major events, and outstanding figures of this period.
The design of this course is to develop in students a fundamental understanding of the ancient Greeks so that they can readily absorb and make sense of the details of Greek history. They will not spend a lot of time learning about specific battles but instead about how battles were fought—which is not how Hollywood depicts them. The course will explore the strategies and thinking that motivated different polities and factions in the Greek world. Students will learn the things that made Sparta unique among the Greeks, as well as the strategy that Athens developed to make it preeminent in the fifth century. There will be a focus on understanding the Peloponnesian Wars rather than on refighting them. In addition, the course will address the issue of how we know what we know about the Greeks and such questions as how we can weigh the veracity of the written sources. At bottom we believe that history should be fun and fascinating, not dry and boring, and this course will try to impart the intellectual excitement that can be found in exploring a period as important as Greece in the Classical Age.
Live classes will be held on Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The first semester begins the week of August 19th and ends the week of December 16th. The second semester begins the week of January 13th, 2020, and ends the week of May 11th. Students unable to attend a live class will be able to access a recording of the class.
Materials: A book that contains the readings required for this course is included with course registration. Students will also read translations of ancient texts that are readily available on the internet.