Tag Archives: athens

Pericles’ Funerary Oration

It was an Athenian practice that after a war, the remains of the dead would be left in a tent for three days where mourners could make offerings. There was a public procession with the remains carried in cypress coffins. After burial in a state gravesite, a prominent citizen was called upon to make a public oration. This one is from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War – it is probably not what Pericles said verbatim but would have had the same themes and main points as the actual speech. Pericles gave this speech at the end of the first year of the war against Sparta, which endured for nearly 30 years and left Athens crippled. At this early stage in the war, Athens was still a glorious polis; however, some historians have called this oration a eulogy to Athens itself.

  1. What are Pericles’ initial hesitations about giving this speech?  (3)
  2. Which Athenian values are evident in Pericles’ speech? (3)
  3. “We differ from other states in regarding the man who keeps aloof from public life not as private but as useless” – do you agree with this statement? How does our society value participation in public life? (2)
  4. According to Pericles, what characterizes the way Athenians do favours to one another? (2)
  5. “Their memory has escaped the reproaches of men’s’ lips, but they bore instead on their bodies the marks of men’s’ hands” – with this line and the ones that follow, what can we tell about the way Athenians saw military casualties? Do you agree with this perspective? (3)
  6. How were both Pericles’ Athens and Kennedy’s America somewhat less ideal than these two orators claimed? Why might leaders, particularly in wartime, craft idealized images of their countries? (3)
  7. What does Cahill say about the presence of religion in this speech? Reflect on the way God is invoked in today’s politics. (3)
  8. Comparing the Athenians with the more militarized Spartans, Pericles says, “If we choose to face danger with an easy mind rather than after rigorous training and to trust rather in our native manliness than in state-sponsored courage, the advantage lies with us; for we are spared all the tedium of practicing for future hardships, and when we find ourselves among them we are as brave as our plodding rivals.” (In Cahill 242) This is quite an insult to the Spartans! Write a brief (approx. 1 page) funeral oration from the perspective of a Spartan oligarch after their victory.  (10)

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PBS Interactive map of Athens

Here is a useful resource for looking at they layout of the ancient polis of Athens. Athens would have also included the Attic villages surrounding the urban centre.

This PBS interactive map allows you to click on different features like the agora, piraeus, streets, and the acropolis.

Interactive Map of Athens

Map of Attica – the Athenian territory

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The Parthenon is one of the world’s most recognizable and most copied buildings. It was built in nine years, beginning in 447 BCE, and was an awesome and tangible representation of Athenian imperial power.

Pericles proposed rebuilding the Acropolis, which had been destroyed in the Greco-Persian wars in 480 BCE. It was put to a vote, and the Athenian Assembly decided to take on this costly project. Their treasury was full of taxes paid by the other city-states of the Delian League, and this seemed like a fitting way to glorify the goddess Athena, the polis and its achievements.

The doric temple of Athena Parthenos is the centrepeice of the new Acropolis. It replaces two older temples to Athena. The friezes along the entablature show the triumph of reason vs. passion, embodied by a human defeating a centaur. On the pediment, statues show Athena being born from Zeus’ forehead, as well as the contest between Athena and Poseidon.

The gold and ivory statue of Athena stood nearly 40 feet tall and was placed next to a reflecting pool.

The Parthenon was converted to a Christian church around 600 CE and later became an Ottoman Mosque in 1480 CE. In 1687, Venetian forces attacked the Ottomans and their ammunition store in the Parthenon, resulting in around 300 casualties and a massive explosion.

In 1806, Thohmas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, removed some of the surviving Parthenon sculptures and relief panels, and they were sold to the British Museum. The Greek government has been trying to get the Elgin Marbles back since 1983.

Here is the PBS video, “Secrets of the Parthenon,” that we started watching in class today. We were somewhere around 42 minutes in. Please finish it at home, along with the viewing guide questions.

Don’t forget we’re meeting at the ROM tomorrow – please come a bit before 10:00



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Assignment: Analyzing Athenian Democracy

Read the articles and answer the following questions about Athenian democracy:

  1. Critics and Critiques of Athenian Democracy

 2. The Democratic Experiment


  1. Describe at least 5 major characteristics of Athenian democracy. (5 marks)
  2. What are the major criticisms of Athenian democracy? (5 marks)
  3. What was ‘tyranny’? Was Athenian democracy effective in eliminating tyranny in ancient Greece? Explain. (5 marks)
  4. What was the policy of ostracism? Was this effective? Why or why not? (5 marks)
  5. How did Greek philosophers view democracy? Explain. (5 marks)
  6. What are the major similarities between Athenian democracy and modern democracy? (5 marks)

Critical Reflection:

Based on the two articles and discussion with the class, what is your assessment of the effectiveness and validity of democracy in Athens? The critical reflection must be completed individually and should be approximately 1 page (double-spaced in length). Refer to the rubric in order to achieve full value for the reflection portion of this assignment. (20 marks)

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The Polis of Athens

City Map of Athens

A useful resource for learning about the features of the Athenian polis is PBS’s “The Greeks Interactive” website. There is a map of Athens where you can see the city’s layout,  zoom in to places like the Acropolis, the Phyx, and the Theatre of Dionysus, and read an informative blurb about each of these features. It also has a section on daily life in Athens as well as the Greek alphabet.

Key terms to know:

  • Agora
  • Theatre of Dionysus
  • Acropolis
  • Pnyx
  • Parthenon
  • Areopagos
  • Athletic stadium
  • Council of Elders
  • Piraeus

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Seminar: An Introduction to the Classical World

Discussion Question 1: What comes to mind when you think of the word “classical”?

Classical Periods:

  • Greece: Athens, 600-400 BCE
  • Rome: Roman Empire, 100 BCE – 14 CE

Discussion Question 2: How do we study Classical Civilizations?

History: The Greeks were the first to attempt to record history.

Herodotus (484 – 425 BCE): “The Father of History” – attempted to record events and human actions for the sole purpose of preserving them for future generations.

  • Wrote Histories (450’s 420’s BCE) – 9 books about the events and causes of the Greco-Persian wars and other conflicts
  • Criticized for including myths, folk legends, and outrageous tales

Thucydides (460 – 395 BCE) Wrote a History of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE), the first attempt to present history in an “objective” way, and to make correlations between cause and effect and observations about human behaviour and its relation to events

  • Placed value on eyewitness testimony (he was a soldier in the Peloponnesian war and survived the Athenian plague), and did not write about divine intervention in human affairs

Discussion Question 3: Fox focuses on three main THEMES: Freedom, Justice, and Luxury. Why do you think Fox chooses these themes? (See Fox page 7-9)


The Homeric Epic (Fox p. 13-23)

-An epic is a long work of heroic poetry that succeeded in becoming traditional, helped to establish a sense of national identity, and reinforced accepted values. Recited orally,  they would take 2-3 days to recite.

-Homer lived in 8th C. BCE but his major works (The Iliad, The Odyssey) are about the Bronze Age, “The Age of Heroes,” (c. 1100 BCE) and they are not factual histories.

Discussion Question 4: Why are the Homeric epics useful for learning about Greek Civilization even though we know they are not factual?


Values in the Homeric epics include:

  • Courage in battle and noble conduct
  • Physical strength and beauty
  • Loyalty
  • Hospitality between equals – Xenia
  • Rigid social order
  • Wit and cleverness in speech and actions
  • Religious devoutness and loyalty to the Gods
  • Luxury – ornate palaces, precious clothes and adornments
  • Love between men (Achilles and Patroclus) and heterosexual love (Penelope and Odysseus)
  • Freedom from enslavement to a foreign power
  • Justice – human and divine (theodicy)

Discussion Question 5: Think about the values evident in works written about our society. Do you think humanity is mostly the same, or have we changed significantly since ancient Greece?



Works Cited

Cahill, Thomas. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter. New York: Anchor Books,             2004.

Cantor, Norman F. Antiquity: The Civilization of the Ancient World. New York: HarperCollins,              2003.

“History of Greece: Introduction.” Ancient-Greece.org. N.p., June 2007. Web. 21 June 2012.             <http://www.ancient-greece.org/history/intro.html&gt;.

Lane Fox, Robin. The Classical World: an Epic History of Greece and Rome. London: Penguin             Books, 2005.


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