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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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