CIV 311/HIST 301 Weekly Agendas

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(Nov 15-19)

Theme of the Week: The 4th Century; Age of Professionalism, Federalism and Hegemony
General Reading for the Week: AG Chapters IX, X.
Monday, 11/15: Athens in defeat; the Spartan Hegemony
Wednesday, 11/17 Epaminondas and Thebes
Friday, 11/19: Discussion: The Trials of Socrates; The Rise of Macedon

READ for discussion: "Socrates on Trial" in the Reading Packet

After the surrender of Athens to the Spartan admiral Lysander, the Spartans found themselves in a position of undisputed preeminence in the Greek world. As was the case after the Persian Wars, the Spartans accomplished little with their leadership aside from alienating everyone else. From 394 to 387, in the "Corinthian War," they find themselves in conflict not only with Athens again but also with some of their old allies from the Peloponnesian League. Soon Sparta finds herself competing for hegemony with new powers that arise under innovative, imaginative leadership, first the Thebans, and, in their wake, the semi-"barbarian" northern kingdom of Macedon.

In Athens, the immediate aftermath of defeat includes yet another oligarchic junta, supported directly by the Spartans, called "The Thirty". Though more brutal than the earlier oligarchy of the 400, the tyranny of The Thirty was hardly more long-lived. Democracy was soon restored, and Athens soon started reasserting itself as one of the leading Greek cities, but the scars of this painful period are deep. One symptom of this trauma is the trial and execution of the philosopher Socrates. Though he had lived and practiced his idiosyncratic lifestyle in Athens for 70 years, the Athenians chose this moment, 399 BC, to condemn him on the charges of religious non-conformity and corrupting the young.

The selection in your reading packet entitled "Socrates on Trial" consists largely of the "Apology of Socrates" ("Apology" is originally a Greek word meaning "defense speech"). The "Apology" was written by Socrates' pupil Plato, and purports to be a representation of Socrates' defense of himself at his trial. For Friday, read the speech and come to class prepared to discuss and/or write on the following topics:


(Nov 8-12)

Monday, 11/8:: The Peace of Nicias and its aftermath
Read AG 305-319; PGH 232-268.

Wednesday, 11/10: Alcibiades and the Sicilian Expedition
Read Plutarch's Life of Alcibiades

Friday, 11/12: Discussion: Thucydides and the de[con]struction of Athens (see below)
Read PGH 218-232, 278-298, and the brief excerpt from Thucydides entitled "The Melian Dialogue" in your coursepack.

The peace treaty that Nicias engineered with the Spartans was doomed from the outset. The Spartans had negotiated it without consulting their allies properly, and had not insisted that consideration for their allies' concerns be addressed in the treaty's articles. Athens was back basically to where it was in 431, and was free to continue the imperialistic expansion of it's seaborne hegemony, if it chose to do so.

In Athens itself, in addition to the standard opposition between aristocratic and populist politicians, a new dichotomy arose between the old and the young. The elder generation was epitomized by Nicias; cautious, judicious, punctilious and plodding. The younger generation finds dynamic representation in the swashbuckling person of Pericles' kinsman and ward Alcibiades.

For Alcibiades and his upper-class agemates, the Peace came at just the wrong time, just when they were reaching the point in their lives where success in leading troops to battle would provide an inestimable boost to their public careers. Much to the horror of Nicias, Alcibiades began persuading the Athenians to pursue expansionist schemes which were hardly designed to make the Peloponnesians feel secure. This culminates in the ill-fated Sicilian Expedition of 415-413, which was Alcibiades' brainchild and was to be the crowning glory of his career.

For Wednesday, read Plutarch's entertaining biography of Alcibiades. Learn what Alcibiades does to his wrestling opponenents, his future father-in-law, his wife, his dog, his friends (particularly his foreign friends like King Agis of Sparta), to the statues and rites of the gods, and to the city of his ancestors. In Alcibiades the Athenians were beset by a dilemma which is not at all unfamiliar to many Americans these days: a capable, charismatic leader whose achievements and policies they admire, but whose private behaviour and moral character they despise.

For FRIDAY, we will have a discussion of the reading from Thucydides assigned:

WHO WAS THUCYDIDES: Little is known for certain about Thucydides' life. He was probably born some time in the 460's into an aristocratic family. He was also probably related to his namesake, Thucydides the son of Melesias, the conservative opponent of Pericles in the 440's. As he tells us himself, he was present in Athens for the start of the Peloponnesian War, and survived the disastrous plague that struck Athens soon afterwards. In the year 424, as one of Athens' elected strategoi, Thucydides failed to relieve the port of Eion from an attack by Brasidas. For this failure he was condemned to exile from Athens for a period of ten years. He was able to use this time well, writing and travelling to do research for his history. He tells us that he began writing soon after the war broke out. He mentions Athens' defeat in 404, so he certainly lived at least that long, but most scholars believe that he died soon afterwards, some time in the 390's. His history, at any rate, was unfinished: His narrative of events breaks off in the year 411, and the eighth (last) book of his history shows signs of being something of a draft.

Thucydides is a trailblazing historian in a number of ways. He was the first Greek (whose work survives) to write a history of his own times and to give accounts of events at which he himself was present. He was the first person we know of to write of military and political history from the persepctive of somewhone who had actual hands-on experience in those areas. His most important innovations, though, come in the area of methodology. Whereas Herodotus is called the Father of History, we can call Thucydides the father of Scientific History. Influenced by contemporary science, medicine and philosophy, Thucydides aimed to approach his historical research in as rational and detached a manner as possible. He strips history bare of the sort of aggrandizement, heroization and mythologizing that Herodotus excelled in. Where Herodotus created a new race of legendary heroes in figues like Miltiades and Xerxes, Thucydides pays relatively little attention to the actions of individuals at all. Instead he gives us a careful narration of the facts; a catalogue of detail and precision through which he thinks that unchanging laws and patterns of human behavior can be glimpsed. Just as scientists were using rational inquiry to uncover the forces and structures that govern the stars and the courses of disease, Thucydides believed that a careful rational study of history could reveal the mechanism that makes human beings and human society tick.

Thucydides' disinclination to heroize the war the way his predecessor Herodotus had done is based in part on his desire to maintain an attitude of scientific objectivity and detachment, but it is also a result of the fact that there was nothing heroic or romantic about this war, particularly from the point of view of an aristocratic Athenian who had suffered plague, public humiliation, exile, and the crushing defeat of his own city in the course of it. This brings up the larger point that despite his scientific aims and methods, Thucydides, like any historian had his own biases and points of view that assert their influence on his history. As we might expect, the aristocratic Thucydides has little emotional investment in the Athenian democratic government. We might also expect him to be anti-Pericles as well, but surprisingly his bias seems ot lie in the opposite direction. He admires Pericles' ability to control the unruly mob of the assembly and to bend it to his will. Popular leaders who follow Pericles, including Cleon and Alcibiades, suffer greatly in comparison. One can see much of the last two-fifths of the history as an illustration of one of Thucydides' major theories: that after Pericles, Athens was doomed; departure from his policies and the inability of the leaders who followed him to control the baser impulses of the assembly eventually led Athens to defeat. Thucydides' adherence to this theory sometimes seems to distort or color his presentation of events. For instance, his scornful treatment of Cleon and his policies obscures the fact that Cleon deserves a good deal of the credit for turning Athens' fortunes around in the later 420's. Likewise, Thucydides focuses a full 1/4 of his history to the two years of Alcibiades' Sicilian Expedition, which, though highly damaging to Athens, did not lead immediately to Athens' defeat (indeed, the Athenians fought on for nearly ten more years).

For class on Friday, read the parts of Thucydides I've assinged from PGH, and be ready to answer the following questions pertaining to them.


(Nov 1-5)

Reading for the week: AG 287-303 and a bit from the history of Thucydides in PGH 232-268.
For discussion on Friday, Read Aristophanes' Wasps in your reading packet. See discussion questions below.

Topics: Monday, 11/1: More Periclean Society, Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War
Wednesday, 11/3: Sphakteria and the Peace of Nikias
Friday, 11/5: Athens in Wartime (Discussion of Wasps

Finally, after nearly fifty years of festering tension, the Delian league (read: Athens) and the Peloponnesian league come into open and official conflict in the year 431. This is the beginning of a period of hostility, known to us by the somewhat misleading title of The Peloponnesian War, that lasts until Athens' capitulation in the year 404.

The first phase of the war, called the Archidamian war (after the Spartan king Archidamus who, ironically, didn't want the war) lasts until 421. It is this period that we'll be dealing with this week. The nature of the war during this period takes shape according to the strengths of each side: The Peloponnesians, led by the Spartans, march an army into Attica each year. The Athenians yield the countryside to the superior land forces of the enemy and depend on their city walls, their long walls and their mighty fleet to keep them safe and well-provisioned.

The Athenians persevere in this strategy despite a devastating outbreak of plague in the city and despite the loss early on of their long-time leader Pericles, and by the end of this initial 10-year period it seems to be paying off, though not without staggering cost.

You'll be reading two original documents of this period: a part of Thucydides' history and Aristophanes' Wasps. This is our first important brush with Thucydides, the second great historian (after Herodotus) of the Fifth Century. We'll talk more about Thucydides later, but as you read see if you can pick out any differences between his style of history writing and that of Herodotus.

For discussion on Friday, read Wasps, and also read the background information on the play that you can find by clicking HERE. Come to class on Friday ready to discuss and write about the following:


(Oct 25-29)

Read Plutarch's Biography of Pericles and AG Chapter VII, in preparation for the following topics:
Monday, 10/25: The Rise of Pericles
Wednesday, 10/27: Art and Culture in the Periclean Age
Friday, 10/29: Athenian Society. Discussion on Item from Reading Packet, "On the Killing of Eratosthenes." See below for questions to ponder.

Cimon rides high in the 470's and 460's, reaching a position of unmatched prestige and influence with the ostracism of Themistocles in 472. As we've seen, though, no good fortune lasts forever if you're a Greek politician. Toward the end of the 460's Cimon finds his own star waning, and new populist politicians arise to challenge his aristocratic, paternalistic tactics. One of Cimon's popular rivals is Pericles, son of an Alcmeonid mother and of Xanthippus, one of the Heroes of Marathon. Handsome, eloquent, persuasive and imaginative, Pericles will come to dominate Athenian politics in the latter years of the Pentecontaetia. Under his populist leadership, Athenian naval activity will increase, Athenian control over the Delian league will grow and Athens will start having what seem to other Greeks to be expansionist designs in the West and in mainland Greece. This sort of thing helps lay the foundation for the Peloponnesian War.

Pericles was also a great patron of the arts. Like populist leaders before him he put the city to work on new building projects, including what would come to be some of the great architectural wonders of classical Greece, such as the Parthenon. He encouraged artists, philosophers, poets and historians to come to Athens, and, along with his well-educated courtesan Aspasia, entertained many of them in his own house. In many ways the period of his ascendancy was the high point of classical Athenian Culture. Pericles left his own mark on this period in both good and bad ways.

Since we're now dealing with a period for which we have a relative abundance of detailed evidence, we'll be spending some of this week discussing the private lives of Athenians in the classical period: how they lived, what interested them and entertained them, and what they thought of themselves and the world around them. For discussion on Friday, read "On the Killing of Eratosthenes" from your reading packet. This is a speech given by a defendent in a murder trial in an Athenian law court. In Athenian courts there were no lawyers or district attorneys; nor was there any judge in our sense of the word. The person prosecuting (usually the victim of the crime or a relative of the victim) would simply stand up and give a speech presenting his side of the case; the defendant would then have to stand up and respond with a speech of his own. At that point, or after a second round of rebuttal speeches, the jury, consisting of a varying number of Athenian citizens, would vote for acquittal or conviction.

Of course, not every prosecutor or defendant would have a natural talent for persuasive public speaking, so professional speech writers made their services available for a fee. Some of these speech writers became very successful and well known, and their speeches were collected and published. The court speeches that have survived to our time present us with a priceless mine of information about classical Athenian law, morality and society.

The speech we're reading was written by the professional speech writer Lysias for the defendant Euphiletus, who has been charged with killing his wife's lover Eratosthenes. Euphiletus admits the killing proudly, but claims that it was justifiable homicide. Think about these questions as you read the speech:

1. Does Euphiletus present him self as a rich man, a poor man, or just an average middling person? What sort of impression of himself does he portray? What does he do for a living?

2. Who lives in Euphiletus' household, and how do they relate to one another? In particular, how would you describe the relationship between Euphiletus and his wife (before he discovers her adultery)? Are they a loving, trusting, pair of newlyweds?

3. What does this speech reveal about the Athenian male attitudes toward women?

4. How is Euphiletus' house laid out? How many rooms does it have, and what goes on in the separate parts.


(Oct 18-22)

Monday, 10/18: MIDTERM EXAM: click Here for a study guide

Wednesday, 10/20: The Failure of Greek Unity: Themistocles and Pausanias. Read: AG 201-215.
Friday, 10/22 Discussion: Themistocles and Cimon (see below); The Athenian Half-Century

Victory over the Persian invaders gave the Greeks a new sense of their place in the world and showed them what they could do when they engaged in common effort. Unfortunately, inter-polis relations soon returned to their strained, competitive, and downright nasty normal state. Athens and Sparta went their separate ways, dragging with them their loose coalitions of allies and associates. A new Athenian-dominated seaborne alliance is formed, called the Delian League, which challenges the Spartan-led Peloponnesian league for the title of 800-pound gorilla of the Aegean basin. As time goes on, the tension between these two powers festers and grows until it bursts forth into the so-called Peloponnesian War in 431. The fifty years between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, sometimes called the Pentekontaetia (Greek for "half-century") sees both the glorious flowering of full-scale Classical Greek culture and the catastrophic self-destruction of the Greeks through internecine warfare. We'll be looking at both.

In the early part of this period, the 470's and the 460's, Athenian civic and military affairs are guided by two vastly different politicians. The crafty upstart Themistocles, and the charismatic young aristocrat Cimon, son of Miltiades. After Themistocles is ostracized in 472, Cimon has center stage all to himself.

By Friday, read Plutarch's Life of Cimon, and think about the following questions:


For Wednesday, 10/13: Be ready to express yourself in verbal and/or written form on the Herodotus question (see below); also read Plutarch's Life of Themistocles and Herodotus' account of The battle of Thermopylae (PGH 142-157).

For Friday, 10/15: Read Herodotus in PGH 157-194

The Persian wars, in which the Greeks successfully repelled two separate Persian invasions of the Greek mainland, changed the course of Greek civilization in a number of ways. All Greeks (except, perhaps, those who Medized (cooperated with the Persians)) felt a great rush of national pride, of course. They had, after all, sent the largest, richest, most powerful empire in the world packing. But the question of how the Greeks won the war and who was responsible for the victory would have a significant e ffect on relationships between city states as well. The effects of the war will continue to be felt during the rest of the period under study for this class.

Now about the Herodotus thing. Here's the e-mail I sent to everybody on Wednesday:

I told you at the end of class [Wednesday] to read the brief description from Herodotus of the Battle of Marathon in your course reading packet.

One of your classmates pointed out to me afterward that the Herodotus excerpt was not actually IN the reading packet. Somewhere between the bookstore and the printer it got lost. Sorry, my fault for not checking.

I'd still like for you to read the excerpt, though I won't expect every- one to have it done by Friday. On reserve at Swem for this class is a complete translation in Herodotus, and the passage in question is Book 6, Sections (not pages) 102-117 (this antique numbering system should become clear to you if you leaf through the book a little bit - it's better to refer to the passage this way, since you'l find the same numbers in any edition or translation of Herodotus).

You can also access a translation of this text on the Web at the following address (this is a regular Web page, not a .pdf file or anything fancy):

This will start you off on section 102; at the end of each section you'll have to click on a link to get to the next section.

The question I want you to consider is the following: "how does Herodotus glamorize, sensationalize, glorify or heroize his account of the battle of Marathon".

Here's a little more background on Herodotus: His uncle, Panyassis, was a poet who composed a heroic epic (long, narrative poem like the Iliad) about the hero Herakles. Clearly Herodotus picked something up from the old man. His "Histories" thoug h based on his own empirical researches (and hence "scientific" to some extent) nevertheless bear the marks of traditional heroic narrative. At the very beginning of the Histories he announces his intention to prevent "the great and wonderful actions of the Greeks and the barbarians from losing their due meed of glory" (PGH, p. 29), which is just what epic poets like Homer and Panyassis wanted to do for the great deeds of the Heroes like Heracles and Achilles. So, read the account of Marathon and see if you can identify what Herodotus does to make the facts more memorable, the people involved larger-than-life, and the entire battle more glorous and heroic than it would seem from a simple narration of the facts (compare, for instance, the account of the battle in your textbook).

Don't forget, MIDTERM EXAM on Monday 10/18. Watch this space for upcoming review information.

We also need to talk soon about your RESEARCH PAPERS, but have a good fall break first!


Agenda for Week 7 (Oct. 4-6)

Monday: Peisistratos, Cleisthenes and the growth of democracy.

Readings: PGH 53-57 (Herodotus on the Peisistratid tyranny) if you haven't read it already

Packet: Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians.

The development of true democracy in Athens, in which every (male) citizen could vote in a assembly that had real power over the workings of government, is something that developed slowly. We've talked about the reforms of Solon, which paved the way b y breaking the hold of the power of the landed aristocrats. Important advances were also made, paradoxically, under the Peisistratid tyrants. The final transition to democracy, though, occured only after the reforms of Cleisthenes in 508/7.

Read the sources listed above, which are our major primary sources from the period, and combined with what you have read from AG Chapter V be ready to answer the following questions:

1. What discrepancies are there between our primary sources? Do any of them seem important? (you can include the information from Plutarch's life of Solon)

2. Why did democratic reforms occur. Were the leaders who instituted these reforms motivated by some sense of the equality of mankind or the right of all free people to control their own destiny? If not, what were their motivations?

For an OUTLINE of the period of Peisistratos and Cleisthenes, click HERE.

Wednesday: Croesus, Persia and the Ionian Revolt (Reading: AG 178-200)

Friday: The Persian Invasion I: Darius and Marathon (Packet: Herodotus' account of Marathon)

For an OUTLINE of the build-up to and outbreak of the Persian Wars, click HERE.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, the disruption caused by Floyd will be behind us and we'll be back to following the syllabus schedule.

Agenda for Week 6 (Sept. 27 - Oct. 1)

Scheduling note: We're still a day behind from Floyd, and will remain so until the middle of next week. If you refer to the syllabus, you can just push everything from last Friday's assignment a day ahead until you get to next Wednesday. That means Monday we'll do Early Sparta, start Early Athens on Wednesday; do Peisistratus and his Sons on Friday. The reading and discussion on early Democracy scheduled for Friday will be postponed to the following Monday.

Read: Chapter 4 in AG for Monday; Plutarch's "Life of Solon" for Wednesday; Chapter 5 in AG and pp. 53-57 in <I>Portable Greek Historians for Friday</I>

About this week:We've been talking about how most of the Greek city-states developed in the late Geometric and early Archaic periods. We have seen how many city-states shared a number of features and trends: government by landed aristocracies , hoplite

armies, increases in trade and external contacts, increasing population, colonization, a brush with tyranny. Now we are going to take a closer look at the two cities that will become the dominant cities in Greece in the later Archaic and Classical per iods: Sparta and Athens. Both of these cities depart from the standard pattern in significant ways, and both develop in ways that are significantly different from each other as well.

When you read Plutarch's biography of the early Athenian lawgiver Solon for Wednesday, keep in mind what we discussed about Plutarch before. He was writing some 700 years after Solon, and Solon himself was living in a time that was still largely i lliterate. Very few contemporary records were kept. For this reason, we must read Plutach's biography with a critical eye. One problem with Solon (and other early figures, like Theseus the Spartan Lycurgus) is that later Greeks tended to give them cred it for lots of things that they probably had nothing to do with.

One bit of contemporary documentation we have from Solon's time is Solon's own poetry. Plutarch preserves some of that poetry for us, and it gives us interesting insight into Solon's reforms and what he hoped to accomplish through them. Be sure t o read it carefully.

For Friday, I've assigned the first reading's from the "Portable Greek Historians" textbook. This reading is from the work of the historian Herodotus, and deals with the tyranny of Peisistratus in Athens. We'll talk a lot more about Herodotus lat er (he is our chief source for the Persian Wars). Here I'd just like to note that he wrote his Histories in the mid-400's; therefore only 75-100 years after the events he was describing. It is just barely possible that Herodotus (Born ca. 480 BC), even had the opportunity to talk to someone who was an eyewitness to these events in Athens! From here on out our sources will become more and more reliable.

For an OUTLINE about early Sparta, click HERE.
For one on early Athens, click HERE.

Agenda for Week 5 (Sept. 20-25):

Floyd has really fudged up our schedule. On MONDAY there will be no regular class. Go instead to one of the talks at the Classical Athens symposium (as we discussed on Wednesday). If at all possible, go to the one at 2:15 by John Camp. For the complete schedule of talks at the symposium, click here.

Prepare a 1-2 page summary of the talk you attend and have it ready to hand in on Wednesday, 9/22. If you are completely unable to attend any of the talks, contact me for an alternative assignment

Your understanding of the talks will be enhanced by reading the section in your textbook on the Athenian Agora on pp. 274-283. There is also a reading on the Athenian Agora (entitles "Camp/Archaic Agora") available on E-res.

For Friday, 9/24, prepare the reading/discussion assignment on Pheidon originally scheduled for 9/17. For details, see below.

At the time I am writing this, I have no access to e-mail, so my apologies if you have tried to contact me that way. If you need to talk to me call 221-2993(w) and 258-4564(h). More details on what our post-Floyd schedule will be like will be posted soon.

Agenda for Week 4 (Sept. 13-17):

This week, we begin studying the Archaic Period, the traditional beginning date for which is 700 BCE. In this period many of the trends begun in the Geometric Renaissance, continued; the use of writing spread, trade and contact with other peoples increased, colonization of the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts proceeded apace, and more Greek communities coalesced into poleis.

It is to the Archaic Period (or to the few decades immediately preceeding it) that we owe our first surviving Greek literature: the poems ascribed to Homer and Hesiod and the early Lyric Poets (including Archilochus, Sappho, and Alcaeus). Greek vase painting and sculpture begins to develop the qualities that will be characteristic of Greek art in the Classical period.

The Greeks made advances in military affairs in this period, with the development (or continued advancement) of the use of the hoplite phalanx, a tightly-packed formation of heavily-armored, spear-bearing infantrymen.

In politics, traditional land-owning aristocracies were having their authority challenged in many cities by autocratic tyrants who often had the backing of the common people and the wealthy non-land-owners. In some cases this political turmoil a nd tension between various segments of society led to the first steps toward democracy.

Oh, by the way, since we have surviving contemporary records from this period, this is (in the strictest sense) the first completely historical period in the Greek past. We're finally studying real history.

Assignments: Read AG Chapter III, and do the following reading-and-thinking assignment for Friday. Quiz or in-class writing may occur!:

As an example of how ancient historians piece together the story of this distant period, you will be reading and evaluating almost every single piece of evidence we have for one important figure of this period, Pheidon, ruler of the city of Argo s. Don't worry; it won't take you very long to read all this evidence.

1. Read the source material collected in Fornara's Archaic Times to the End of the Peloponnesian War , #4 (pp. 6-8)

2. Go to E-res, click on "Sources for Pheidon" and read the additional sources (Herodotus, Aristotle and Pausanias) gathered there.

3. Read the article about coinage by Colin Kraay in "Sources for Pheidon" on e-res.

4. Think about the following:

1. What do the sources agree upon? What do they disagree upon? How can we explain and decide between the divergent versions of Pheidon's date, deeds and accomplishments?

2. What does the numismatic (coinage) evidence discussed by Kraay add to the picture?

3. Read what your textbook has to say about Pheidon (use the index), and read the alternative accounts by Hammond and Tomlinson in "Sources for Pheidon" on e-res. Which of these modern accounts most accurately reflects what we can say for sure about P heidon?

5. When you have thought about that, be prepared to answer the following questions:

1. When did Pheidon live?

2. What did Pheidon do?

3. How sure of our answers to questions 1 and 2 can we be?


1. In evaluating competing sources, older sources are generally preferable to newer ones, since they were closer to the time in question and may have had access to more contemporary sources of information. You can't disregard later sources, though, sin ce even they had material at their disposal that we no longer have.

2. If two sources say the same thing, it's not necessarily independent corroboration. The later source might simply be copying from the earlier source. Check the dates, and check the two sources for similar wording (a dead give-away for copying).

3. One of Fornara's footnotes needs to be explained. On p. 5, n. 3 it says "<twenty->eighth: Falconer (=669 BC). This means that the scholar Falconer suggested emending (changing) the word "eight" in the text of Pausanias to "twenty-eighth". He s uggested this because he thought it made better sense of the date. Up until modern times, the only way that the works of ancient authors were published was by being copied by hand. The scribes and monks who did this were amazingly accurate, but they sti ll committed an average of one mistake per page, a number which multiplied over the course of several centuries of copying. One of the tasks of modern scholars is to try to correct these errors. Of course, one should be careful and conservative in doing so, otherwise one could potentially make the text say anything one wants, which is not a very scientific way of proceeding.

For an OUTLINE of the Late Geometric and Early Archaic periods, click HERE.

Agenda for Week 3 (Sept. 6-10):

The centuries following the fall of the Mycenaean palaces are full of turmoil and change. The economy shrinks and the population decreases. Political authority (such as it is) becomes decentralized. Trade contacts and other links to the n on-Greek world are disrupted. Writing, monumental architecture, and other arts of civilization are forgotten. Later Greek traditions spoke of widespread migrations of Greeks, both within Greece and from Greece to other parts of the Mediterranean. Some of these migrations can be corroborated by archaeological evidence; others seem largely to be legendary reflections of the general instability of the period.

The upheaval and decline of this period is reflected in the traditional name for it, the "Dark Ages" (ca 1150-800). Nowadays, new research, particularly in archaeology, has made this "dark" age seem considerably less gloomy than before, so other terms , including "Early Iron Age" and "Geometric Period" are now in favor. The latter term comes from the characteristic geometric decoration on Greek pottery of the period.

Amongst the advances made during this time were the beginning of the widespread use of iron and the development of new important sites such as those at Nichoria and Lefkandi. In contrast to the Eastern-style palace monarchies of the Mycenaean periods, Greek civilization in this period begins to assume its characteristic shape and scale. The new Greek communities that emerge from the ruins of the Bronze age were better suited to the Greek environment, and provided a more sustainable basis for prosperi ty. It is here that the most familiar characteristics of Greek society and culture first emerge into the historical record.



The Iliad and the Odyssey, ascribed by the Greeks to the semi-legendary poet Homer, were written versions of traditional tales that had been passed down orally generation after generation since at least the later Mycenaean age. They were first written down some time after the re-discovery of writing by the Greeks, in the 8th Century, BC. Exactly when they were first written down is a matter of great controversy and uncertainty, but many scholars accept a date around 700 BC.

Even though it tells a Bronze Age tale, and has clear elements of fiction and imagination, many scholars believe that Homer's poetry provides a valuable reasonably accurate reflection of society and culture during the "Dark Ages". This is an argument that your textbook makes in some detail, and your job is to look into it further by consulting some of the original evidence for it (in the form of Homer's poems).

Come to class on Friday ready to discuss and/or write about the following topics:

1. After reading about the characteristics your textbook ascribes to "Homeric" society, see what evidence for these characteristics you can find in the excerpts from Homer in your coursepack. Choose at least one passage that you think is particularly illustrative of some aspect of Homeric society (regardless of whether it is mentioned in your textbook -- it's always good to be original!) and be prepared to discuss it in class.

2. What limitations are there to using imaginative literature to reconstruct the history of real socities? Think of fiction, movies and television in our culture. Could future historians use such things to reconstruct accurately how we lived and what our values were?


For an OUTLINE about the end of the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age, click HERE.
Agenda for Week 2(Aug 30 - Sep 3):

Reading: As soon as you can read through Chapter I in AG; By Friday read the Life of Theseus by Plutarch in The Rise and Fall of Athens

Topics: The earliest civilizations in Greece; The Bronze Age; the Minoans and Myceneans; Near Eastern Civilizations and their influence on the Aegean region; The Indo-Europeans; Greek traditions about their early history

Questions to consider:

For discussion (and possible quiz) on Friday: Plutarch, the author of the Life of Theseus, wrote ca. 100 CE (see note below on dates), well over 1000 years from when Theseus was thought to have lived. Even in Plutarch's time there were no contemporary accounts from anywhere near the time of Theseus. Plutarch did, however, have access dozens of stories about him, some arising from the anonymous wellsprings of tradition, others from rationalizations of later historians. Nevertheless, some people think that Plutarch's account has at least some elements of truth. In particular, it is often argued that Plutarch's account of Theseus' adventure in Crete reflects a dim memory of the Minoan civilization, much in the same way that Homer (as Schliemann proved at Troy) preserves a dim memory of the Mycenaean period. Think about the following questions:

For an outline pertaining to the Mycenaean period, click HERE.