ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN • GREECE traces cultural developments across the Mediterranean, spanning the millennium that begins with the collapse of the Bronze Age kingdoms in the Eastern Mediterranean and ends with the Greek-speaking Roman East in conflict with Sassanid Persia. We follow the spread of urbanism, commerce and alphabetic literacy from the small city-states of the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean across to the West and around the Black Sea. While many of the small states in the East were conquered by the Assyrians, by the Persians, and then by the Macedonians, in the West small states were absorbed by the Syracusans, Carthaginians and Romans. In particular, this course traces how small states resisted incorporation into empires — how Israel struggled against the Assyrians and Babylonians and lost, how Athens and Sparta struggled against the Persians and won.
We focus on both material culture and on the origins of literary genres, specifically ancient history, focusing on what it meant to be both civilized and a Greek (or an Egyptian Assyrian, Persian, Phoenician or Israelite), and how these identities were continuously reformed in contact and conflict with other societies. We survey various ethnic groups in order to show how these groups demonstrate both the diversity and the uniformity of the Mediterranean world, particularly within the urban elites and particularly in North Africa (i.e. Libya, Egypt, and Ethiopia). We also focus on power–how groups consolidated and maintained political, military, ideological and economic control, and how unequal power relations played out within society, namely relations between women and men, between upper and lower classes, between free and slave, between adults and children, and between citizens and foreigners.
WARNING: The ancient world embraced enslavement and dehumanization of others, as well as mens’ domination of women, normalizing and institutionalizing violence.
We also practice digital humanities (e.g. image and text encoding, database management, mapping, etc) and active engagement with institutions in the DMV area, including the curators and collections of the Smithsonian Instution (Freer|Sackler, NMAH), the Dumbarton Oaks Museum, and the Library of Congress, among others. Some internship opportunities may follow from the course (depending upon logistical, bugetary and COVID-19 restrictions).
The core goals of this class are:
- to acquire factual and conceptual knowledge of the Mediterranean ecumene, encompassing diverse civilizations (e.g. Egyptian, Libyan and Ethiopian), with sensitivity to change and continuity over time
- to appreciate the study of antiquity with the analytical skills that archaeologists, historians, and philologists use to research, recover, and write about the past
- to develop habits of critical thinking in order to appreciate change and continuity over time, across diverse regions and in contact with diverse cultures
- to become competent and confident in the skills necessary to write about ancient cultures, and
- to become an independent inquirer into the past and a lifelong learner
This course will treat reading and writing as critical thinking processes; we will remove the mystery and emphasize the mechanics of active reading and persuasive writing. You will learn how:
- to read ancient literature critically
- to refute and/or accommodate opposing viewpoints
- to write with clarity, brevity, and specificity
- to avoid logical fallacies
- to collect, synthesize, and access data systematically, and
- to use this data to reinforce an effective argument