History 203: Introduction

Classical Greece, Fall 2020

Intro | 1 | 2 | 3

Why are you here?

In a review of a Zoom production during the Pandemic of 2020 of Oedipus Rex, by the Athenian Playwright, Sophocles, Elif Batuman writes that while watching the play,

I found myself spinning into a kind of cognitive overdrive, toggling between the text and the performance, between the historical context, the current context, and the “universal” themes. No matter how many times you see it pulled off, the magic trick is always a surprise: how a text that is hundreds or thousands of years old turns out to be about the thing that’s happening to you, however modern and unprecedented you thought it was.

I thought this says a lot about why we study the Ancient Greeks, and really any subject in the humanities (we'll be reading that play later in the term). The past has a great deal to tell us about the present--and the future. We study history not so we can perform well at Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy, but to learn lessons that will be useful in understanding our experiences in the present and guiding our actions in the future. As author and former history teacher Mike Maxwell says,

General principles of history cannot be considered laws or rules that always apply in the same way to similar circumstances. Rather than rules, principles of history are tendencies that can be identified by observing recurring patterns in the historical record—tendencies that can serve to inform future judgment in the realm of human affairs.

The Course, The Syllabus

For specifics on policies regarding class participation, grading, rewrites, etc., please also read the Course Requirements page. You are responsible for knowing these policies. I will be posting the schedule of assignments on Canvas, which will link you back to pages of the syllabus. The syllabus on this website is a general outline of the course based on how it has gone in past years. With the online schedule, I'm not sure if we will be able to do quite as much, so we may be making some changes.

For this class you will need to get:

1. G.B. Cobbold, Hellas: A Short History of Classical Greek Civilization and Its Predecessors (It's out of print; I will give you this via PDF)

2. Fagles, Robert, trans., The Odyssey. MAKE SURE YOU GET THE FAGELS TRANSLATION. Some classes are reading a different version. If you don't have a copy, an online version is here: https://archive.org/details/pdfy-T2WaiIPwOMJF1pR3/page/n13/mode/2up

3. Fitts and Fitzgerald, trans, Sophocles, The Oedipus Cycle

4. A 3-ring binder into which you'll put all of your notes, quizzes and class handouts (there are many, so yes, you must have a binder). You should bring this to class with you daily.

Daily readings: The syllabus tells you what to read each night and gives you a "question focus" designed to stimulate questions about the readings. Come to class with at least three questions to guide discussion of the reading. The best questions can be answered with evidence from the assigned readings, will generate sustained discussion, and will draw out different perspectives on an issue.


You will notice in the navigation bar to the left that there are a number of pages offering guidance for students in my courses. Everyone should read the History Department statement on plagiarism on the Writing History page. Click on the 1 below and see what happens.

Intro | 1 | 2 | 3

Online resources & interesting stuff about the Greeks, that you may find interesting, but are not required to look at: 30 Maps; Ancient Greece Declassified podcast; "The Thucydides Trap"; videos about Greek archeology.; Song from "Antigone in Ferguson."

Intro | 1 | 2 | 3