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Writing Assignments HIA 320

Remember that, as always, I am looking for your opinion and how well you support it with evidence; these essays are less about “right answers” than they are about well-supported ideas.

Position Paper

Final Draft Due Thursday, Dec. 11

Write a 6–8 page position paper in which you express an opinion about a topic related to Greek history, and use evidence to back up that opinion. In other words, you’re taking a side on some question or controversy, and you use reasoning and research to support your side of the argument.

Position Paper Proposal

The proposal is just a brief one-page preview of your position paper that includes the following:

Hannibal Barca, the great Carthaginian general, brought 37 war elephants with him over the Alps into Italy, and at the climactic Battle of Zama they had a front line that included 80 elephants. Did Hannibal’s elephants really make a difference? Some say that Hannibal’s elephants were crucial in establishing the morale of his troops against the legendary Roman legions and in intimidating other armies along the way into alliances; but others say that Hannibal’s elephants did the Carthaginian side more harm than good in their fight with Rome. I believe that Hannibal’s use of elephants was a mistake, not because war elephants were a dumb idea in general, but because Roman adaptability meant that the Romans would inevitably find a way around them.
Opposing sides
Thesis statement

I’ll respond to the proposal with feedback and suggestions to help you map out your research and writing.

Essay on Representations and Images

Due Thursday, Oct. 30

Write a 3 page essay based on ONE of the two following topic questions.

Whichever option you choose, the purpose of this essay is NOT to describe the works in question, but to interpret their meaning and discuss analytically what they tell us about how different kinds of artists and creators represent the ancient peoples and their world.

Option 1 – Artifacts comparison

Visit any museum exhibition or collection of art, architecture, or other artifacts of the ancient world. Choose two or three comparable artworks from different eras, from different places, or both.

The question: If art is an expression of cultural values, what do the differences between these works tell you about the respective cultures they come from? What do their similarities tell you about what these ancient societies have in common?

Make sure to look for items with the same, or comparable, subjects, that come from different times or from different places. For example: an Athenia statue of a young man and a Syracusan Greek statue of a young man, or a decorated vase from the Greek Archaic period and one from the Classical or Hellenistic period. (For possible venues, see below.)

You must describe in detail how what you see leads you to concrete conclusions about these ancient peoples. Be bold, be provocative, and be specific.

Important: On a separate “Works Discussed” page after your essay, list the title of each work, the artist, the approximate date it was created, and the name of the museum gallery where the work can be found.

Also on the “Works Discussed” page, paste in photographs of the items. If it’s permitted at the museum, take a picture of the items while you’re there. If it’s not, find pictures of them on the museum’s web site or via a Google Images search.

Option 2 – Films and sources

Watch any feature-length film that seriously depicts the ancient Greek world and compare it with a primary source—written evidence about that society or those events.

The question: Both the movie and the written evidence are artistic interpretations of reality. Use at least two specific events or characters to compare the filmmakers’ intent and message with that of the writers of the source material. What do they want you to believe?

(For some suggested possibilities, see below.)

Important: On a separate “Works Discussed” page after your essay, list the title of film, year, director, stars and studio. Then list the book or books you drew your written evidence from, using standard citation style.

You may also employ secondary sources to help you interpret the film, the primary source, or both.

Some Possibilities for Representations & Images Essay

Option 1 possibilities

Possible venues for the artifacts comparison option include:

You are, of course, not limited to these venues, and you are not limited to New York.

Option 2 possibilities

Some possibilities for the film and sources option include (this list is not exhaustive; I can give you specifics on where to look in the primary sources on request):

Film Possible Primary Sources to Compare
300 (2007) Herodotus, The Histories book 7
Agora (2007) Suda Lexicon; Socrates Scholasticus;
 Letters of Synesius
Alexander (2004) Plutarch, Alexander; or Arrian, Anabasis
Antigone (1961) Sophocles, Antigone
Cleopatra (1963) Plutarch, Caesar and Antony
Electra (1963) Euripides, Elektra; Sophocles, Elektra
Helen of Troy (1956) Homer, Iliad 3, Odyssey 4, 23; Euripides, Helen; Ovid, Heroides 16; Isocrates, Helen
Immortals (2011) Plutarch, Theseus; Ovid, 
Metamorphoses Book 12
Jason and the Argonauts (1963, 2000) Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica; Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica
The Odyssey (1997) Homer, Odyssey
Troy  (2004) Homer, Iliad


Many of these primary sources are available through the list of ancient sources and translations on my website (http://markbwilson.com/) via the “Ancient Texts” link at the top of the page.

Essay on The Clouds

Due Thursday, Nov. 13  

Write a 3–4 page essay taking a position on ONE of the following topics:

  1. Some say that The Clouds, by ending with violent incidents, offers an inconsistent message on morality. Make an argument for the consistency of the moral argument of The Clouds by comparing it with a tragedy from the Greek classical period in which morality is a key issue (examples include Medea, Elektra, and Antigone). Build your case using three key incidents from The Clouds, comparing each one in turn with a relevant incident in the tragedy. Where do both plays stand with regard to the Athenian debate on relative morality (nomos vs. physis)?
  2. The surviving plays of Aristophanes range over a long and turbulent period of Athenian history. Compare The Clouds to another play by Aristophanes. What themes and ideas are present in both plays? Is his approach or methodology different in the other play? What conclusions can you draw about Aristophanes’s approach to writing, and the consistency of his overall philosophy?
  3. Compare the “Socrates” found in The Clouds with the one depicted in works by his student, Plato. (Possibilities might include Phaedo, which has Socrates discussing life and afterlife on the brink of his execution, and Apology, a version of Socrates’s self-defense against charges of irreligion, among others.) What characteristics of Socrates and his philosophy were most exaggerated by the two authors (either in ridicule or praise), and why? On the basis of these depictions, using incidents from both sources, make an argument for why exactly some Athenians feared Socrates so greatly.

Presentation Write-Up

Due on the class meeting after your presentation

Write a 2–3 page essay that does the following: