Civilizations of the Ancient World

Announcements

Bookmark this page as your main entry point to the course website. That way that you’ll be sure to see any changes and other information I’ve posted here.

CURRENT ANNOUNCEMENTS (3)

Quiz #8 grades and markups posted

24 November 2022

The grades and markups for Quiz #8 are posted on the My Grades page on the course website. I strongly recommend spending a moment to take a look at my commentary on the quiz, as I use these to emphasize the key take-aways from last week’s topics:

 Link to My Grades page

Revised deadline for Essay #3

21 November 2022

The deadline for Essay #3 is turning out to be a bit too close to that for Essay #2, so I’m pushing the deadline back to Monday, December 12.

That still means you need to set aside time NOW to either go to the museum or view the film and find the associated primary sources. I’ll talk more about the images essay on Tuesday, but in the meantime please watch the video on the Essay #3 page, since that tells you exactly what I am looking for.

Welcome to Week 13!

21 November 2022

Roman cuirass and equipment
Roman cuirass and equipment

This week we’re talking about the Romans replacing the kings with a Republic. What stands out to you as the defining characteristics of the Republic? What does this idea mean to the Romans? The early history of the Republic involves an ongoing conflict between the patricians (families that control the priesthoods) and the plebeians (all other families of any class). Where does this conflict come from? Why are the priest-families so important to the Roman political system?

We’re also exploring how and why the Romans shift toward military expansionism, and some of the repercussions that follow. Why do the Romans become militaristic and expansionist?

How do you think they see their rivalry with Carthage? Why do you think Hannibal is able to almost win—and why does he ultimately lose? Why does Rome seem to have such an off-hand approach to governing the territories it consumes or conquers?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and reactions. See you Tuesday!

 Link to Schedule page

ARCHIVE

Quiz #7 grades and markups posted

14 November 2022

The grades and markups for Quiz #7 are posted on the My Grades page on the course website. I strongly recommend spending a moment to take a look at my commentary on the quiz, as I use these to emphasize the key take-aways from last week’s topics:

 Link to My Grades page

Quiz #6 grades and markups posted

14 November 2022

The grades and markups for Quiz #6 are posted on the My Grades page on the course website. I strongly recommend spending a moment to take a look at my commentary on the quiz, as I use these to emphasize the key take-aways from last week’s topics:

 Link to My Grades page

Welcome to Week 12!

14 November 2022

Detail of Aeneas or Numa from the Ara Pacis, 13 CE.
Detail of Aeneas or Numa from the Ara Pacis, 13 CE.

This week we’re looking at ancient North Africa and Italy, and then we’re starting our exploration of the Romans and their story. This is the beginning of the rise of the people that within a few centuries would dominate the entire Mediterranean, including most of the peoples we’ve studied.

At first Rome starts out as a city-state within the city-state culture of Latium with its own priest-king, just like the city-states in Sumer. But the Romans get fed up with the kings after a while and eject them from Rome. What do you think makes them turn against the kings? Is it just the actions of the kings, or does it go deeper? Why do you think the legends about the fall of the kings focus so much on the Rape of Lucretia as the thing that turns the Romans against the kings? What does the story of that rape signify to them?

Looking forward to your discussions and reactions. See you Tuesday!

 Link to Schedule page

Notes and reminders about the Clouds essay (due November 21)

7 November 2022

A modern (19th century) cartoon depicting Strepsiades burning the Thinkery.
A modern (19th century) cartoon depicting Strepsiades burning the Thinkery.

Here are a few reminders on the Clouds essay, which is due on Monday, November 21. Mostly this a repeat of what I have said before, but please read it anyway. Once again, the starting point I’d like you to bear in mind in that this essay is about making an argument and supporting that argument with evidence—in this case, three specific moments from Clouds that demonstrate an illustrate the argument you are making in the essay about what Clouds tells us about fifth-century Athens.

Comparing two works. Regarding Clouds, it’s important to bear in mind that this essay introduces a new wrinkle not present for the Gilgamesh essay: you need to compare Clouds to another ancient Greek work. Which one depends on which prompt you are answering—make sure to watch the Clouds essay overview video for my discussion of this aspect of the assignment. The essay overview video is very important this time. Watch the essay overview video, is what I’m saying. I would also suggest that you watch the overview video. This also means that you need to carve out time to read the other work as well as to plan and write the essay. Email me anytime if you want to discuss how to approach the essay.

The thing that’s similar is that for the Clouds essay you don’t need anything else but the two primary sources. Your essay should focus on three moments from Clouds, and compare each of those moments with a corresponding moment from the other work. More on that in the overview video.

Introduction. In your introduction, make sure you have a clear thesis statement—what you intend to show in the paper. Try to develop a concrete, specific thesis statement that lines up with and responds directly to one of the prompts. You don’t need to include evidence in your introduction; ideally all you need is to set up the issue you are addressing, what the possible sides are, and your thesis. I talk about this a bit in the Overview Video for the essay, and more generally in the Elephant Pamphlet (see the Resources page).

The body of the essay. In the main body of your essay, focus on three specific moments from Clouds that support your thesis. Describe the moment in a paragraph and then spend another paragraph talking about how that moment serves as an example of your overall argument—what you are trying to prove about what Clouds tells us.

Evidence and cites. Major rule of thumb for writing about history (and for academic work in general, but especially history): All assertions must be supported by evidence, and all evidence must be cited. When you describe events from Clouds and the other work (whether it’s in quotes, a paraphrase, or just describing specific ideas present in the story), you need to provide a citation—a footnote or parenthetical cite that gives your source (the book version of Clouds and the other work you are using) plus a page number. You also need a bibliography listing the versions used of both works. See the citations handout linked on the Resources page. Citations and bibliographies are also discussed more fully in the Elephant Pamphlet.

Requirements for all papers. Make sure to fully review the requirements for all papers (on the Essay Musts page of the course website) before completing and uploading your essay. Also review the prompt for the Essay you’ve chosen to make sure you answered what it’s looking for.

Any questions at all, please come to me. Based on our in-class discussions I’m really looking forward to hearing your insights on Clouds and what it has to tell us about fifth-century Athens.

 Link to Clouds Essay page

Welcome to Week 11!

7 November 2022

Depiction of the library at Alexandria (Egypt).
Depiction of the library at Alexandria (Egypt).

This week we’re talking about the legacy of the Peloponnesian War. More wars between the Greeks opened them up to invasion by Macedon and the famous conquests of Alexander the Great. Why do you think the Greeks couldn’t maintain any real peace in during this era, even when danger loomed from the north? What were they really fighting about?

A big part of this story are the two Macedonian kings, Philip and Alexander. What do you think was most instrumental in Philip being able to take over Greece? Was his son, Alexander, really that “great”? Was his conquest a failure because it didn’t remain unified? What are Alexander’s legacies for the world?

The other thing I really wanted to do with you folks this week is hash out what you guys think of Clouds now that we’re finishing it. There are some very striking scenes toward the end. What was most shocking or impactful for you—the debate where Unjust Argument wins (and: why does he win?); Pheidippides attacking his father; or Strepsiades abandoning rational discourse and taking up a torch?

Looking forward to discussing all of this with you. See you Tuesday!

 Link to Schedule page

Midterm Exam grades are posted

2 November 2022

The midterm exam grades are posted on the grading page. I’m sorry for the delay in getting these back to you.

Exam Notes. Note that included in the PDF, behind the grading cover sheet, is a handout with notes on the responses for the first four sections of the exam. This post-mortem is also linked here and on the PDF page.

Estimated Course Grade. Even if your estimated course grade is low now, that does not mean you will not pass the course—the final and two essays are still ahead, which together are more than half your course grade.

Also: if you are concerned about your overall course grade being lower than you want it to be at this time, make sure you (a) turn in your Gilgamesh essay if you have not done so, or (b) submit your revised essay if you have reversible deductions, to get those points back.

Blue Books. I did not mark up the blue books. If you want them back anyway, to compare your answers with the exam notes, I’ll have them with me in class on Thursday and in my office hours.

Quiz #5 grades and markups posted

31 October 2022

The grades and markups for Quiz #5 are posted on the My Grades page on the course website. I strongly recommend spending a moment to take a look at my commentary on the quiz, as I use these to emphasize the key take-aways from last week’s topics:

 Link to My Grades page

Quiz #4 grades and markups posted

31 October 2022

The grades and markups for Quiz #4 are posted on the My Grades page on the course website. I strongly recommend spending a moment to take a look at my commentary on the quiz, as I use these to emphasize the key take-aways from last week’s topics:

 Link to My Grades page

Welcome to Week 10!

31 October 2022

Corinthian urn depicting hoplite soldiers, ca. 600 BCE.
Corinthian urn depicting hoplite soldiers, ca. 600 BCE.

This week we’re talking about fifth-century Greece, a time of cultural acceleration and transformative wars. Is there a connection between the two?

The Persian Wars are a huge watershed for the Greeks. Even the battles of this war remembered forever—Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis. Why do you think the Greeks are really able to defeat the vastly more powerful Persians? How do you think the war changes them? What was most remarkable to you about the Persian Wars?

With the Peloponnesian Wars, the Greeks are fighting each other in a massive, generation-long slog unlike anything the ancient war has seen. Why? Why are they fighting, and why does it last for decade after decade? What is this war really about? Can we blame a particular city for this? Why do you think it turns out the way it does?

Also, we see the middle section of Clouds, where the “Socrates” character gets weirder and weirder, and Strepsiades gets more and more confused. What do you think Aristophanes is getting at here? What was he trying to show by having “Socrates” talk about the gods and he-chickens and she-chickens and things like that?

Looking forward to discussing all of this with you. See you on Tuesday!

 Link to Schedule page

Welcome to Week 9!

24 October 2022

A cartoon showing the entry of “Socrates” in Aristophanes’s <em>Clouds</em>.
A cartoon showing the entry of “Socrates” in Aristophanes’s Clouds.

This week we’re talking about the period after the so-called Greek Dark Age, when from our perspective Hellas can be heard and seen again, with the foundations of Greek culture already laid down in the previous, unseen centuries. Two influential cities emerge in this period, both with opposing and increasingly extreme ideas of what it means to be Greek.

This week we’re exploring two great Greek cities. One is Sparta, a society dedicated to the art of war. What do you think goes into making the Spartans like this—so different, so focused on being warriors? What does being a warrior society mean to them? Why aren’t more poleis like this, especially given the other cities are so impressed by the Spartans’ dedication? Is the Spartan experiment a success, in Greek terms? What are the most positive aspects of the Spartan society in terms of the well-being of its citizens? What are the biggest drawbacks of the Spartan system?

Meanwhile, culturally Athens is the most important of the Greek poleis—just ask them!—but their story is like a fever dream, starting out as a tightly-managed oligarchy of a few privileged families and ending as Hellas’s only radical democracy. Why do you think Athens was so volatile? What is it about Athens that made them become so aggressive in seeking cultural dominance?

This week we’re also starting our second primary source reading, Aristophanes’s comedy Clouds. It’s ribald, it’s provocative, and most of all it’s a call to arms. Why do you think the protagonist of this play is a confused old man? How does the playwright see the head of the Thinkery, the character called “Socrates”?

Looking forward to discussing all of this with you. See you Tuesday!

 Link to Schedule page

Gilgamesh grades and markups are posted

17 October 2022

The grades and markups for the Gilgamesh essay are posted on the grading page. Overall I’m very pleased with the essays. There were a lot of interesting discussions and, here and there, some unusual perspectives I don’t see often. Many of you really made the most of this opportunity to understand the values and ideal of a culture that lives four thousand years ago, and I’m gratified to see it.

Reversible deductions. Some of you may find that you received “reversible deductions” for issues relating to formatting and citations. The good news is, those are points that you can get back. Check the cover page of your markup to see if there are any hand-written points taken off next to the reversible deductions. If there are, I made notes on the cover sheet or in the essay about the issue, and included a handout with the requirements.

Please resubmit your essay to BlackBoard with those problems fixed, and I’ll be in a position to reverse those deductions. Only reversible deductions can be reversed, so don’t resubmit for anything other than reversible deductions.

Missing essays. If you have not submitted your Gilgamesh essay, I strongly advise you to do so even though it is late. The lateness penalty is capped at 30 points maximum, and submitting an essay and getting a reduced grade is much, much better than a zero on the assignment for your overall course grade.

Clouds essay. I’m sure some of you are thinking ahead to your Clouds essay (in some part of your brain, at least!). As you start reading Clouds next week, please consider the prompts and how what you read in the play as we go might shape what you have to say in your second essay. Be thinking about what other work will be effective as a comparison to Clouds. Make sure to watch the Essay #2 overview video if you have not done so.

Remember, just as the goal of the first essay was to better understand how people thought and interacted with each other in Bronze Age Sumer, with the Clouds essay your purpose is to use this play and the work with which you are comparing it to gain insights into the culture and values of fifth-century Athens. As always I am happy to discuss the play, possible comparison works, and approaching the assignment.

Welcome to Week 8!

17 October 2022

A depiction of the Indian philosopher Guatama Buddha.
A depiction of the Indian philosopher Guatama Buddha.

This week, after the midterm, we’re going to look east to ancient Asia. This course focuses on the Mediterranean, but many of our themes apply to the Asian cultures of antiquity as well. Why did the Greeks romanticize the Scythian barbarians? Is it a coincidence that the same kinds of things are happening in the Indus valley as are happening in Mesopotamia and along the Nile? What jumps out at you about the culture and religion of ancient South and East Asia?

Next week we’ll be turning back to Greece and starting on Clouds by Aristophanes, so make sure to get your copy if you have not already done so.

Looking forward to discussing all of this with you. See you Tuesday for the exam.

 Link to Schedule page

Welcome to Week 7!

9 October 2022

Singer with lyre. Greek bronze, geometric, 8th century BCE.
Singer with lyre. Greek bronze, geometric, 8th century BCE.

This week, as we continue touring the Iron Age, we’re talking about two very different empires in the same part of the world: the Iron Age Assyrians, also known as the Neo-Assyrians, and the Persians. Did the Neo-Assyrians and the Persians have anything in common apart from being empires? What do you think were the most important keys to the success of the Persian empire a century or so later?

After that we’re exploring the so-called Greek Dark Age—the period during which the Greeks recovered from the collapse of the Bronze Age and built a new civilization.

The Greek Dark Age is frustrating and fascinating to historians of ancient Greece, because this period of rebirth, during which the foundations and chief elements of Hellas as we know it come into being, happens while the Greeks have no writing system and so there are no literature or records until the very end—we can’t hear them creating a new Greek society.

What do you think most drove the Greeks during the Dark Age? If the communities of the Aegean were so isolated and so fiercely independent, how did they end up having so much in common? How did they end up with such a clear idea of what it meant to be Greek?

Looking forward to discussing all of this with you. See you Tuesday!

 Link to Schedule page

Midterm Exam review sheet posted

8 October 2022

Roman scribe shown with his stylus and wax tablets on his tomb stele at Flavia Solva, Noricum.
Roman scribe shown with his stylus and wax tablets on his tomb stele at Flavia Solva, Noricum.

The midterm review sheet is now available on the Exams page, either as a web page or as a PDF. The first page details the content and structure of the midterm, which will cover everything up through the October 12 class meeting.

The midterm exam will be held in-person on Tuesday, October 18 in our normal meeting room and class period. Please arrive on time. You will only have the normal class period (from 3:00 to 4:15 p.m.) to take the exam. Please note: You must attend and take the exam in person on October 18. I do not give make-up exams except in the case of documented medical/family emergency.

The review sheet is not designed to be a list of answers so much as questions you can use to guide you toward the areas you want to focus on in your review. As you read through the questions on the review sheet, those you have a sense of how you might answer are lower priority for review than those questions you’re not sure how you would answer; those you’d then want to go back and spend some time reviewing in your notes, the readings, the videos, quiz notes, and class discussions.

Also note that the terms are a useful way of finding concepts you need to go back and review, so I’d advise stepping through the terms at the end of each topic and making sure you have a sense of what they mean and why we’re studying them.

To prepare for the essay, I suggest that you focus on the four themes of the course as discussed in the Welcome video—individual/community, mortal/divine, male/female, city/empire—and think about possible questions that relate to those topics across the cultures and peoples we’ve explored. For the essay you’ll be asked to give three examples, so you can sketch out a question about (for example) ancient peoples and their gods and three similar or contrasting examples of societies that show what the gods meant to the ancients.

We will discuss further in class—please come to class with questions about anything you’re not sure of or want to hear more about.

 Link to Exams page

Welcome to Week 6!

3 October 2022

Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria 669–631 BCE
Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria 669–631 BCE

This week we’re catching up on the Iron Age. We’re also talking about the Iron Age Assyrians, also known as the Neo-Assyrians. Was the Neo-Assyrian empire really a failure? What went wrong, and why did it come apart so catastrophically?

Looking forward to discussing all of this with you. Remember, there’s no class meeting on Tuesday. See you Thursday!

 Link to Schedule page

Quiz #3 grades and markups posted

29 September 2022

The grades and markups for Quiz #3 are posted on the My Grades page on the course website. I strongly recommend spending a moment to take a look at my commentary on the quiz, as I use these to emphasize the key take-aways from last week’s topics:

 Link to My Grades page

No meetings this week

26 September 2022

See you on October 6!

Quiz #2 grades and markups posted

22 September 2022

The grades and markups for Quiz #2 are posted on the My Grades page on the course website. I strongly recommend spending a moment to take a look at my commentary on the quiz, as I use these to emphasize the key take-aways from last week’s topics:

 Link to My Grades page

Navigating the course website

21 September 2022

Screen shot of the site map page.
Screen shot of the site map page.

If you’re using the course website on smaller screens, like phones or tablets, you might find the site map a useful way to find the page you need.

The site map icon (which looks like a post with two directional placards on it) is at the top of every page. Tap that and you’ll have a list of all the key pages of the site to scroll through.

In addition, as you may have noticed, that navigation bar—the block of page names at the top of each page—scrolls left and right on smaller screens. If the page you need is out of view, slide the navigation bar left or right.

Remember also that if you want to review any part of the syllabus in a traditional paper format, any page with its own PDF version will also have a printer icon at the top right. All available PDFs are posted on the Print/PDF page.

If you experience any issues with the site, let me know and I’ll do my best to fix them promptly.

 Link to Site Map page

Welcome to Week 5!

19 September 2022

Gold funeral mask from Mycenae, 1550–1500 BCE, said to be the death mask of Agamenon.
Gold funeral mask from Mycenae, 1550–1500 BCE, said to be the death mask of Agamenon.

This week we’re talking about the Bronze Age Aegean: the indigenous inhabitants, especially the mysterious Minoans, and the invading Greeks, who swarm in from the north and take over the Aegean world before bringing about their own spectacular collapse, bringing down the whole Bronze Age with them.

There are a lot of things to talk about here. What strikes you as most intriguing about the Minoans—what we know of them? Why do you think the Mycenaean Greeks were so successful in surpassing them? If you were to talk about what was important to the Minoans and to the Mycenaean Greeks, what would be similar, and what would be distinctive? Were the Mycenaean Greeks their own worst enemy in too-greedily building a trade empire, or should we emphasize other factors in the great cataclysmic collapse of the Bronze Age and its civilizations?

We’re also talking about the dawn of the Iron Age, which we see first in Canaan—now that it’s not being warred over by the surrounding Bronze Age empires, the lands along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean are free to develop their own strength and economic reach. And they’re very characteristic of how the Iron Age differs from the Bronze Age. We’re focusing on three very distinct peoples who are rivals for land and independence in early Iron Age Canaan: the Phoenicians, the Philistines, and the Hebrews.

Why is the Iron Age so different, do you think? Why does a shift to iron matter so much? What do you think most sets apart a trade empire like that of the Phoenicians from the empires of the Bronze Age we discussed? What do you think are the biggest factors in the Hebrews being able to create their own state in Canaan despite huge disadvantages? How does religion factor into the story?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and reactions. See you Tuesday!

 Link to Schedule page

Important notes on Essay #1 (due October 3)

19 September 2022

Here are a few brief reminders about the Gilgamesh essay, which is due very soon on Monday, October 3.

  • Watch the video. Make sure to watch the overview video, since that tells you exactly what I am looking for. It’s on the Essay #1 page.
  • Thesis statement. Make sure you have an introduction with a thesis statement (your argument asserting your position on the question/problem being addressed) and a body that described and discusses three examples from the Epic supporting your thesis statement. For models and explanations on how to do this, see “Writing a Position Paper” (a.k.a. “The Elephant Pamphlet”), which is on the Resources page on the website.
  • Sources. For your examples you may use all of Gilgamesh, including the tablets that were not assigned if they contain helpful support for your thesis. You do not need to use other sources for this assignment; this essay is about your interpretation of Sumerian culture as represented in the beliefs, actions, and relations of the characters in the Epic.
  • Requirements for all papers. You must adhere to the requirements for all papers (listed on the Essay Musts page). Not meeting the requirements for all papers will mean a lower grade.
  • Template. There is an MS Word template already set up with some of the formatting I require on the Resources page. If you use Word I strongly recommend making use of this template.
  • Late papers. As per the syllabus, late papers are marked down by ten points per class meeting, up to a cap of thirty points. Avoid this penalty and block out the time you need to prepare, write, and review your essay so that it can be submitted on time.
  • BlackBoard. All essays are uploaded to BlackBoard. Look for “Upload Assignments Here” in the left-hand menu. Your essay needs to be uploaded as a Word (preferred) or PDF file attachment, not pasted in as text submission. If you use a browser-based word processor, you’ll need to download or export to a Word document and upload that.

I’m happy to discuss any aspects of the Epic or the essay, so please come to me if there’s anything you’re not sure about. I’m looking forward to hearing your interactions with the folks of Uruk!

 Link to Essay #1 page

Quiz #1 grades and markups posted

15 September 2022

The grades and markups for Quiz #1 are posted on the My Grades page on the course website. I strongly recommend spending a moment to take a look at my commentary on the quiz, as I use these to emphasize the key take-aways from last week’s topics:

 Link to My Grades page

Welcome to Week 4!

12 September 2022

Colossal statues of Old Kingdom pharaohs at Luxor, capital city of Upper Egypt.
Colossal statues of Old Kingdom pharaohs at Luxor, capital city of Upper Egypt.

This week we’re talking about Egypt! This is a society that emerges around the same time as Sumer, and yet they could not be more different. Ancient Egypt has fascinated and perplexed students of history for thousands of years. What stands out the most to you about Egyptian society and culture? This is one of those rare cultures where absolute monarchy remains stable and effective for century on century. Why is that? What do you think makes the role of the pharaoh work without abuse of power? What do you think are the most important values and beliefs to an Egyptian? How does this affect the way they think about the gods? How does it affect how they think about death? How is Egypt during the New Kingdom different from the Old Kingdom?

It’s striking how different Sumer is from Egypt. What do you think goes into making them so opposite to each other? Egypt unified early. Why was it possible there, and not in Sumer, where the city-states remained fiercely independent? What’s most different about their views of the gods, of kings, of death?

Speaking of death, this week we also read the next two assigned tablets of Gilgamesh. Why do the gods agree to send the bull and to punish Enkidu, when they were the ones that created Enkidu in the first place? What does Enkidu’s death mean for Gilgamesh? What is the author trying to impress on the reader in this climax to Gilgamesh’s relationship with Enkidu?

Looking forward to discussing this with you. See you Tuesday!

 Link to Schedule page

Welcome to Week 3!

5 September 2022

Cylinder seal showing Gilgamesh and Enkidu killing the forest guardian Humbaba (right three figures), Mitannian, c. 1400–1300 BCE.
Cylinder seal showing Gilgamesh and Enkidu killing the forest guardian Humbaba (right three figures), Mitannian, c. 1400–1300 BCE.

This week we’re progressing through the story of the civilizations of Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers: the original inhabitants in Sumer to the south, and the alien newcomers, the Semitic tribes that settle in Akkad, Babylon, and Assyria. They’re the strangers with their own languages and cultures who start to emulate, and, later, absorb the great cities and culture of the Sumerians.

In the discussion this week I want to talk about lots of things. What characteristics are distinctly Sumerian? How do they see the world, and why? Another topic is how different the Sumerians and the Semitic peoples were—why did they build Sumer-style city-states, even down to the ziggurats for their own gods, and end up adopting Sumerian technology? Why do you think the Sumerians didn’t survive? When Sargon of Akkad built an empire, what was it based on, and why didn’t it last very long after he died? Why do you think so much significance is attached to the Code of Hammurabi?

This week we’re also looking at tablets 2 and 5 of Gilgamesh—the taming of Enkidu and the fights with Humbaba, the forest guardian. What jumps out at you most from these two tablets? Why do Gilgamesh and Enkidu go on this quest? Is it just about glory, or is there more to it? What do you think is the symbolism in Gilgamesh and Enkidu attacking the guardian of the cedar forest? Note what happens to the cedar, too—what can we say about that? And what about the way Enkidu and Gilgamesh interact in these tablets? What’s that telling us about these two, and why Enkidu was the gods’ solution to Gilgamesh’s bad rule?

Looking forward to discussing all of this with you. See you Tuesday!

 Link to Schedule page

Welcome to Week 2!

29 August 2022

The Standard of Ur (Peace side), 2600 BCE.
The Standard of Ur (Peace side), 2600 BCE.

This week we’re talking about the origins of the unique culture of Sumer and their city-state culture. What do you think drives your identity—your sense of who you are—if you’re from one of these city-states?

We’re also reading Table 1 of Gilgamesh. Pay special attention to why the citizens of Uruk are angry with Gilgamesh—what does that tell us about the role of the king in their community?

Looking forward to discussing all of this with you. See you Tuesday!

 Link to Schedule page

Welcome to Week 1!

22 August 2022

Nobleman and his wife, Egypt, Old Kingdom, 5th Dynasty, 2494-2345 BCE.
Nobleman and his wife, Egypt, Old Kingdom, 5th Dynasty, 2494-2345 BCE.

This is just a quick note to welcome you all to the beginning of Civilizations of the Ancient World. I’m looking forward to exploring the ancient world with all of you, starting with our first meeting on Thursday. The meeting is in-person, 3:00 – 4:15 p.m., in Carman 212.

Syllabus and video: As a reminder, the syllabus, assignments, and requirements are all on the course website, which is on my website, markbwilson dot com. Make sure you’ve looked through the site and that you’ve watched the welcome video, which talks about how the course works and answers some common questions.

Books: Also make sure you have the books. We won’t need the Four Texts about Socrates until later, but you’ll need both the textbook and Gilgamesh right away. The reading assignments on the Schedule page of the website are what you need to have read (and thought about) before coming to class.

Email me: Most of you replied back to the welcome-to-the-course email I sent you after you enrolled, confirming that I have a good email address for you. If you didn’t, could you do me a favor and email me now at mark.wilson@lehman.cuny.edu and let me know that I can use this address, or that that a different email is better for you? Thanks.

Campus access: You should have received the email from Rene Rotolo underlining what you need to know about campus access. The vaccination, testing, and ID rules are spelled out there, and if you’re a returning student they’re not much changed. One thing that’s different this time: Gate 13—the southeast gate by the Student Life Building on Jerome, and the gate most convenient to Carman Hall from the south—will be closed for the next few weeks. For now, access to campus will be via the main west and north gates (Gates 5 and 8) only. When turning up for our class meetings it might make sense to try to arrive on campus a bit early, as there may be lines at the entrances to campus.

That’s it for now. Let me know if you have any questions. I’ll see you all on Thursday!

 Link to Schedule page

Welcome to Civilizations of the Ancient World!

1 August 2022

I’m looking forward to a great semester exploring the cultures and transformations of ancient societies, from “prehistory” to the rise of the Roman Empire.

For the Fall semester, the course will be in person. Physical attendance in our class meetings is a critical part of the course, so if that’s not something you’re up for this course may not be for you.

Right now, I need you to do three things.

First, look over the course web page, which will be our base of operations. Watch the quick welcome and orientation video (also linked below). Look through each of the pages on the website to see how the course will work, and make sure to click through to the schedule page to see how the readings, videos, and discussions are set up. Any questions about how it works, please send me an email.

Second, get the books now if you can. A lot of you will be ordering books online, and you need to make sure you have the books and are ready to go when the course starts on August 25. On the “Books” page I’ve tried to give you lots of different options for getting what you need, but consider ordering now if there’s going to be any kind of shipping involved. (If you come across a legitimate online/e-text version of one of the assigned readings that’s not already listed, please let me know.)

Finally, send me an email so that I know I have a working email address for you. You can just send a blank email, email and say “hi”, or email with a question or concern, but I want to make sure I can contact everyone. If you receive an email from me but there is an email address you prefer I use instead of this one, please definitely reply and tell me that.

Email me anytime with questions. I’m looking forward to starting our journey together.

Welcome to Civilizations of the Ancient World!

8 June 2022

This where I’ll be posting announcements, updates, and important information for each week of the course. Bookmark this page your entry point to the course website to make sure you’re up to date.