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Current Announcements

Welcome to Week 3!

5 February 2023

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


Thanks for a great first couple of meetings

1 February 2023

Thanks for a great first couple of meetings—lots of ideas and contributions put out there. I’m looking forward to more of that as we progress through the semester. Everyone should feel comfortable adding their reactions and perspectives to the mix as we hear from the various cultures of the ancient world.

Make sure you’ve looked through the syllabus carefully so that you have a good sense of how things work. Attendance and participation in our meetings is critical, because that’s where we make sense of things and assemble the conclusions and take-aways you’ll use in your papers and on the final exam.

Any questions, ask! I’m available by email or in my office hours (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:00 to 5:45 p.m. in CA-292).

See you Thursday!

Welcome to Week 2!

30 January 2023

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 land of Sumer, one of the earliest civilizations, and their unique 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. Make sure to email me with any questions about the readings or how the course works. See you Tuesday!

Link to Schedule page

Welcome to Week 1!

23 January 2023

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 209.

At our first meeting we’ll be laying some important foundations we’ll be building on throughout the semester, including the themes of the course and some of the things we’ll be looking for as we explore the ancient world. One of the things I want to talk about on Thursday is the word “civilization” itself. What does it mean to have become “civilized”? What kinds of changes do you think it involved? What’s likely to be different from one early community to the next, and what might they maybe have had more in common?

Syllabus and video: As a reminder, the syllabus, assignments, and requirements are all 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 March, but you’ll need both the textbook and Gilgamesh right away, as there are assignments this week. 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: Many 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 and let me know that I can use this address, or that that a different email is better for you? Thanks.

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!

10 December 2022

Welcome to Civilizations of the Ancient World! 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.

This course is 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 January 26. 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.