Courses

The course offerings in Classics enable students to explore the ancient Greek, Roman and Graeco-Roman worlds from various perspectives: literature, history, art, archaeology, philosophy, religion, theatre and political science, as well as comparative literature, gender and sexuality, leadership, and modes of cultural interaction.

Courses are of two general types: language (Greek, CLGR, or Latin, CLLA) and translation (Classical Civilization, CLAS).

The 100-level language courses are intensive introductions to Greek and Latin grammar. The 200-level language courses combine comprehensive grammar review with readings from Greek or Latin texts (poetry and prose) of pivotal historical periods. Latin 302 and the 400-level language seminars explore in depth selected authors or topics and the methods of analysis appropriate to each of them. The numbering of courses through the 300 level reflects the prerequisites involved. The only prerequisite for any 400-level course is Greek 201 or Latin 302, or equivalent language preparation. The rotation of 400-level courses is arranged to permit exposure, in a three- to four-year period, to most of the important periods and genres of classical studies. Students may enter the rotation at any point.

Classical Civilization courses, in which texts are read in translation, provide both surveys and opportunities for more specialized study of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, including other cultures of the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean. The numbering of these courses often suggests a recommended but rarely necessary sequence of study within a given area of classical studies. Most of these courses do not assume prior experience in Classics or a cross-related field.

Classical Civilization or Classics

CLAS 102(F)Roman Literature: Foundations and Empire

In the first book of Vergil's Aeneid, the god Jupiter prophesies the foundation and the greatness of Rome: "I place no limits on their fortunes and no time; I grant them empire without end." Yet elsewhere in this epic account of Rome's origins, this promise of unlimited power for the descendants of Romulus seems to be seriously abridged. Some readers have seen, not only in the Aeneid but throughout classical Roman literature, a persistent tendency to inscribe the decay and disintegration of Roman power into the very works that proclaim and celebrate Roman preeminence. This course explores the ancient Romans' own interpretations of their past, their present, and their destiny: the humble beginnings of their city, its rise to supreme world power, and premonitions of its decline. Related topics for our consideration will include Roman constructions of gender, the location and expression of virtue in the public and private spheres, the connections and conflicts between moral probity and political success, the exercise of individual power versus action on behalf of the commonwealth, the absorption of foreign customs and peoples into Rome, the management of literal and imaginary frontiers, and other anxieties of empire. We will read selections and complete works by a wide variety of Roman authors, including Cicero, Catullus, Caesar, Vergil, Sallust, Horace, Ovid, Seneca, and Tacitus. All readings will be in translation. [ more ]

CLAS 200History of the Book

Not offered this year

From ancient clay tablets, bamboo strips, and papyrus rolls to modern hardbacks, paperbacks, and e-readers, no object has so broadly and deeply represented the capacity for humans to create, preserve, and transmit knowledge, information, and ideas as the book. Books have been worshiped and condemned, circulated and censored, collected and destroyed. From works of art to ephemeral trash, they have been public and private, sacred and profane, magical and commonplace. Likewise, notions of the book have influenced every subsequent form of communication and transmission, whether we are browsing film and song "libraries" or "scrolling" down "pages" on the web. This course will explore aspects of the material, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the book, from the invention of the earliest writing systems through the modern development of digital media. Our inquiry will span the globe and the millennia, but we will pay special attention to the ancient and medieval Chinese, Greek, and Latin traditions and their enduring influence in the modern world. Topics will include orality and literacy, manuscript production, the invention and spread of printing, typography, reading culture, notions of authorship, libraries and collections, censorship, and the digital book. Through a variety of readings, hands-on exercises, and interactions with our abundant library resources, we will investigate how the changing form and function of the book interact across its long and diverse history. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

CLAS 203History of Ancient Greek Philosophy

Not offered this year

Very few people believe that everything is water, that we knew everything before birth, that philosophers ought to rule the state, or that some people are natural slaves. Why then should we spend our time studying people who in addition to having these surprising beliefs have been dead for 2500 years? First of all, Greek thinkers, especially Plato and Aristotle, radically shaped the trajectory of western thought in every area of philosophy. No one can have an adequate understanding of western intellectual history without some familiarity with the Greeks, and we might think that an understanding of our intellectual history can deepen our understanding of our own situation. More importantly, many of the thinkers that we will read in this class are simply excellent philosophers, and it is worthwhile for anyone interested in philosophical problems to read treatments of these problems by excellent philosophers. We will begin the course by looking briefly at some of the Presocratic philosophers active in the Mediterranean world of the seventh through fifth centuries BCE, and some of the sophists active in the fifth century. We will then turn to several of Plato's dialogues, examining Plato's portrayal of Socrates and his development of a new and profoundly powerful philosophical conception. We will then read some of Aristotle's works on metaphysics, epistemology and ethics, considering some of the ways Aristotle's thought responds to that of predecessors. [ more ]

CLAS 205(S)Ancient Wisdom Literature

The Biblical books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job are often grouped together under the Hebrew category of hokhmah, 'wisdom.' Although these books are very different in content, they can all be interpreted as meditations on ethical and practical philosophy. In this way, they represent the Hebrew Bible's canonical embrace of a widespread Near Eastern literary phenomenon. From the instructional literature of Egypt and Mesopotamia to Greek didactic poetry and fables, ancient Mediterranean cultures offer a wide range of texts that engage the issues of personal behavior, leadership, and justice. Starting with the central wisdom books of the Hebrew Bible and moving through relevant material from the Apocrypha, New Testament, and the Egyptian and Babylonian traditions, this course will examine the literature of wisdom throughout the ancient world with an eye toward understanding its various social, political, and philosophical contexts. We will then consider the Greek wisdom tradition in such texts as Hesiod's Works and Days, Aesop's fables, and fragments from the pre-Socratic philosophers. Finally, we will explore the influence of these ancient sources on later expressions of wisdom in medieval European literature, as well as more recent examples such as Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

CLAS 207(F)From Adam to Noah: Literary Imagination and the Primeval History in Genesis

How long did Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden? What was the mark of Cain? Why did Enoch not die? Who was Noah's wife? How did Giants survive the Flood? These are only a few of the fascinating questions that ancient readers and interpreters of the Book of Genesis asked and attempted to answer. The first ten chapters of Genesis present a tantalizingly brief narrative account of the earliest history of humankind. The text moves swiftly from the Creation to the Flood and its immediate aftermath, but this masterful economy of style leaves many details unexplained. This course will explore the rich and varied literary traditions associated with the primeval history in the Genesis. Through a close reading of ancient noncanonical sources such as the Book of Enoch, Jubilees, and the Life of Adam and Eve, as well as Jewish traditions represented in Josephus, Philo, and Rabbinic literature and other accounts presented in early Christian and Gnostic texts, we will investigate the ways in which the elliptical style of Genesis generated a massive body of ancient folklore, creative exegesis, and explicit literary re-imagining of the early history of humankind. We will then turn to several continuations of these variant traditions in medieval and early modern literature, with particular attention to the extensive material on the figures of Cain and Noah. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

CLAS 212The Art of Friendship

Not offered this year

The idea of friendship has captivated poets, philosophers, and their audiences for over three millennia. The subtle dynamics of this fundamental relationship between humans have been a source of inspiration, consolation, and consternation for countless writers and readers. What are the different types of friendship? How does one make a friend, and what makes a good friend? How does a friend differ from an acquaintance, an ally, an accomplice, an enemy? Can the beloved also be a friend? Ancient Greek and Latin writers took up these and other questions about friendship in philosophical dialogues and treatises, epic and lyric poems, tragic and comic plays, oratory, and correspondence. This course will explore ancient theories and representations of friendship through readings from many of the most important texts and authors of antiquity, including Gilgamesh, the Hebrew Bible, Homer, Sappho, Euripides, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Virgil, Seneca, and the Epistles of Paul. We will also consider the wide-ranging responses to these meditations and depictions in later traditions from the Middle Ages to modernity, in such writers as Heloise and Abelard, Aelred of Rievaulx, Aquinas, Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Jack Kerouac, and Susan Sontag. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

CLAS 215(S)The New Testament: From Word to Book

In this course, students will be introduced to the New Testament through an exploration of how the New Testament became--and continues to be produced as--a book. We will start by examining the letters of Paul--its earliest texts--in terms of the habits and traditions of ancient letter-writing. We will similarly place the other texts of the New Testament in the context of Greek, Roman, and Jewish literary traditions and conventions. As the semester moves forward, we will examine how the New Testament itself became a material object--a book--and how its changing material status shaped its meaning and functioning. We will see the New Testament transform from a library of separate scrolls and/or codices (a library which was occasionally bound together into a single codex), to a luxury object in the Middle Ages, to a cheap printed object in the wake of the printing revolution of the 19th century, to its modern life as both a highly marketed object and a searchable digital "thing" in online spaces and mobile apps. [ more ]

CLAS 219(S)Judaism Under Ancient Greek and Roman Imperialisms

How did ancient Greek and Roman empires shape the beginnings of Judaism? In this course, we will examine how Greek and Roman imperial systems of identity, ethnicity, law, religion, and knowledge affected Judaism as a religious and cultural system. We will pay particular attention to the ways that Jews/Judaeans responded to these imperial pressures, especially as those responses articulated "hybrid" versions of Judaism that were informed both by resistance to imperial centers as well as the sheer hegemony of those cultural systems. The course thus uses (and introduces students to) postcolonial theory to study the history of Judaism under Greek and Roman empires. Readings for this course will include a wide array of ancient Jewish works, such as the books of Maccabees, Flavius Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Mishnah. The course will also include select readings from early Christian texts and postcolonial theory. [ more ]

CLAS 221(F)Technologies of Religion in the Early Christian World

What is the relationship between religion and technology? How do various technologies affect the production and distribution of religious knowledge? Facilitate communication and interaction with the divine? Transform the religious self? In this course, we will look specifically at the uses and effects of technology on religion in the early Christian world. While focused most directly on the influence of technology on the development of early Christianity, the course will also explore the place of technology in coterminous movements: in "pagan" sacrifice, Neoplatonic divination, and Stoic practices of the self. By examining technologies of text production, sacrifice, memory, and the self, the course will shed light on early Christianity and its competing religious and philosophical movements, as well as on the nature of technology's relationship to religion. [ more ]

CLAS 222(S)Greek History

Ancient Greece has been thought to embody the origins of Western civilization in its institutions, values, and thought; it has been seen as the infancy of modern society, with the attributes of innocence, purity, and the infant's staggering capacity for exploration and learning; it has been interpreted as an essentially primitive, violent culture with a thin veneer of rationality; and it has been celebrated as the rational culture par excellence. The study of ancient Greece indeed requires an interpretive framework, yet Greek culture and history have defied most attempts to articulate one. We will make our attempt in this course by investigating ancient Greece as a set of cultures surprisingly foreign to us, as it so often was to its own intellectual elite. But we will also come to appreciate the rich and very real connections between ancient Greek and modern Western civilization. The course will begin with Bronze Age-Greece and the earliest developments in Greek culture, and will conclude with the spread of Greek influence into Asia through the conquests of Alexander the Great. We will explore topics such as the aristocratic heritage of the city-state, the effects of pervasive war on Greek society, the competitive spirit in political and religious life, the confrontations with the East, the relationship of intellectual culture to Greek culture as a whole, Greek dependence on slavery, and the diversity of political and social forms in the Greek world. The readings will concentrate on original sources, including historical writings, philosophy, poetry, and oratory. [ more ]

CLAS 223Roman History

Not offered this year

The study of Roman history involves questions central to the development of Western institutions, religion, and modes of thought. Scholars have looked to Rome both for actual antecedents of European cultural development and for paradigmatic scenes illustrating what they felt were cultural universals. Yet Roman history also encompasses the most far-reaching experience of diverse cultures, beliefs, and practices known in the Western tradition until perhaps contemporary times. A close analysis of Roman history on its own terms shows the complex and fascinating results of an ambitious, self-confident nation's encounter both with unexpected events and crises at home, and with other peoples. As this course addresses the history of Rome from its mythologized beginnings through the reign of the emperor Constantine, it will place special emphasis on the impressive Roman ability to turn the unexpected into a rich source of cultural development, as well as the complex tendency later to interpret such ad hoc responses as predestined and inevitable. The Romans also provide a vivid portrait of the relationship between power and self-confidence on the one hand, and violence and ultimate disregard for dissent and difference on the other. Readings for this course will concentrate on a wide variety of original sources, and there will be a strong emphasis on the problems of historical interpretation. [ more ]

CLAS 226 TThe Ancient Novel

Not offered this year

In this course we read and closely analyze long works of fiction composed in the ancient Mediterranean between the first century BCE and the fourth century CE. To call these ancient works "novels" might be misleading, if our definition depended on the historical conditions that fostered the emergence of the modern novel (e.g., industrialization and widespread literacy). On another definition, however, the novel is that genre which, more than any other, devours and incorporates other genres. Judged by this standard, the works we will deal with in this course are quintessentially novels. They afford new perspectives on the diverse, cosmopolitan culture of the Hellenistic and late antique Mediterranean world in which they were originally written and read. Replete with spectacular tales of true love, death, danger, miracles, stunts, conversions, triumphant recognitions and happily-ever-after reconciliations, they access other classical genres such as history, tragedy, and epic by means of parody, allusion, and homage. [ more ]

CLAS 228Insult to Injury: Satire and Comic Abuse in Ancient Greece and Rome

Not offered this year

Glutton, pervert, demagogue, sycophant, social climber, spendthrift, witch: these insults can tell us a great deal about the social structure, gender norms, values, and anxieties of the societies that use them. In this course, we will consider verbal attacks from ancient Greece and Rome, covering a variety of abuse ranging from the everyday to the most elaborately stylized: graffiti, curse tablets, law-court invective (Lysias, Demosthenes, Cicero), iambic and satiric verse (Archilochus, Hipponax, Catullus, Horace, Martial, Juvenal), and abuse on the comic stage (Aristophanes, Plautus). How do these attacks differ according to genre and performance context? Conversely, what cultural patterns unite this diverse body of material? Who is targeted, and what behaviors do the insults attempt to police? What does the person casting blame stand to gain? How does the rhetoric of insult intersect with the construction of gender? To what extent is it helpful or misleading to think of Greek and Roman invective in terms of modern genres such as the political campaign attack ad or the rap battle? We will hone our analyses with secondary readings drawn from classics, comparative literature, and anthropology. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

CLAS 230(F)From Alexander to Cleopatra: Remodeling the Mediterranean World

The period between Alexander the Great (323 B.C.) and Cleopatra (30 B.C.), like our own, was characterized by internationalism, migration, wide-ranging cultural values and religious practices, and ethnically diverse urban populations. Large numbers of non-Greeks came under the control of newly established Hellenistic kingdoms, while in the west Rome's emergence as a superpower offered both new opportunity and danger. The Hellenistic world was a place of vibrant change in the spheres of art, architecture, urban planning, and public spectacle. In this course, we will consider the art and archaeology of this period in their political, social, and religious contexts, focusing on the visual language of power and royalty; developments in painting, sculpture, mosaics, and monumental architecture; interactions between Greeks and non-Greeks; and the impact of Greek culture in Rome. [ more ]

CLAS 236Demigods: Nature, Social Theory, and Visual Imagination in Art and Literature, Ancient to Modern

Not offered this year

This course traces the obscure history of demigods (satyrs, centaurs, nymphs, Pan, etc.) from its origins in ancient Greek art and poetry until today. We pay special attention to three points: the relationship between the mythology of demigods and ancient political theory concerning primitive life; the relationship between the mythology and evolving conceptions of the environment, and the capacity of the visual arts to generate and transmit mythology that has a limited literary counterpart. Individual demigods occasionally interact with gods or heroes, and end up in the pages of a book. But animal-human hybrids are usually envisioned en masse and exist primarily in visual art, where they thrive to this day. The interpretation of demigods has changed over time, keeping up with developments in ethics and evolving hierarchies of genre and taste. Demigods have been subordinated to the status of decoration, or banished altogether. In antiquity, they are hardly ornamental. Embodied in satyrs, nymphs, Pan, and the others is a collective vision of an alternate evolutionary trajectory and cultural history. In this parallel world, humans and animals not only talk to each other, they live similar lives, intermarry, and create new species. The distinction between nature and culture is not meaningful. Male and female are more or less equal. The industrial revolution never happens. How much of the ancient conceptual framework informing the representation of demigods survives along with the visual imagery? We will examine the origins and mythology of the demigods in works of ancient art, including sculpture and painted vases, such as the Francois vase and the Parthenon, and ancient texts, such as Hesiod's Theogony and Ovid's Metamorphoses. We will contextualize the representations within ancient intellectual history via texts ranging in genre from Old Comedy and political theory to theology, religious history, philosophy, and ethics (e. g., Aristophanes, Demokritos, and Lucretius). We will investigate the survival of the ancient myth of evolutionary alterity. This will include consideration of the imagery of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italian painters such as Piero di Cosimo, Dosso Dossi, and Titian, the reevaluation of nature by the Romantics, Nietzsches' Birth of Tragedy and twentieth-century artists such as Picasso. We will also explore the function of demigods in modern literature from C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling. Students who have some knowledge of the history of art (e. g., ARTH 101-102) will be well prepared to take this course. But it is designed to be comprehensible and meaningful to students with no background in art history. The requirements of the course include: attendance; preparing and answering questions for discussion; one midterm, one final exam, and one final paper. [ more ]

CLAS 241 TSex and Gender in Ancient Greece and Rome

Not offered this year

In the ancient Mediterranean world, sexuality and gender shaped a broad range of attitudes and actions. These categories created and reinforced difference in virtually every aspect of life, from the household to the political arena. This course examines the diverse discourses and practices around sexuality and gender in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, while also dismantling false assumptions about the continuity of the "classical" past with our own contemporary norms and values. We will carefully analyze, contextualize, and compare a variety of texts, including selections from tragedy and comedy (Euripides, Terence), epic (Homer, Ovid) and lyric poetry (Sappho, Catullus), novels, epitaphs, and early saints' lives, in order to gain a deeper and more complex understanding of how gender and sexuality were expressed, experienced, and regulated in Greece and Rome. Our emphasis will be on ancient texts, but selections from contemporary criticism and theory will enrich the methodological framework through which we approach those primary sources. The course fulfills the EDI requirement by providing sufficient context for students to make independent investigations of how literary and religious texts and practices engaged with political and social institutions to maintain different life courses and different systems of reckoning for the value of men's lives, women's lives, and the lives of individuals who didn't fit easily into either category. Additionally, the course will promote students' capacity to critically evaluate two past cultures that have long been important sources for intellectual and cultural traditions in the West, and which are still invoked today, sometimes misleadingly, to explain or justify positions and practices of privilege or oppression. [ more ]

CLAS 242(S)The Country and the City in the Classical World

A growing urban-rural divide is defining political discourse around the world. The interrelation and tension between "city" and "countryside" are not new, however, but date back to the time when cities first began. How do cities occupy and transform, interact with and displace rural landscapes? What are the values, stereotypes, and ideals--as well as artistic, literary, and architectural forms--associated with the city and the countryside? What role does one play in the political, social, and economic life of the other? With a focus on ancient Greece and, especially, Rome, this course will combine archaeological evidence and contemporary scholarship with primary sources ranging from Hesiod, Theocritus, Vergil, and Propertius to Cato the Elder, Varro, Vitruvius, and Pliny the Elder, to examine an array of topics including land surveying and colonization; agrarian legislation; the urban food supply; rustic religion in the city; urban parks and gardens; and the concept of the pastoral. Together, we will explore the city and the countryside - not just as places, but also as states of mind. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

CLAS 248Greek Art and the Gods

Not offered this year

In the Iliad, when the god Apollo is visualized, it is as a man, angry in his heart, coming down from the peaks of Olympos, bow and quiver on his shoulders, the arrows clanging as the god moves, "like the coming of night," to bring dogs, horses, and men to their deaths. By the end of the Classical period, one statue of the archer god depicted him as a boy teasing a lizard. In this course, we will examine the development of the images the Greek gods and goddesses, from their superhuman engagement in the heroic world of epic, to their sometimes sublime artistic presence, complex religious function, and transformation into metaphors in aesthetic and philosophical thought. The course will cover the basic stylistic, iconographical, narrative, and ritual aspects of the gods and goddesses in ancient Greek culture. The course will address in detail influential artistic monuments, literary forms, and social phenomena, including the sculptures of Olympia and the Parthenon; divine corporeality in poetry; the theology of mortal-immortal relations; the cultural functions of visual representations of gods, and the continued interest in the gods long after the end of antiquity. Readings assignments will include selections from Homer, Hesiod, Sappho, Aischylos, Euripides, Plato, Walter Burkert, Jean-Pierre Vernant, Nikolaus Himmelmann, Erika Simon, and Friedrich Nietzsche. [ more ]

CLAS 260Augustan Rome

Not offered this year

In 31 BCE, Octavian defeated Marc Antony at Actium, the culminating battle in a bloody civil war that had wracked the Roman state for years. As victor, Octavian found himself in a complex position: he was sole ruler over a society that traditionally abhorred monarchy, he had defeated a charismatic Roman citizen whose supporters might now pose resistance, and he had promised to re-establish a governmental system that seemed hopelessly broken. Octavian, soon given the honorific name Augustus, set about repairing the war-torn state while simultaneously solidifying his power. He announced that he had "restored the Republic," yet we regard him as Rome's first emperor. How did those living through this transition and subsequent ancient authors interpret it? How do works of art from Augustus' time contribute to, or resist, the idea that he ushered in a Roman "golden age"? In this course we will consider these questions using a range of sources including monuments and visual art, ancient historiography, biography, and poetry (Dio, Suetonius, Tacitus, Horace, Propertius, Vergil, Ovid), and selections from contemporary scholarship. In the process, we will gain a better understanding of a pivotal period of ancient history, as well as tools for thinking comparatively about power, rhetoric, and propaganda in our own day. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

CLAS 289 TSocrates

Not offered this year

Socrates was executed in 399 BCE on the charges of impiety and corruption of the youth of Athens. Apparently he corrupted the youth by engaging with them in philosophy. In this class, we will attempt to carry on the noble tradition of corruption by philosophy. We will read works by three of Socrates' contemporaries: Aristophanes, Xenophon, and especially Plato. Through an examination of these works, we will try to get some feeling for what Socrates' controversial positions and his arguments for these positions may have been. While he never wrote any philosophical works of his own, Socrates is one of the most influential thinkers in the western tradition. His thought influenced the thought of subsequent generations of philosophers. In fact, Socrates seems to have been thought of as a kind of intellectual saint in the Hellenistic world. The stoics and skeptics both claimed a Socratic imprimatur for their own thought. Stoicism and skepticism, however, are wildly divergent schools of thought. How could proponents of each be claiming to follow in the footsteps of Socrates? We will read some representative works from each of these schools of thought to see how each approaches Socrates. If time permits, we may also look at how the figure of Socrates has been thought about in the works of more modern thinkers. [ more ]

CLAS 306The Good Life in Greek and Roman Ethics

Not offered this year

Most thoughtful human beings spend a good deal of time musing about how we ought to live and about what counts as a good life for a human being. The philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome were among the first thinkers to develop rigorous arguments in response to such musings. Much of the moral philosophy produced in Greece and Rome remains as relevant today as when it was written. In this course, we will examine some central texts in ancient Greek and Roman moral philosophy. We will begin by reading some of Plato's early dialogues and his Republic. We will then turn to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. We will then examine writings in the Stoic and Epicurean traditions, as well as Cicero's On the Ends of Good and Evil. As we proceed through the course, we will look at the way in which each thinker characterizes happiness, virtue and the relation between the two. We will also pay close attention to the way in which each of these thinkers takes the practice of philosophy to play a key role in our realization of the good human life. This course is part of the Williams College program at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Corrections and will be held at the jail. Transportation will be provided by the college. The class will be composed equally of Williams students and inmates, and one goal of the course will be to encourage students from different backgrounds to think together about issues of common human concern. [ more ]

CLAS 320 TEnchantment and the Origins of Poetry

Not offered this year

Since the earliest period of Greek literature, poems have been intimately bound up in the notion of enchantment, or thelxis. The power of song to alter the mental and physical states of the audience and the world at large is intertwined with the wide variety of uses to which ancient magic was applied. Similarly, the idea of divine or supernatural inspiration can be interpreted as a reflexive enchantment that binds the poet to the transformative power of language. This tutorial course will explore the fundamental ways in which ancient Greek and Roman poetry, and its later offspring, are configured and understood as a kind of enchantment or incantation. By examining works that explicitly depict acts of enchantment as well as those that represent themselves as spells, dreams, charms, and curses, we will attempt to understand the structural and semantic relationships between song and magic across several genres. We will also consider the role of inspiration, enthusiasm, memory, truth, and falsehood in shaping both the poems themselves and discourses about poetry. Finally, we will investigate the reception and elaboration of these concepts in later European poetic traditions from the middle ages through modernity. Readings may include selections from Homer, Hesiod, Sappho, Pindar, Aeschylus, Euripides, Plato's Ion and Phaedrus, Theocritus, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Roman love elegy, Old English charms, Old Norse poetry, Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, Coleridge, Shelley, Mallarme, Valery, T.S. Eliot, and various other poets and critics. All works will be read in English translation, but students who have studied ancient Greek will be expected to read significant portions of the early material in the original. [ more ]

CLAS 323Leadership, Government, and the Governed in Ancient Greece

Not offered this year

Visionary, opportunist, reformer, tyrant, demagogue, popular champion: concise characterization of influential leaders is often irresistible. But placing leaders in their much less easily encapsulated political, social, and religious contexts reveals them to be far more complicated and challenging subjects. Among the questions that will guide our study of Greek leadership: Was the transformative leader in a Greek city always an unexpected one, arising outside of the prevailing political and/or social systems? To what extent did the prevailing systems determine the nature of transformative as well as of normative leadership? How did various political and social norms contribute to legitimating particular kinds of leader? After studying such leaders as the "tyrants" who prevailed in many Greek cities of both the archaic and classical eras, then Athenian leaders like Solon, Cleisthenes, Cimon, Pericles, Cleon, and Demosthenes, and Spartans like Cleomenes, Leonidas, Brasidas, and Lysander, we will focus on Alexander the Great, whose unique accomplishments transformed every aspect of Greek belief about leadership, national boundaries, effective government, the role of the governed, and the legitimacy of power. Readings will include accounts of leadership and government by ancient Greek authors (e.g. Homer, Solon, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, all in translation) and contemporary historians and political theorists. [ more ]

CLAS 330Plato

Not offered this year

Plato is one of the most important and influential thinkers in the history of the western tradition. His depiction of the trial and death of Socrates is one of the classics of western literature, and his views on ethics and politics continue to occupy a central place in our discussions 2400 years after they were written. It is, in fact, quite difficult to get through any course of study in the liberal arts without some familiarity with Plato. Nevertheless, comparatively few people realize that the views we commonly think of as "Platonic" represent only one strand in Plato's thought. For example, we commonly attribute to Plato a theory of the Forms on the basis of his claims in the so-called "middle dialogues" (mainly Republic, Phaedo, and Symposium). However, in his philosophically more sophisticated and notoriously difficult later dialogues (such as the Parmenides, Philebus, Sophist and Statesman), Plato engages in radical criticism and revision of his earlier views. In this course, we will spend the first third of the semester attempting to understand the metaphysics and epistemology in Plato's middle dialogues. We will spend the balance of the semester coming to grips with Plato's arguments in the later dialogues. We will read several complete dialogues in translation, and will also read a wide variety of secondary source material. [ more ]

CLAS 332Aristotle's Metaphysics

Not offered this year

In this course we will study Aristotle's Metaphysics concentrating of books gamma-theta. Aristotle sets out to study being qua being, or what is insofar as it is. The thoughts that Aristotle expresses in these books were instrumental in setting an intellectual agenda that dominated western thought through the Middle Ages and provided the backdrop against which the modern philosophical tradition arose. Furthermore, many of the issues that Aristotle takes up in these books remain of central importance in contemporary philosophy. Our main goal in this course is to work our way through Aristotle's text which can be extremely daunting, and to reconstruct his central positions and his arguments for these positions. We will also read selections from the vast secondary literature on Aristotle's Metaphysics. [ more ]

CLAS 334Greek and Roman Ethics

Not offered this year

Most thoughtful human beings spend a good deal of time musing about how we ought to live. The philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome were among the first thinkers to develop rigorous arguments in response to such musings. While ancient scientific theories and the philosophical systems constructed in accordance with these theories might be of interest only to scholars of the ancient world, the moral philosophy produced in Greece and Rome remains as relevant today as it was when it was written. In this course, we will closely examine some central texts in ancient moral philosophy. We will begin by reading several of Plato's early dialogues and the entirety of his Republic. We will then turn to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, as well as selections from his Eudemian Ethics, Magna Moralia and Politics. Finally we will examine some central texts in the Stoic and Epicurean traditions, as well as some of Cicero's contributions to moral philosophy. We will pay special attention to how different thinkers conceive of the nature of happiness, the nature of virtue, and the relation between the two. We will also spend a good deal of time thinking about the moral psychology of the thinkers we read. [ more ]

CLAS 485 TAfter Rome

Not offered this year

What happened to the Western Roman Empire? Did barbarians destroy it, did internal weakness undermine it, or did its participants voluntarily set it aside in favor of new cultural, social and political ideas? How did the evaporation of imperial political and military structures change the cultural and religious fabric of Europe? And above all, what is it that divides the ancient from the medieval world? Few questions in European history have occupied historians as insistently as these, and yet for all the lengthy books, ponderous documentaries, and political polemics, we are no closer to a consensus view. This tutorial will approach these timeless questions, first, through a comparative survey of the post-Roman Mediterranean, considering North Africa, Spain, Italy, Gaul, and the Byzantine East in turn. We will consult key primary sources for each region, including tax records, laws, narrative histories, letters, religious texts and archeological finds, as they are variously available. This first-hand experience with the problems of post-Roman history will prepare us to engage with secondary scholarship on the late imperial and early medieval worlds. Alongside the classic catastrophist readings of post-Roman history, which see the centuries after 476 CE as a period of severe economic and social dislocation, we will explore more recent arguments that seek to circumvent the problem of Rome's fall by positing an era of economic, cultural and intellectual continuity from the fifth through the eighth centuries. [ more ]

CLAS 493(F)Senior Thesis: Classics

Recommended for all candidates for the degree with honors. This project will normally be of one semester's duration, in addition to a Winter Study. [ more ]

CLAS 494(S)Senior Thesis: Classics

Recommended for all candidates for the degree with honors. This project will normally be of one semester's duration, in addition to a Winter Study. [ more ]

CLAS 497(F)Independent Study: Classics

Classics independent study. Students with permission of the department may enroll for independent study on select topics not covered by current course offerings. [ more ]

CLAS 498(S)Independent Study: Classics

Classics independent study. Students with permission of the department may enroll for independent study on select topics not covered by current course offerings. [ more ]

CLAS 499(F, S)Senior Colloquium

This two-semester course is required for all senior Classics majors and usually meets four times each semester. Our activities vary from year to year but normally include presentations by seniors who are taking independent studies or writing Honors theses in Classics, as well as meetings with guest speakers and distinguished visiting professors. Although required for the Classics major, this is a non-credit course and does not count toward the number of semester courses required for the Classics major or for graduation. Senior majors are expected to attend every colloquium unless excused in advance. [ more ]

Greek

CLGR 101(F)Introduction to Greek

This full-year, intensive course presents the fundamentals of Greek grammar, syntax, and vocabulary and introduces students, in the second semester, to works of the classical period (usually Xenophon and Euripides). [ more ]

CLGR 102(S)Introduction to Greek

This full-year, intensive course presents the fundamentals of Greek grammar, syntax, and vocabulary and introduces students, in the second semester, to works of the classical period (usually Xenophon and Euripides). [ more ]

CLGR 201(F)Intermediate Greek

Reading of selections from Hesiod and from Plato, combined with grammar review. The primary goal of this course is to develop fluency in reading Greek. We will also read the texts closely to explore important continuities and changes in Greek culture between the archaic and classical periods. The emphasis will vary from year to year, but possible subjects to be explored include: the education and socialization of the community's children and young adults; religion and cult practices; the performative aspects of epic (and choral) poetry and of prose genres like oratory and the philosophical dialogue; traditional oral poetry and storytelling and the growth of literacy; the construction of woman, of man; the development of the classical polis. [ more ]

CLGR 402(S)Homer: The Odyssey

From the early archaic era through the classical and beyond, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey remained foundational in Greek discourse about community, leadership, war, heroism, family, friendship, loyalty, the gods, justice, and much more. Nearly all of subsequent Greek literature, both poetry and prose, developed out of a dialogue with these epics. In this course, we will read extensive selections from the Odyssey in Greek and the entire epic in translation. [ more ]

CLGR 403Poetry and Revolution in Archaic Greece

Not offered this year

The age of experiment, lyric poetry, tyranny, migration and discovery, and the personal voice: it takes many images to describe the profound changes in Greek society, thought, and self-expression that took place during the archaic era (roughly 800 BCE to the Persian invasion of 479 BCE). We will first read selections from the lyric poets (e.g. Archilochus and Sappho, Tyrtaeus and Solon), whose concise and expressive poems reflected contemporary culture in a way that the archaic epics did not. Their poems create for modern readers, as they did for the Greeks, a powerful sense of the poet's personal presence and engagement with his (or her) audience. A similar intimacy characterizes the writings of many of the pre-Socratics, from which we will next read selections. Confident in the ability of the human mind to understand both the human and the physical world, the pre-Socratics anticipated what came to be known as philosophy and natural science. We will then turn to other writers who spoke directly about the political upheavals of the archaic age, focussing on the tyrant narratives of Herodotus. Throughout the semester we will also consider such significant material changes in the archaic era as the development of monumental public sculpture, the evolution of the temple, and the undertaking of vast building programs, all of which transformed the visual scale of the Greek cities and their citizens' sense of self and community. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

CLGR 405Greek Lyric Poetry

Not offered this year

This course will explore the development of Greek lyric poetry from the eighth to the fifth centuries BCE. Beginning with Archilochus, Sappho, and Alcaeus, and proceeding through such poets as Solon, Anacreon, Ibycus, and Theognis, we will examine the formal, social, and performative contexts of lyric, the influence of epic and choral poetry on the evolution of the genre, and the difficulties of evaluating a fragmentary corpus. Finally, we will explore the influence of political and economic changes in the early fifth century on the work of Simonides. The goal throughout is to investigate the structures, innovations, and problems of poetic self-expression in early Greek poetry. [ more ]

CLGR 407Rhetoric and Democracy: the Greek Orators

Not offered this year

The Greek orators of the 4th-century BCE were specialists in rhetoric and persuasive discourse, and in the deployment of the one to produce the other. They wrote forensic oratory intended to sway juries; political speeches with which they argued policy before the Athenian Assembly and aspired to be the city's leaders; attack speeches which they hoped would destroy their rivals; and show pieces intended to dazzle the listener with their rhetorical brilliance. In this course the most influential orators of 4th-century Athens will instruct us in rhetoric, demonstrate the stylistic versatility of the Greek language, teach us about what Athenians in the 4th century cared about, reveal theories of human psychology, and persuade us of a thing or two. We will read selected speeches by Lysias, Isocrates, and Demosthenes, as well as portions of speeches by other orators such as Aeschines, Antiphon, and Dinarchus. [ more ]

CLGR 409Plato

Not offered this year

Plato's writing has exercised an incalculable influence on the development of subsequent philosophy and literature, but his dialogues are equally compelling when they are read independently of the works they have inspired. In this course we will read substantial selections from one or more of the so-called middle dialogues (Symposium, Phaedo, Republic, Phaedrus), in which a variety of speakers, including Socrates, ask and provisionally answer questions such as what are love, beauty, and justice, and how does the human soul in possession of these goods participate in the divine? [ more ]

CLGR 410 TEnchantment and the Origins of Poetry

Not offered this year

Since the earliest period of Greek literature, poems have been intimately bound up in the notion of enchantment, or thelxis. The power of song to alter the mental and physical states of the audience and the world at large is intertwined with the wide variety of uses to which ancient magic was applied. Similarly, the idea of divine or supernatural inspiration can be interpreted as a reflexive enchantment that binds the poet to the transformative power of language. This tutorial course will explore the fundamental ways in which ancient Greek and Roman poetry, and its later offspring, are configured and understood as a kind of enchantment or incantation. By examining works that explicitly depict acts of enchantment as well as those that represent themselves as spells, dreams, charms, and curses, we will attempt to understand the structural and semantic relationships between song and magic across several genres. We will also consider the role of inspiration, enthusiasm, memory, truth, and falsehood in shaping both the poems themselves and discourses about poetry. Finally, we will investigate the reception and elaboration of these concepts in later European poetic traditions from the middle ages through modernity. Readings may include selections from Homer, Hesiod, Sappho, Pindar, Aeschylus, Euripides, Plato's Ion and Phaedrus, Theocritus, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Roman love elegy, Old English charms, Old Norse poetry, Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, Coleridge, Shelley, Mallarme, Valery, T.S. Eliot, and various other poets and critics. All works will be read in English translation, but students who have studied ancient Greek will be expected to read significant portions of the early material in the original. [ more ]

CLGR 412(F)Herodotus

This course will focus on the reading in Greek of Herodotus' Histories, his multivalent and deeply human account of how and why several hundred years of contact and conflict between the Greek city-states and non-Greek peoples to the east culminated in the Persian invasion of Greece. We will explore the ways in which his rich narrative style and intellectual landscape reflect the influence of Greek and near-eastern oral traditions, Ionian philosophical thought, Greek tragedy, and contemporary Athenian rhetoric and philosophy. We will also study his use of anthropological methods, ethnography, and geography in explaining human events. Among the many themes that permeate his work, we will pay special attention to the working of divine versus human justice, the mutability of human affairs, the nature of authority, the role of family, and the quest for wisdom. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

CLGR 413Hellenistic Poetry

Not offered this year

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, a new cultural center emerged in the recently founded city of Alexandria in Egypt. From across the Greek-speaking world, intellectuals who were both scholars and poets flocked to Alexandria's Museion (the shrine to the Muses) and its renowned library to categorize and organize the literature of the past while creating new kinds of poetry and poetic ideals. This course surveys the poetry of Hellenistic period with a focus on the "big three" poets of the third century, Callimachus, Theocritus, and Apollonius of Rhodes, who were especially influential on later Latin poetry of the Republic and Augustan ages. As we read a variety of texts including epigrams, hymns, mimes, pastoral idylls, and selections from epic, we will pay close attention to issues of genre, the tension between tradition and innovation, and the cultural context of Greco-Egyptian Alexandria. [ more ]

CLGR 414(F)Thucydides

This course will focus on Thucydides' powerful history of the Peloponnesian War. It is a rich text with much to say about human nature, human motivation, power, morality, the fragility of civilized life, the nature of democracy, leadership, causality in human affairs, and the impact on the Greek city-states of thirty years of nearly continuous war. [ more ]

Latin

CLLA 101(F)Introduction to Latin

This is a full-year course on the fundamentals of the Latin language. The first semester and part of the second emphasize learning basic grammar; the rest of the second semester is devoted to reading selections from Latin poetry (e.g., Ovid's Metamorphoses) and from Latin prose (e.g., Pliny's Letters). [ more ]

CLLA 102(S)Introduction to Latin

This is a full-year course on the fundamentals of the Latin language. The first semester and part of the second emphasize learning basic grammar; the rest of the second semester is devoted to reading selections from Latin poetry (e.g., Ovid's Metamorphoses) and from Latin prose (e.g., Pliny's Letters). [ more ]

CLLA 201(F)Intermediate Latin: The Late Republic

Reading of selections from Latin prose and poetry, normally from a speech or letters by Cicero and from the poetry of Catullus. This course includes a comprehensive review of Latin grammar and aims primarily at developing fluency in reading Latin. At the same time it acquaints students with one of the most turbulent and important periods in Roman history and attends to the development of their interpretative and analytic skills. [ more ]

CLLA 302(S)Vergil's "Aeneid"

This course is a comprehensive introduction to Vergil's Aeneid. Students will develop their ability to read and translate the Latin text of the poem, while at the same time exploring the major interpretive issues surrounding the definitive Roman epic. Through a combination of close reading and large-scale analysis, we will investigate the poem's literary, social, and political dimensions with special attention to Vergil's consummate poetic craftsmanship. [ more ]

CLLA 403The Invention of Love: Catullus and the Roman Elegists

Not offered this year

This course will explore the development of Latin love poetry in the first century BCE. Beginning with Catullus, we will examine the influence of Greek lyric poetry on the evolution of the genre as well as Roman attitudes toward love exhibited in other literature of the Late Republic. We will then turn to the full development of the elegiac form in the love poems of Propertius, Tibullus, and Sulpicia. Finally, we will explore the transformation of the genre in Ovid's Amores. The goal throughout is to investigate the conventions, innovations, and problems of expressing personal desire and longing amid the social and political upheaval of the transition from Republic to Principate. [ more ]

CLLA 405Livy and Tacitus: Myth, Scandal, and Morality in Ancient Rome

Not offered this year

Mythical stories of Rome's founding, which were formulated by many generations of Roman authors and public figures, served as a framework for these very thinkers to analyze and articulate Roman self-image in rich and creative ways; one who stands out among these figures is the Augustan historian Livy. The "second founding" of the Republic by Augustus, and the careers of his successors, in turn gave later Roman writers like Tacitus fresh inspiration for Roman self-imagining and self-analysis. We will begin the semester in mythical Rome, reading selections from Book 1 of Livy's history which present figures like Aeneas, the Trojan refugee whose arrival in Italy was conceptually crucial to Rome's development and position in Italy and the Mediterranean; Romulus, by whom Rome was founded in an act of fratricide; the Sabine women, whose nobility prevented a deadly war between their fathers and their Roman kidnappers; and Lucretia, whose virtue and self-sacrifice led to the liberation of Rome from a decadent and violent monarchy and to the founding of the Roman Republic. We will examine how Livy deploys the storyteller's art to excite his readers' pathos, indignation, and sympathy; we will examine as well how Livy often filters his account of mythical Rome through the lens of his own time, thereby constructing Rome's past through the Augustan present. Writing more than a century after Livy, Tacitus offers a different view of Augustus, and his account of the rude and dissolute Tiberius, the unscrupulous Livia, Rome's craven and dispirited senators, and the many scandals attached to the imperial family, figures a Rome once again suffering under a decadent monarchy. Tacitus's compressed, fastidious, inimitable prose is the vehicle for his stern yet often sardonic psychological insights, which subtly manage to combine moral judgment with prurient pleasure in the scandals of others. [ more ]

CLLA 407Caesar and Cicero

Not offered this year

The one a brilliant strategist, the other preeminent in the courts, Caesar and Cicero were both master politicians whose ambitions for their country and themselves brought them into bitter conflict. Their combined oeuvres provide compelling, detailed accounts of the events and personalities that ended the Roman republic and ushered in an era of prolonged civil war. Moreover, despite striking differences, their works justifiably are regarded as the twin summits of classical Latin prose. In this course we will read extensive selections from Caesar's commentaries (the Bellum Gallicum and Bellum Civile) and from Cicero's speeches and letters, aiming throughout at a better understanding of these authors' stylistic achievements and performing careful analysis of their pragmatic persuasive goals. [ more ]

CLLA 408Roman Comedy

Not offered this year

Roman comedy flourished only briefly, between the second and third Punic Wars, but its cultural-historical importance is undeniable. In these fabulae palliatae, Latin comedies staged in Greek costume and featuring ostensibly Greek characters, Roman attitudes are questioned and mocked but ultimately reasserted. We will read the Menaechmi of Plautus and the Adelphoe of Terence, two plays that burlesque the stereotypical relationships between fathers, brothers, sons, and slaves. We may also consider selections from Cato the Elder, Cicero's letters, and other primary and secondary texts that shed additional light on Roman familial relationships and their place in republican society. [ more ]

CLLA 409Seneca and the Self

Not offered this year

Through a close reading of selections from his Dialogues, Epistulae Morales, and a tragedy (probably Medea), this course will consider ethical and literary dimensions of self-fashioning, self-examination, and the conception of self in the Stoic philosophy of the younger Seneca. The focus of this course lies squarely in the first century CE, and on the analysis of Seneca's own texts. We will begin, however, with an introduction to the ethics of Roman Stoicism through the personae theory of Panaetius as recorded in Cicero's De Officiis. Moreover, we will read and discuss selections from some of Seneca's most famous and influential interpreters, including Montaigne and Foucault, in order to enrich our understanding of contemporary assessments of his work and to gain an appreciation of Seneca's considerable influence on later theorizations of selfhood. [ more ]

CLLA 414(F)Vergil's Eclogues and Georgics

This course will explore the two major works of Vergil that precede the Aeneid: the Eclogues, a series of ten pastoral poems that range widely across personal, political, and mythological themes; and the Georgics, a longer didactic poem in four books that uses an agricultural framework to examine issues of life, death, power, suffering, and love. The goal throughout is to investigate the literary, political, and social dimensions of the poems with special attention to their relationship to earlier models, as well as their exquisite poetic craftsmanship [ more ]

CLLA 416(S)Praise, Blame, and Performance in Flavian and Trajanic Rome

In this course, we will consider how authors of imperial Rome represent the spectacle of their urban surroundings. Poets such as Martial and Statius describe the lavish entertainments that Domitian put on in the newly constructed Colosseum: Saturnalia festivities, beast hunts, gladiatorial combats. But their interest in these imperial displays is just one aspect of a greater preoccupation with social performance and self-fashioning during this time. Statius invites readers to marvel at imperial statues, aristocratic villas, and even an impressive new road built by Domitian. Martial, on the other hand, dispenses not praise but blame: in his epigrams, he encourages readers to laugh at the ridiculous displays of upstarts, flatterers, and deviants, casting vice as entertainment. As we read selections from Statius' Silvae, Martial's De Spectaculis and epigrams, Pliny's letters about public and literary life, and his speech of praise for the emperor Trajan, we will pay particular attention to questions such as the following: What do these authors' representations of spectacle tell us about the values of Flavian and Trajanic Rome? How do their works constitute performances in their own right? What do these texts reveal about the social functions of literature under autocratic rule? [ more ]