Origins of Western Civilization: The Ancient Mediterranean World

History 4A

Fall 2017
159 Mulford
Day & Time: 
TuTh 9:30-11
Class Number: 
  • This course satisfies the Pre-Modern Requirement for the History Major.
  • What kind of a place was the ancient world? What is distinctive about antiquity and how is it defined? Was there, in fact, a single ancient world or just a series of discrete civilizations‹Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome? What do we know about this distant past, and how?

    This course will provide answers to these questions, by giving you an introductory survey of the history of the ancient Mediterranean world, from the rise of city states in Mesopotamia circa 3000 BCE to the fragmentation of the Roman Empire at the end of the fourth century CE. The course has three main foci. The first is to survey the major events and developments in the social, economic, and political history of the ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The second focus is to consider, very much along the way, the origins and development in the ancient world of ideas, practices, and institutions that have had an enduring influence on the development of western civilization. These will include the emergence of cities, kingship, and written law in the Near East and Mesopotamia; dynastic rule and priestly power in Egypt; tyranny, democracy, citizenship, imperialism, colonization, slavery, freedom, religious persecution and martyrdom in the Greek and Roman worlds. The third focus will be on the Mediterranean itself, for it was on and around its deep waters that all of these developments took place, and it left on each of them its distinctive mark. Lectures and textbook readings will provide an essential historical narrative as well as interpretations of central problems. Primary source readings will give students an opportunity in discussion sections to grapple with some of the evidence on which our narratives and interpretations are based.