Origins of Western Civilization: The Ancient Mediterranean World

History 4A

Fall 2014
Day & Time: 
TuTh 930-11A
  • This course satisfies the Pre-Modern Requirement for the History Major.
  • This course offers an introductory survey of the history of the ancient Mediterranean world, from the rise of city states in Mesopotamia circa 3000 BC to the emergence of the Byzantine Empire in the sixth century AD.  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, organized religion, 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 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 (including epic poetry, songs of labor and lamentation, political propaganda, narrative history, public documents, and biography) will give students an opportunity in discussion sections to grapple with some of the evidence on which our narratives and interpretations are based.  There will be two short papers, three map quizzes, a midterm, and a cumulative final exam. Regular attendance and participation in discussion section is required.

    Course Books

    The Historians of Ancient Rome: An Anthology of the Major Writings by Mellor, Ronald (editor) Routledge. ISBN: 978-0-415-52716-3 Required
    The Portable Greek Historians by Finley, M.I. (editor) Penguin. ISBN: 978-0140150650 Required
    The Epic of Gilgamesh by George, Andrew (translator) Penguin Classics. ISBN: 978-0140449198 Required
    Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean by Freeman, Charles Oxford. ISBN: 9780199651924 Required