Civil Discord and Violence in the Ancient World

HISTORY 103A.002

Fall 2015
Instructor (text): 
John Lanier
106 Mulford
Day & Time: 
W 2-4P

This seminar explores the settings, motivations, and consequences of civil strife and violence in the ancient Greek and Roman world. The Greek historian Thucydides wrote that “the sufferings which fell upon cities because of internal discord were many and terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur, as long as the nature of mankind remains the same.” His cynical prediction has proven true, both for the ancient world and the present day. In this course we will examine the numerous instances of internal conflict and civil war in the ancient world, focusing on two case studies: first, the social struggles of the Athenians in the 6th century BCE, which led to the formation of Athenian democracy; and second, the series of civil upheavals and bloody conflicts in 1st century BCE Rome, which led to the fall of the Roman Republic and the establishment of the Imperial regime under Caesar and Augustus. The course is based on the careful reading of a variety of (translated) Greek and Latin primary texts and covers many genres: epic and lyric poetry; history; epigraphic documents; comic plays; and letter-writing.