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(see also Classical Studies page)

WORD ORIGINS (CLAS 111) (.pdf, 18kb)

The English language has become the world's lingua franca whether it is employed by native speakers using their own distinctive and extremely diverse dialects or by individuals who use it as a second language. Because of this, English is being employed as an agreed-upon common language in such diverse fields as business, pharmacology, psychology, geography, medicine, law, biology and philosophy. To a great extent, English can accommodate such wide-ranging uses because it comprises so many words that come from Greek and Latin. These words, however, may pose problems for students of these diverse subject areas. The purpose of this course is to provide each student with tools to analyze and understand many of these words in English through the recognition of these Latin and Greek elements (prefixes, bases, suffixes). Course will not confine itself to technical-professional vocabulary, but will also explore words that come from Greek and Latin in everyday English.


Classical myth in ancient literature and art. Myth as theology, cosmology, explanation of psychological and social phenomena. Correlations between history and mythology. Modern schools of myth interpretation. For majors and non-majors.


Whereas today the word “tragedy” conjures up images of disaster and suffering, in classical Athens, tragedy above all meant entertainment for a mass audience. But what beyond entertainment did tragedy entail? Is the suffering it depicted wholly foreign to modern sensibilities? Or shall we moderns find in ancient tragedy, Greek as well as Roman, something to identify with? In this course, students will pursue that and similar questions. By studying the tragic drama of ancient Greece and Rome in English translation, and by comparing it to select instances of ancient comedy and to more recently produced drama, they shall deepen their understanding of an art form that boldly explored human existence at the extremes.

CLASSICAL BIOGRAPHY: LIVES OF FAMOUS GREEKS AND ROMANS (and a few other nationalities, CLAS 212)(.pdf, 137kb)

In addition to their general fascination with history, Greeks and Romans developed strong interest in the public and private lives of the most famous personalities from their political and cultural traditions. What Augustus ate and how Cleopatra looked were just as interesting and informative as Pyrrhus' attempted imperial policies and Alexander the Great's military tactics. Ancient biographers crafted these public and private worlds into well organized, often meticulously documented and thoroughly entertaining packages that express the best and worst of human behavior. Through reading and discussion of the famous biographies of Plutarch and Suetonius, as well as some lesser known biographical sketches, the Gospel of Luke and some lives of saints, and modern essays on lives of famous women in the Roman world, we will examine values and events that helped shape ancient and modern western civilization. Through additional viewing of ancient coins and statuary and modern dramatizations of Roman lifestyles, as represented in Cleopatra, I, Claudius, Gladiator, Alexander, HBO Rome, and 300, we will also note the cultural lenses through which Greek and Roman lifestyles and mores have often been viewed in the later western tradition. This class will serve as an introduction to Greek and Roman civilizations and history, and to historical and philosophical modes of thought and construction.

PAGANS, CHRISTIANS, JEWS 60-622 CE (CLAS 280B)(.pdf, 137kb)

This course studies interactions between Judaism, traditional 'pagan' religions, and the new sects centered around Jesus, then on the development of those many Christianities into a socio-political power. We will also trace the growth of popular 'mystery' religions, the transformation of Greco-Roman religious practices, and Diaspora Judaism. Different historical, literary, and artistic sources will be addressed in three time periods.


Students closely examine multiple epics from around the globe, including ancient Greek, Roman, Indian and Sumerian texts. They thoroughly study these epics, exploring and comparing issues of heroics, friendship, warrior ethics, social and political duty, and the relationship between myth and epic. The course emphasizes not only the characteristics of the genre, but also its importance in Western and World Literature.  This is a genuinely comparative study of epic across ancient Asian, Middle Eastern and European communities. The texts are organized along a global timeline spanning from 18th century BCE to 4th century AD in order to emphasize the connections, contrasts, and influences of different epic forms throughout history. Intersections and interdependencies of narrative structures and cultural ideals between these larger communities are at the center of discussions and assignments practically every class session. Students gain facility in recognition and analysis of the significance of cultural exchange in oral and written contexts. They explore and emphasize the interconnections and influences between these cultures, especially the Asiatic elements in ancient Mediterranean literary works.


The core of this course is a detailed look at Greek and Roman comedy as passed on to us in the primary sources of classical literature (Greek - Aristophanes; Roman - Plautus and Terence). But the script of a play does not make it comedy. Comedy is drama, first and foremost, so alongside the texts from the ancient world, we will examine ancient theater structure, masks, costuming, actors and acting, festivals, artistic representations, minor comic genres (mime, farce, satiric verse), and most of all LIVE PERFORMANCE. Comedy must be read, seen and heard to be truly funny. A distinctive feature of this course is the required public performance of an ancient comedy, for which course members will be the cast and crew. Required rehearsal times outside of class for two weeks late in the semester.


Students in this course examine several cultures that inhabited ancient North Africa (Egyptians, Nubians/Kushites, the Jewish communities in Egypt, the Carthaginians, and several ethnic groups of northwest Africa often collectively described by outsiders as ‘Berbers’) before and during the period of Greek and Roman influence around the Mediterranean. To understand these diverse societies students will use the tools of cultural anthropology: ancient Greek and Roman literary texts, native and western art and archaeology, inscriptions, papyri, and coins, qualitative and some quantitative analysis of data, and modern scholarly studies in ethnicity to see how these cultures lived and how they influenced, and were influenced by, the Greeks and Romans. Students will also, at times, employ geography and physical and linguistic anthropology to comprehend the changes in African peoples’ lives from pre-dynastic to Byzantine Egypt and from the cultures of native Numidians to Semitic Carthage to the Christianized Roman province of Africa. Throughout the term, students will try to find as much objective truth as they can about these important ethnic groups and their societies, in spite of the frequent absence of native texts and reliance on Greek and Roman perceptions of ‘the other’; students will, therefore, also treat issues of imperialism, oppression, prejudice, racism and alterity as applied to these peoples by their conquerors. Greek and Roman ethnographic curiosity about the Mediterranean world and diverse ethnic practices will be continually examined beside modern studies in social science to further our awareness of how the native or early populations of North Africa maintained or adapted their cultures under foreign rule. Format: Through reading and discussion of Greek (Herodotus, Euripides, Polybius) and Latin (Horace, Livy, Juvenal, Ammianus Marcellinus, Sallust) authors and modern studies of Egyptians, sub-Saharan Africans/Nubians, the Alexandrian Jewish community, and the ‘Berber’ tribes of North Africa, students will engage ancient and modern conceptions of race and ethnicity daily.


"Peitho" is the Greek word for persuasion, the influencing of future action and thought. Yet "peitho," as object of cult, a figure of myth and an essential element in love, marriage and commerce, meant more to Greeks than simply words designed to change minds. Nor did "peitho" always operate through a verbal medium. "Peitho" was, in fact, a central, if ambiguously valorized, feature of ancient Greek culture, and the study of it in context opens a window into the cultural-ideological landscape within which ancient Greeks conceptualized politics, society and much else as well.


In viewing ancient Greece and Rome as starting points for Western civilization, we tend to emphasize continuities and similarities between antiquity and the present. Yet in many ways the ancients were different from us, and this course will explore one area of striking difference, namely, attitude to, and conceptualizations of, sexuality and gender. We shall focus on evidence that both elucidates how the ancient Greeks and Romans viewed sexual and gender identity, and illustrates the cultural values lying behind those constructs. In so doing we shall read a variety of texts, including poetry, comedy, oratory, philosophy, and medical writings, but we shall examine other evidence as well, including vase- and wall- painting and inscriptions. In scopre, the course will be divided about equally between the ancient Greek and roman worlds, and Greek and Latin texts in translation, from Hesiod in the seventh century BCE into the Roman Imperial period, ca. 200 CE. Our focus will be on attitudes and their cultural manifestations, including differences between Greece and Rome and changes over time. Modernity will figure into the mix, as we shall consider the ways in which the ancient evidence has played a role in modern debates.


Independent study by means of teaching in a particular course in Classical and Near Eastern Studies Department. Various assignments closely directed by instructor in that course, including development of syllabi and other course materials; construction and reading of exams; lecturing and/or discussion leadership; laboratory supervision; academic counseling of students. Open to majors and nonmajors.


Designed by consultation between instructor and student.

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Last Updated: 11/16/12