About Hum 110
Fall semester: The Ancient Mediterranean
The fall semester focuses on the development of culture in the ancient Mediterranean, beginning with Homer’s Odyssey. The first part of the course examines different foundational and didactic narratives, including two foundational Egyptian myths, the book of Genesis, and Hesiod’s Works and Days. The second section of the course looks at different perspectives on the Persians during the reign of Cyrus and the period encompassing the Persian-Greek War; works studied include Persian royal inscriptions, Herodotus’ Histories, Aeschylus’ Persians, the biblical books Esther and Ezra, and monumental Persian palace architecture. In the third section, the course examines the works from classical Athens, including the Parthenon, dramas by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides and Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War. The course concentrates on the Mediterranean peoples’ relation to the gods, to their political communities, to each other and to other peoples, and seeks to study these relations through the evidence of material culture (sculpture, vase painting, and architecture) as well as literary, historical, philosophical and political texts. Themes for the semester include the development of civic and religious architecture, the rise and development of the Greek polis, the relations between different cultures, and notions of virtue and justice.
Spring semester: The Hellenistic Period and the Rise of Roman Empire
The second semester continues the study of the ancient Mediterranean, tracing the development of Egypt, Palestine and Rome from the fourth century BCE to the first century CE. The term begins in fourth-century Athens with the critiques of individual and polis virtues made by Plato and Aristotle in the Republic, the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics. In the second section, the course examines the encounter between classical Greek, Macedonian, Egyptian and Jewish cultures in the Hellenistic period; works studied include Theocritus’ Idylls, the biblical books of Maccabees and Daniel, Hellenistic statuary and the city of Alexandria. The course then turns to the rise of Rome within this larger context, tracing the transition from Republic to Empire in the works of Plautus, Livy, Sallust, Virgil and Ovid, as well as Roman statuary and civic monuments. The course concludes with a comparison of different models of virtue and vice throughout the Roman empire, now encompassing the areas studied earlier in the semester, with a reading of first-century Jewish texts, Seneca’s philosophy, and Petronius’ Satyricon. As with the first semester, the question of how different cultures interact and develop is prominent, and a range of cultural products are studied and compared: history, poetry, drama, philosophy, statuary and civic architecture.