Classical Civilizations Fall 2011

Course Description:

Welcome to “Classical Civilizations,” one of the best courses offered at Belmont!  The course will explore our cultural heritage in the Mediterranean civilizations of Greece and Rome and their profound influences on European civilization.  This is the first of the five Great Books interdisciplinary honors courses beginning with “Classical Civilizations,” (from 1200 BCE to circa 500 CE), “The Medieval World” (500 to 1500), “The Age of Exploration” (1500-1700), “Discovery and Revolution,” (1700-1900), and “Topics in the 20th and 21st Centuries.”  We will discuss significant themes of Classical Civilizations from an interdisciplinary perspective and focus on the building of the world’s first empires.  To understand the Classical Civilizations, we will discuss history, literature, philosophy, drama, family life, politics, world religions, agriculture, art, architecture, and archeology.  The Classical Civilizations course immerses you in deep learning and creative challenges while enhancing your ability to read, to write, to think, and to engage in discussion about ideas central to the quality of human life.


Required Texts:

    1. Robert Fagles, trans, Homer: Iliad, Penguin Classics 1998, ISBN 97801402753
    2. Herodotus, The Histories, Revised Edition, trans by de Sélincourt, Penguin Classics 2003, 9780140449082
    3. Robin Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art, Oxford UP 1998, 0192842021
    4. Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West, trans,  Four Texts on Socrates: Plato’s Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito and Aristophanes’ Clouds, Cornell UP 1984, 0801485746
    5. Aeschylus, The Oresteia, trans by Robert Fagles, Penguin 1966, 0140443339
    6. Sophocles, The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles, trans. Paul Roche, Penguin 1996, 9780452011670
    7. Euripides, Bacchae, trans by Paul Woodruff, Hacket 1998, 0872203921
    8. Plutarch, The Fall of the Roman Republic, trans. Rex Warner, Penguin Classics 2006, 9780140449341
    9. Robert Fagles, trans, The Aeneid by Virgil, Penguin 2006, 978014315138
    10. Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans by R. S. Pine-Coffin, Penguin 1961, 014044114X 

Grade Distribution:

CC Research Essay (1500 words)                                                                                      15% or PowerPoint Presentation (15-20 minutes: evaluated by the class)       5%

Unscheduled Quizzes (5-10)                                                                                              10%

5 Blackboard Responses to Discussion Questions (on time)                                        10%

Mid-Term Exam                                                                                                                    30%

Comprehensive Final Exam                                                                                                30%


To review your cumulative course grade at any time, go to and sign up for a free student account.  Your secret access code is “drthorndike-xxxx.”  The numbers are automatically assigned, and I will give you the password after the first quiz.  If you have any problems or find errors in this system, please let me know.  I will post all quiz, exams, and essay grades on this site as soon as they are available.


Grading Scale:

A             93-100

A-            90-92

B+           87-89

B              83-86

B-            80-82

C+           77-79

C              73-76

C-            70-72

D+           67-69

D             63-66

D-            60-62

F              0-59


Guidelines and Assignments:

1.    This is a lecture/ discussion/ active learning class, with the major amount of time spent in discussion and structured around a large amount of required readings from primary and secondary sources outlined specifically in this syllabus.  You are responsible for having access to these. Whether you choose recommended editions or others online is up to you, but meshing your edition with the assignments is your job.  Lectures (a small percentage of time) will attempt to cover important themes and events in the development of Classical Civilizations.  Lectures do not replace reading and cannot condense the books.  You will be tested on material assigned from reading but not reviewed in lectures.  Take good notes and be work consistently to keep up with the assignments.


2.    You are expected to be an active, questioning reader who keeps good notes.  On the scheduled days, you should prepare the reading by active analysis and note taking.  I will expect that you have completed the daily reading assignment, which may run over fifty pages.  You should, therefore, scope out each week’s reading and provide ample time to complete all reading if you know you will have a busy week.  I advise reading with a dictionary readily at hand, and using it as needed; I hope that you consider this an opportunity to develop your vocabulary, both passive and active.  The more carefully and fully you annotate your reading while you are doing it, the less review you will have to do later.  This is especially important if you do the reading earlier than the night before it is due.  I am available via telephone or e-mail for suggestions or questions about the reading.  I encourage you to speak up about anything.  Your feedback will help me fashion a more responsive and meaningful class discussion.  I will take both written and mental notes on the course of discussions, and part of your grade will reflect your engagement and apparent preparation.  I will use unscheduled quizzes at any time during class to evaluate your preparation or comprehension.  In some cases we will begin or end classes with small group discussions, and these may be subject to evaluation.  Writing assignments will be handed out at least two weeks in advance.  Formal writing assignments and due dates are described below and in handouts.


3.    My recommendation is that you attend every class because Classical Civilizations is a discussion and participation based seminar.  Please be on time.  I like to honor the class community by starting on time and ending on time.  Whenever possible (99% of the time), I am punctual and have never been late to a dinner party, missed the previews at the movies, or started class late.  I take attendance every class period.  If you are not in class when I close my attendance book during the first few minutes and you walk in late, that constitutes a “late arrival.”  2 late arrivals equal to one missed class.  You are allowed to miss a total of 2 classes for personal reasons such as illness or unscheduled activities.  Participation on athletic teams, musical performances, field trips, or other university-sponsored events sanctioned by a letter from the Office of the Provost do not count as missed classes.  If you miss more than 2 classes, your final course grade will go down by a whole letter for every subsequent missed class.  If you miss 3 classes, your highest possible final grade is B, 4=C, 5=D, and so forth.  You would probably be earning that grade anyway having missed that many quizzes and class discussions.  Plan your life in every way possible to avoid exceeding the absences allowed.  If you miss 6 classes, you have the option of death by firing squad, donating your internal organs to science, or failing the class.


4.    There is a strong correlation between not missing a single class and earning high grades.  However, you are an adult, and it’s up to you to decide when and if you are absent.  You do not need to tell me the reason why you missed.  Things sometimes happen to everyone including chronic illnesses.  However, I will not evaluate medical conditions and give you a freebie because you are sick.  Also, you do not need to tell me that you could not find a parking spot, so you were late to class.  We all have to drive in Nashville, except those of us lucky enough to live on or near campus.


5.    Technology Policy: The Honors Program is a community.  Normal communication skills, respect, and propriety require that you have some attention available during class time.  It would be rude to be online all the time when you are visiting with friends and family or attending a service in church, just as in the classroom.  When I see students texting and absorbed in their computers, it gives me the impression that they are not serious about learning and do not respect the time and attention of others.  I realize that there are powerful research sources online including e-books and useful databases.  I do not mind if you access these periodically in class except during quizzes and tests for obvious reasons.  I will post all handouts on Blackboard, so I expect that you will look at these from time to time using your computer.  I would prefer to have your undivided attention during classroom discussions and lectures.  However, if you choose to access your laptop, smartphone, or tablet during class, I will call on you and ask you to respond to a question or comment made several minutes in the past because I do not want to encourage Internet zombies in a live interactive discussion.


6.    Two objective exams will be graded on a 100-point scale with 20 identification terms (2 pts each), 10 short answer questions (4 pts), and 10 direct quotes from primary sources (2 pts).  The mid-term exam is limited to 75 minutes.  The final exam (comprehensive final) has a two hour time limit.

7.    Policy for Absence from Exams: if you miss class the day of an exam and have not made prior arrangements with me, you will not be allowed to take the exam.  Policy for Late Work: essays and assignments submitted late will be deducted a full letter grade for each day late.


8.    The 1500-word Classical Civilizations Research Presentation Essay is the foundation of your or PowerPoint presentation related to the reading of the week.  Use the “word count” feature and do not go long or short by more than 10% including Works Cited in MLA 2009 document style.  The paper is due on the day of your presentation, indicated by “CCRP 1, CCRP 2, and etc.” in the schedule of readings below.  The essay and presentation do not have to be identical.  In fact, they are often very different because one is image-based and one is text and research-based.  In discussing your research using PowerPoint, you might also use web pages, video, music, and other media to present a summary of your research to the class.  The presentation should be 15-20 minutes in length and show a depth of research knowledge and quality sources.  You are required to go beyond the assigned reading and show new research, applications, and comparisons not known to the class.  The class will evaluate the presentations on a 0-10 scale.  You will receive the written evaluation comments after the Honors secretary (Toma Kimbro) types them.

Basic Tips About Prezi/ PPT Presentations:

Design Mistakes:

A.       Harsh fonts and colors that look ugly

B.       Slides with too much text (information dump)

C.       Spelling errors

D.       Inconsistency in layout and capitalization


Presentation Mistakes:

A.       Reading slides in robot fashion

B.       Interacting with the computer screen instead of audience

C.       Zipping through slides/ clicking mistakes

D.       Timing and pace—too long or too short

E.        Hiding behind podium—try to move around and relax

What to Strive For:

A.       Simplicity, elegance, and beauty

B.       Multimedia (but not too much)

C.       Be creative and don’t follow a standard template; invent your own mode

D.       Practice speaking, pace, and engage the audience with wit and intelligence

E.        Shyness is not fatal


Make sure that you practice your presentation for timing, pace, and clarity of research focus.  Try out the technology once before you have to rely on it, and have a backup ready.  Dress up a little to impress the audience with your intelligence, flair, and unique scholarly insight into the topic.  Pretend you are the expert of the day on a PBS special documentary.

Classical Civilizations Research Presentation (Essay) Topics

These are intentionally broad question-prompts that need to be refined by your sources and research direction.  Although the prompts imply a kind of binary comparison-contrast analysis, you do not need to pursue only one narrow line of investigation.  You can tailor the question to suit your interests.  Consult Dr. Thorndike and reference librarians like Judy Williams or Jenny Rushing.  Look for “CCRP” followed by a number in the schedule to locate your due date.  Allow plenty of time for research, notes, outlining, writing, revising, and planning.


CCRP 1: Milman Parry, the “Analysts,” and the “Unitarians:” who was the author of the Iliad?

CCRP 2: How reliable is archeological evidence for the Trojan War?

CCRP 3: How did the Persian Wars define, refine, and transform Greek culture?

CCRP 4: What were the foundations and values of Spartan culture?

CCRP 5: How did Greek grave memorials commemorate the dead?

CCRP 6: Greek vase painting: cheap illustration for export or great artistic achievement?

CCRP 7: Classical sculpture: what is the line between realism and exaggeration?

CCRP 8: Greek religion and the Pre-Socratic philosophers: did the Greeks believe in their gods?

CCRP 9: What was the origin of the curse on the house of Agamemnon?

CCRP 10: Barbarism to the Areopagus: how did Aeschylus write the story of Greek civilization?

CCRP 11: The Restoration of Oedipus: how did the Greeks view the unspeakable crime?

CCRP 12: Antigone, Bacchants and Maenads: how much freedom and power did ancient Greek women have?

CCRP 13: Pompey the Great: what was the basis for his military and political success?

CCRP 14: Crossing the Rubicon: what caused the transformation from Roman Republic to Empire?

CCRP 15: The Roman Baths: why did ancient Romans so highly value public, communal bathing?

CCRP 16: The “marriage of Dido:” what were the opinions of the Roman elites on marriage and love?

CCRP 17: Aeneas in Hades: what was the Roman concept of the underworld and the afterlife?

CCRP 18: Penthesilea and Camilla: were the women warriors of the ancient world fact or fiction?

CCRP 19: Augustine and the forbidden fruit: what is the origin of sin?

CCRP 20: Augustine, Manichaeism, and C. S. Lewis: why is dualism so attractive?

CCRP 21: The great conversion: what brought about Augustine’s turn towards God?

Schedule of Readings and Assignments: Please complete readings before each class session


R 25: introductions and review of syllabus and assignments


T 30: Homer, Iliad, Books 1-4


R 1: Homer, Iliad, Books 5-7


M 5: Labor Day

T 6: Homer, Iliad, Books 9-12; Blackboard Discussion #1 due by 24:00 on Sept. 7

R 8: Homer, Iliad, Books 18, 19, 22, 24

T 13: CCRP 1; Herodotus, The Histories, Book 1, pp. 3-8; Book 5, pp. 319-359

R 15: CCRP 2; Herodotus, The Histories, Book 6, pp. 360-400

T 20: CCRP 3; Herodotus, The Histories, Books 6-7, pp. 401-460

R 22: CCRP 4; Herodotus, The Histories, Book 7, pp. 461-500

T 27: CCRP 5; Robin Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art, Chapters 1-3

R 29: CCRP 6; Robin Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art, Chapters 4-6; Blackboard Discussion #2 due by 24:00 on Oct. 3



T 4: CCRP 7; Robin Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art, Chapters 7-9

R 6: CCRP 8; Robin Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art, Chapters 10-13; Plato, Euthyphro

T 11: Plato, Apology and Crito

R 13: Mid-Term Exam


M 17-18: Fall Break

R 20: CCRP 9; Aeschylus, The Oresteia: Agamemnon; Blackboard Discussion #3 due by Oct. 24 at 24:00

T 25: CCRP 10; Aeschylus, The Oresteia: The Eumenides

R 27: CCRP 11; Sophocles, Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus



T 1: CCRP 12; Sophocles, Antigone and Euripides, Bacchae

R 3: CCRP 13; Plutarch, The Fall of the Roman Republic: Pompey; Blackboard Discussion #4 due by Nov. 7 at 24:00

T 8: CCRP 14; Plutarch, The Fall of the Roman Republic: Caesar and Cicero

R 10: CCRP 15; Virgil, The Aeneid, Books 1-2


T 15: CCRP 16; Virgil, The Aeneid, Books 3-4

R 17: CCRP 17; Virgil, The Aeneid, Books 5-6


T 22: CCRP 18; Virgil, The Aeneid, Books 8 & 12

W 23-27: Thanksgiving Break


T 29: CCRP 19; Saint Augustine, Confessions, Books 1-3


R 1: CCRP 20; Saint Augustine, Confessions, Books 4-6; Blackboard Discussion #5 due by Dec. 5 at 24:00


T 6: CCRP 21; Saint Augustine, Confessions, Books 7-9

W 7: Academic Preparation Day


Final Exam:  Thursday, Dec. 8, 2:00-4:00 PM


Classical Civilizations Research Writing: General Guidelines for Essay


·         For your CC research essay, you are required to use as one of your six sources the venerable “OCD”: The Oxford Classical Dictionary (actually an encyclopedia) edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth; Oxford UP, 1996 in the library’s reference section.  Start your research early to see if you need to get extra sources from interlibrary loan.  Consult with the library research staff because they love to talk with students.  Plan your time effectively and don’t expect anyone to bail you out at the last minute.  Allow for at least 24 hours for a response.  After reading some entries in the OCD, go to and look for quality books.  Then look for good online journals that the library subscribes under “Search Databases.”  Try different portals: History, Religion, Literature, LexisNexis, InfoTrac, ProQuest, and so forth.


·         Your Classical Civilizations research essay should be double-spaced using a normal font.  You must use Standard English grammar and spelling and acknowledge ideas, unusual facts, and interpretations from other sources using parenthetical citations in the Modern Language Association (MLA) 2009 style.  For information on MLA consult  More detailed instructions may be obtained by consulting Joseph Gibaldi, The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (in Belmont’s library).


·         The MLA 2009 style is an international documentation standard widely used in the humanities.  Along with punctuation and grammar, formatting needs to be 100% accurate.  Why is this so difficult even for Honors students?  The MLA format is simple and easy to master.  There is no separate title page, no bibliography, and no footnotes (with rare exceptions).  The MLA format lists only “Works Cited,” meaning references actually cited in the course of the paper, linked with in-text parenthetical citations.  NO URL’s !


·         Example of using MLA format with OCD:  You look up “Zeus” in the OCD and notice the byline abbreviation “F.G.” after the article.  In the list of contributors at the front, you find it stands for “Fritz Graf, Professor of Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean, University of Basel, Switzerland.”  Treat the OCD as an anthology.  Each entry is a separate source in your Works Cited.  Your in-text citation following a quote or paraphrase: (Graf 1637).  Works Cited:  Graf, Fritz.  “Zeus.”  Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, Eds.  The Oxford Classical Dictionary.  3rd Ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. 1636-38. Print.


·         For the major CC Historical Research Essay of 1500 words, you are required to use at least six sources. Try to find reputable online journals published by respected universities, not popular websites maintained by hobbyists.  Do not rely exclusively on online sources because there are great classic books in this field.  Use the library.  Articles from popular magazines like Time or Newsweek, newspapers, or general encyclopedia entries are not acceptable sources for this assignment.  Wikipedia is okay for gathering ideas but NEVER cite it in any college research essay because it is not professionally written or reviewed and is inherently unreliable.  General rule: quality sources=evidence of good research skills=good effort=quality research essay.


·         Most important:  Remember your audience.  You are aiming at the level of the intelligent, engaged college undergraduate, not just the professor.  Do not assume prior knowledge and avoid jargon, but do not water it down.   Be informative and direct, but do not try to eliminate complexities.  Engage the material; do not merely recite facts.  Tell a story.  Read a few articles in Smithsonian, Civilization, or National Geographic to get a sense for an appropriate style and tone.  Although these periodicals are not scholarly, they are well written and researched.  They are pitched to a general audience of educated readers.  Their writers use clarity, creativity, and they inform and persuade.  They do not use sentence fragments, run-ons, split infinitives, or passive sentences.


·         Do not use language that is too basic:  “Some historians say that the Peloponnesian War was avoidable.”  Do not use language that is too academic and turgid:  “Multi-causation is characteristic of the Peloponnesian War, as is true of most intrastate fraternal conflicts with poly-symbiotic infrastructure….”  Be careful in your use of technical or esoteric terms, but do not hesitate to introduce new terms, such as “hegemony” or “littoral,” if they are useful in presenting or discussing concepts that are important to the study of history.  Use your best judgment.


·         History presents many unanswered questions, and good analytical writing must admit history’s ambiguities and uncertainties.  However, avoid the use of vague phrases such as “some historians believe…” or “historians say…”  Name your sources outright: “Donald Lawson argues that Aeschylus based his drama on an evolving concept of religious performance.”


·         If you are dealing with factual material, present it as fact.  You should write, “Heinrich Schliemann discovered conclusive evidence for the ancient city of Troy near Hisarlik, Turkey ” not, “Some historians believe Heinrich Schliemann discovered random objects probably related to the Bronze Age Greeks.”


·         When uncertainty exists, you might say something such as, “we are still uncertain whether or not the Gilgamesh flood, if it occurred, predates the Genesis version,” or “there are various interpretations of available evidence such as….”       If our perspective on an issue is changing, you might say, “current research indicates (or suggests)…”


·         If an existing controversy is relevant, identify the schools or primary thinkers in contention, such as: “Arthur Hatfield believes that Bronze Age warriors developed the chariot, but supporters of the McCoy school argue that chariots were not used until late in the Iron Age.”


·         Do not hesitate to refute faux history, mythic history, or just plain stupid historical assumptions.  For example, “There is no evidence whatsoever that the Greek island of Corfu is the same place visited by Odysseus and named by Homer as Scheria.”


·         One hard copy is due to me on the day of your presentation.  DO NOT send email attachments.  Your research essay grade will be returned to you evaluated using the criteria below.


·         Do not plagiarize -- that is, do not use words, ideas, or even factual material without correctly citing the information.  Read and sign the Student Honor Pledge.  If you plagiarize, you have committed intellectual theft, also known as stealing from another author, and you will receive a failing grade for the project.  The professor reserves the right to check all essays for plagiarism using Internet search tools.


·         Use BCE and CE when it is necessary to designate the era.  Remember it is not always necessary to use a designation.  For instance, when clearly dealing with phenomena that took place well before the Common Era or after long after it, there is no need to state the obvious by adding BCE or CE.


·         Writers who write, “man” or “mankind” when writing generally about humans will bear the wrath of the dangerous feminists hidden in the bushes.  Please use “humankind,” “humanity,” “people,” or whatever gender-neutral term you can devise unless it is terribly awkward or you are specifically discussing males.


·         Your grade on the research paper will be based on the following criteria: a) clear and accurate writing (fluent communication skills); b) appropriate use of supporting research; c) evidence of interdisciplinary understanding of research topic and thesis; d) balanced, valid, rational analysis derived from supporting research.  The essay will be graded on a 20 point scale.  One point on the scale will be deducted for every class day following the due date of any assignment.


A             19-20                     B              16                           F              <11

A-            18                           C              14-15

B+           17                           D             12-13


Evaluation abbreviations on returned essays: CS—comma splice; SF—sentence fragment; ROS—run on sentence; AWK—grammatically awkward or stylistically inelegant sentence; ^--insert comma for grammatical reasons; WC—Works Cited; DS—double space; RH—running header missing; ______(underlined)—spelling, grammar, or punctuation error.