Level of study Third/Final year
Credit value 20
Semester Scheduled 2013-14, Usually 1
Pre-requisite modules none
Other pre-requisites none
How did Athenian citizens think about their world? This is the key question this module seeks to answer. It focuses on Athenian citizens because they are the one group of people in ancient Greece who left behind a significant body of evidence.
You will look at the evidence for ancient Athens, evidence which includes a vast range of different genres: myths, comic and tragic plays, history books, court room speeches, philosophy and even medical texts. One of the things Athenians spent a good deal of time thinking and writing about was how they were different from non-citizens, defining themselves against them. We will look, therefore, at how Athenians thought about groups including:
foreigners such as the Persians,
We will see that Athenian citizens used comparisons with these groups to think about how they should behave socially, economically, even sexually.
Having established the models of the Athenian citizen and its opposite, the ‘anti-citizen’, in the first part of the semester, we will look in more detail about how these ideas were used in Athenian social life, and how it made Athens a very different place to our world. It was a world where making money could be a bad thing, where people competed to pay more taxes, and where declaring a bias against an opponent in court was a good thing.
You will examine the arguments of modern historians on all areas of Athenian society; for instance you will examine the debates about the extent to which arenas such as drama and sport were not just places were citizens could relax but were vital in teaching them how to think about the world. Even more oddly, this was a world where what doctors thought about the inner workings of your body could be determined by your social status! There is, therefore, a particular stress on the third great historical skill (after analysis and communication): empathy. To empathise does not mean to sympathise: putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (or head) for a while doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them, it means trying to understand how they viewed their world in a very different way from the way we view ours. It is precisely the differences that make the effort interesting.