Suggestions for Further Reading

As you relax from the rigors of the semester, you may like one or more of these Suggestions for Leisure Reading: an Amazon list of Athens-themed novels and more. Enjoy!


Sophocles… that plagiarist!

h/t rogueclassicism

Eutropios’ Men of War

Plot: There have been many battles in the first part of the Peloponnesian War, and the fleet is just returning home during this time of peace.  The men are tired, but they know they have done well for their polis and are excited to return home to their wives after such a long time.  In this comedy, we explore the relationship of husband and wife in wartime, the weakness of women, and the brashness of men.  The first part of the show will be a conversation about the hardships these men have faced both in battle and on a personal level.  They talk about their wives and how excited they are to see them after being away for so long.  When they get home we will watch as each man faces his own set of problems after being away for too long.  One’s wife has cheated on him, another’s wife becomes excessively clingy, and another has problems seducing his wife.  The play concludes with the men going off to battle again, and ends with each concluding that fighting in war is much easier than being a husband.

Scene 1:

On a trireme off the coast of Piraeus

Chorus: After many years of fighting and death, we Athenian men may finally return home.  After the deaths of Kleon and Brasidas stalemated the fighting, this war has come to a close and we now enter peace.  We know, however, that we are returning to a city that has seen as many horrors at home as we have at sea.  Athens was ripped by a plague, corrupted by sophistry, and who knows what else we have not heard out here.  We all, however, have one thing to look forward to when we get home: our families.  Too long have we been separated from our wives, parents, children, brothers, and sisters.  May the Gods bless our journey home and may we be returned to them safely.

The Histories by Hippoklastes, son of Nikodemos, of the deme of Erchia

Thucydides being unable to continue his History, I, Hippoklastes son of Nikodemos, of the deme of Erchia, here endeavor to describe the events immediately following the fall of the oligarchy known as the Thirty.  I write of the debates heard in the Ekklesia and the trial of the philosopher Socrates.  I write here of what I heard myself, or heard from those who were there.  I write the truth as it happened, in the hope that preservation of this time will be of use to those who come after.

Critias was dead, and the survivors of the Thirty had fled Athens.  The city was in crisis, the Ekklesia in disarray, with no organized law and no stabilizing force to hold the people together.  Some wanted vengeance against the Thirty and all who supported them, while others feared the consequences of further bloodshed.
In the first meeting of the Ekklesia after the fall of the Thirty, Diodoros, son of Aristonicus, proposed a law that would permit a graphe to be brought against any who called to mind or made public mention of the past wrongs of the Thirty.
Thrasybulus son of Lycus, a prominent general who fought against the Thirty, was one of the first to speak against the law.  As a great general and a powerful leader, his words resonated with the people.

Read more »

The Histories by Eustachus, son of Theron

Athens is in turmoil. What we know as our once great and powerful polis is now weakened by the outcome of the war. Chaos is present as citizens become frantic for the state of government of Athens. Many citizens cannot afford to be subject to tyranny as this polis needs all her people to thrive in order to prosper. With the help of her many loyal and determined citizens, the future of Athens remains an open book waiting to be written.

The First Meeting of the Ekklesia

The first meeting of the Ekklesia is one marked by more nerves and anxiety than the mutilation of the Hermes. While all Athenians are more than ready to restore Athens to its former glory and prowess, many are apprehensive as to how to approach this newfound claim to build the great polis of Athens. However, leave it to Athenians to focus on the mistakes of the past before attempting to readjust the present situation.
Before the presentation of the first law, there is constant discussion surrounding allied support. Men from all over are whispering anxiously about Athens’ current state and their beliefs in how to rebuild Athens. Heard from the last pew, a young blacksmith of Alopeke, speaks of allies and social circles corresponding to beliefs in democracy and the upcoming legislation. He claims “Pro-Democracy!” proudly as he inquires the aged man, recognized as a member of the 3,000 pertaining to the Thirty. Read more »

Final Project

Over the course of the semester, you have learned about the history, literature, and culture of classical Athens. Your final project will give you the opportunity to explore a topic, cultural connection, question, or character that has piqued your interest. In this project, you can either consider something we discussed in class in greater detail or from a different perspective. Or you may explore an aspect of Athenian culture that interests you but was peripheral to the attention of the class.

Just as your investigation of Athens during the semester was a collaborative process, in which you interacted with faculty and peers, you are encouraged to collaborate with other classmates on this project.

Your project can take one of two forms:

1) a creative or multi-media project that engages some aspect of fifth-century Athenian culture.

For example, you could draw a set of comics on an Athenian topic (a battle, a Socratic dialogue, etc.); compose a short play or suite of songs; design and produce a game; paint a picture or a series of paintings; compose a song; film an Athenian activity (such as an Athenian wedding, funeral, etc.). These are provided only by way of example. You should feel free to propose other types of projects, or to look at the the blog of the ’09 Athens course for other examples.

All creative projects must be supported by a brief (1-to-2-page) description of the project and the research that supports it.

2) a short essay (5-to-6-pages) that explores a lingering question that you have. This may involve supplemental research, or may be an interpretive essay on a work of art you encountered during the semester.

Although the logistics of collaborative essays can be more difficult than those for creative projects, possibilities for collaborative essay projects do exist. You should contact me to discuss these as soon as possible.

As you see, the range of options is quite broad. The only requirement is that your project be rooted in the investigation of Athenian culture, and allow you to synthesize, contextualize, or apply a theme, trope, or character from the class.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact me as soon as possible.

Due Dates:

1) By the end of classes (12/9) inform me via email about the nature of your project.

2) By the end of exams (12/16 at noon), submit your project (via email or outside Hall 109). If you are working on a physical work (artwork, song, movie, etc.), please contact me to make arrangements for me to receive it).



Dear sons of earthborn Erechtheus,

With the Boule reconstituted, Athens buzzes with questions about who will compose it and, vitally, if they will be compensated but the polis for their service.  Is the Boule of certified competents an idea whose time has come?  How does this proposal fit into the history of Athenian public life?  How does it fit into the history of the intellectual revolution?  Does the history of Athens’ handling of the Peloponnesian War make it a more plausible suggestion or less?  How does your character respond to this cluster of issues? Please be sure to support your discussion with examples from Athenian history and the literature that you read this semester. Check the syllabus for the specific proposals and perhaps a short focus reading.

Once you have moved past this question the next issue to confront will be the issue of social welfare. The aftermath of war has caused severe economic instability. Will the Boule, however constituted, be paid?  How much and with whose money?  Will the Haliaea be paid?  If so are you trying to redistribute wealth or merely open governmental participation up to all Athenians or both?  Are these wise and worthy goals? Are there other social programs that you would like to see enacted? or prevented? Finances will obviously place a crucial role in such decisions.

Keep up the good work.  If you have any questions, need advice or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

h theos


CBC: Thucydides: The First Journalist

Since the CBC is not on my regular “to listen” list, a program on Thucydides from August just came to my attention…

About 2,500 years ago, Thucydides travelled ancient Greece, gathering stories about a brutal war that plunged the ancient world into chaos. He set high standards for accuracy, objectivity and thoroughness in his reporting. IDEAS producer Nicola Luksic explains why his account of the Peloponnesian War is relevant today.


I have not had a chance to listen yet. But will give a review when I do. At the link, you can stream the program and find the link to the Podcast.


SNL: Greek Gods on the Greek Economy

In a sketch from a few weeks back, Saturday Night Live imagined the Greek gods trying to devise a plan to overcome the Greek economic crisis. May be worth a few chuckles…

Bad Omens

The day began like any other in the Agora.

Agora and Hephaestion

Merchants and artisans flung open shutters and swept the thresholds of their shops. The food merchants set up their stalls along the Panathenaic Way. Some carefully arranged their produce into attractive piles. Others rested next to bins of unsorted vegetables after the long, pre-dawn walk into the city.

It was only after the sun crested the Hymettus did people begin to notice the desecrations. The statues of Hippothonis and Leontis on the Monument of the Eponymous Heroes were splattered with blood. Above the Agora, the meticulous garden outside the Hephaestion had been ravaged, flowers and hedges trampled, planters smashed. Memories of past blasphemies raced into the minds of the Athenians as they began to gather in the Agora. Rumors circulated. Arguments began and escalated. Accusations were made. Conspiracies imagined. Those supposed guilty decried…

Altar of the 12 Gods

At high noon, yelling could be heard near the Altar of the 12 Gods, where a hulking man stood addressing a gathering crowd with a deep, gruff voice: “… I fought the Spartans at Cyzicus and Notium, and the storms at Arginusae. I have no land. My patrimony is the freedom enjoyed by Athenians, by my friends, by my children, by my fellow citizens. Or so I thought.

Yesterday I watched as men I considered my brothers spat in my face, me and all those like me who fought and bled for freedom and for Athens. I learned that in your eyes I am no better than a slave. No better? Indeed, much worse! We have no illusions. The slaves who work the mines do so under compulsion. They are rats. Useless at respectable trades. Fugitives. Criminals. Villains! What free man would willingly go under ground, to suffer in the smoky darkness, his only comrades drawn from the dregs of humanity. Death would a welcome release from such labor.

And for what? An obol a day? Once we paid Athenians 3 obols to serve as judges. At Cyzicus I earned a drachma a day as a free man! Now, you think I will be a willing slave? Do you think if you fail to help us that we will enslave ourselves? Or that anyone will sell his freedom for an obol?

I will not. I lived as an Athenian. And I will die as an Athenian!”

With that he leapt onto the Altar and drew a dagger. As he let out a cry of “ISONOMIA!”, several men in the crowd lunged towards him. But before they could grab hold, the man drove the dagger into his chest. The blood flowed over the altar. Shock and horror seized those in the crowd. As they began to disperse, many remembered Sophocles wisdom: “not to have been born is best of all.”

No one volunteered to serve in the mines. Again “tyranny” was whispered in taverns and alleys. It was a dark day, for a city that had suffered so many in recent memory…

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