Classical Athens: Literature, Culture and Empire

Oriel College

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Classical Athens: Literature, Culture and Empire

  • Host University

    Oriel College

  • Location

    Oxford, England

  • Area of Study

    Philosophy, Political Science

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    This course is all about the world of Athens in the late 5th century BC. This period saw a flourishing of literature and thought which has left an immeasurable legacy for subsequent ages. In particular, the educated elite were grappling with new and controversial ways of thinking – what is now known as the Sophistic Movement. Certain individuals like Protagoras, Gorgias and Antiphon were questioning fundamental truths and teaching elite youth methods of argument which were seen by some as dangerous. Yet, while Athens was at the peak of its intellectual output, it was developing an empire that was challenged by near continuous war. In this unique context, Athenian thinking took on a particular imperial form, becoming a recognisable colonial ideology. What is the role of tragedy or comedy at the head of an imperial superpower, and what do the plays look like in that context? How do Athenian historians see themselves and their city in such a position? This course will introduce you to some of the texts from a wide range of genres, including philosophy, tragedy and history, with the aim of getting to grips with the unique historical, cultural and intellectual phenomena of the period. 

    The course will be taught totally in translation, and no knowledge of Greek is required. Students will have a written assessment at the end of the course and give a presentation at the end of the first week. 


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