Greek History

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History 301: Greek History

Professor William A. Percy III Fall 2007

Class Meeting Times: Tuesday and Thursday, 2:30-3:45 PM Class Location: McCormack, 2nd Floor, Room 423 Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 3:55-5:25 PM, and by appointment. I usually have lunch at the Faculty Club on Tuesday and Thursday from 12:15 PM to 2:15 PM and you are welcome to join me. Office Location: McCormack, 4th Floor, Room 634 Office Phone: 617-287-6879 Home Phone: 617-262-2101 (7:00AM-1:00PM MWF; emergency only) E-Mail:

Course Description

The course begins with an overview of the great river valley civilizations of Egypt (Hamitic) and Mesopotamia (Semitic) which flourished from before 3000 BC characterized by tyranny, superstition, and stagnation. Next we discuss the Indo-Europeans who settled from Ireland to India, also called Aryans. It will then treat of the derivative cultures of Palestine, Syria, Anatolia, Cyprus, and Crete. From the so-called Minoans of Crete, whose language remains undeciphered, the Greeks in the Peloponnesian Peninsula learned about cities, writing, and overseas commerce but differed from them in being less religious, poorer, and more divided (by the geography of their homeland into many small kingdoms,) without strong kings or priests. This first European civilization, Greek-speaking, known as Mycenaean, centered around the citadels in the various small valleys of Southern Greece, conquered Crete, then Troy, and then fell itself just after 1200 B.C. to illiterate Greeks from the north called Dorians. A Greek dark age (1200-800 B.C.) followed, when among Greeks writing perished and cities disappeared. Phoenicians dominated overseas trade. After having learned the alphabet from the Phoenicians, the Greeks re-established cities, civilization, and trade after 800 B.C.

During the Greek Renaissance (800 to 500 B.C.), like the Italian Renaissance for which it is named, the Greeks expanded overseas to Anatolia, the Black Sea, Italy, Sicily, and even Gaul. They also flowered artistically and intellectually. Their art was humanistic; their science, rational; their mathematics, exact; and their philosophy, analytical. In the more than one hundred city-states, each in its valley or on its island, every variety of constitution was tried. In spite of slavery, misogyny, and xenophobia (traits shared by all the other ancient civilizations), these Greeks of the "archaic" period were the first literate humans to construct reasoned constitutions, which they frequently changed, to secure rights and liberties to subjects, to disregard priests, and to outlaw tyrants. Proud fighters, they enjoyed life and created, loved, and argued with exuberance. After 500 B.C. when they defeated the Persians, the greatest of the Middle Eastern imperialists, they maintained their freedom and created the greatest culture ever yet seen until then, the inspirer of all subsequent progress in Europe and eventually throughout the world. The classical period from the Persian invasion of 490 B.C. to the conquest of Greece by the Macedonians in 338 B.C. saw the greatest progress yet in history. Never have so many owed so much to so few. Intercity strife and class warfare, however, weakened the city states so that the Macedonian kings Philip and Alexander could overrun them. The Hellenistic period (323 to 31 B.C.) saw the Greeks under Macedonian leadership expand their cultures to Egypt and beyond into India. In the teaming cities Greeks mingled with and learned from those whom they had conquered, whose elite became Hellenistic—i.e., Greek speakers in the new hybrid, Greek-like civilization. Although republics and democracies gave way to absolute monarchs, the Greek speakers, of whatever ethnicity, whether in Europe, Asia, or Africa, supported culture. Science advanced to a degree not surpassed (except in a few fields by Arabic and Persian speakers) until the seventeenth century. Eventually by 31 B.C. all the Greeks became subjects of the Romans, whom they taught humanism, rationality, and secularism. The Pax Romana (31 B.C. to 180 A.D.) sheltered Greek civilization in the East and spread it to North Africa and to Western Europe, even to all the Celts except the Irish and Scots, who remained illiterate barbarians.

Weakened by Christianity and overpopulation, and altered by the barbarism from German immigrants and unassimilated lower classes, the Empire in the West fell in 476. Under Germanic kings and Catholic priests it entered a Dark Age. In the East, however, despite Orthodox Christianity's dislike of science, freedom, and logic and the attacks of Arabs and Slavs, the Greek classics were preserved at Constantinople to reemerge as the cornerstone of Western Education during the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century. Today, with oversensitivity to various groups, relativism, Marxism, and fundamentalist religious revivals, we are downplaying Hellenism to our disadvantage, and perhaps to our destruction. Is anyone's opinion as valid as anyone else's? Are all languages equal? Is not one way better than another to think or to do? Are all cultures equally good? Are any religions valid?

About Me

I am a Southerner; an Episcopal atheist; a Naderite who first began as a Democrat backing civil rights and opposing the Vietnam War, then became a Reagan-supporting Republican, and finally left the GOP due to George W. Bush’s crusading policies; a capitalist; a refugee from the Ku Klux Klan, the Southern Baptists, and other members of the fundamentalist Protestant right; and a gay activist. I am also the senior professor of history and the senior pre-law advisor at UMB. I attended nine universities and have taught in nine. I have published 5 books, a dozen articles, about 100 notes (short articles), and 100 book reviews. From me you will gain a different perspective. See my web site On this politically-correct campus I am diversity itself: a semi-expired white male of the old school.


My lectures are general syntheses or explanations of particular points of view. Students are encouraged to ask questions and make comments. It is most helpful if they complete the reading assignment or some suitable alternative before the lecture. In addition, students should seek to enhance their command of geography and chronology by memorizing the three or four crucial places and dates for each topic. For the former purpose a paperback atlas or maps on the internet will be helpful and so will films and features or the history channels etc.


The grades will consist primarily of an average of the hour exams (25% each) and the comprehensive 3-hour final (50%). The essay part of these exams will be graded on organization and style as well as historical theory and command of facts. Students will find it advantageous to read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (in 78 brief and witty pages). A version of the book can be found online at (thanks to James Thayer for finding and providing the link). Extra credit is allowed for rewriting the essays on each of the hour exams in light of my comments, and further research on your part. Notable contributions to classroom discussion will also be weighed; failure to participate in discussions, however, will not detract from a student's grade. The rewritten papers, together with quizzes, and classroom participation may help raise the grade. Lastly, students who attend classes regularly, pay attention to lectures and discussions, and take notes should do well in this course.

Readings: Texts and Online

Disseminating scholarship on the printed page in the twenty-first century is analogous to publishing it on manuscripts during the sixteenth century by which time the printing press was working well. The Internet is now no longer like Cunabula (books printed before 1500)—rare commodities even then. It is in fact now rapidly displacing print on paper. Look at what Wikipedia is doing to the Encyclopædia Britannica! editions in which are now also available on line. Printed dictionaries and bibliographies likewise are becoming obsolete because their online counterparts are so easy to update. Expenses, delays, and storage problems are also forcing scholarly journals to go online. Why not monographs (which sell too few copies to be cost-effective), syntheses, and textbooks, as well?

Examples of online sources that can be used for this course include:

1. Text of Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times by Thomas R. Martin: <>. 2. Greek primary and secondary sources: <>.

In light of the changing publishing landscape described above, the formerly required texts listed below are now optional:

Burn, A.R., Penguin History of Greece. Herodotus, Histories. Plutarch, Plutarch on Sparta. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War. Walbank, F.W., The Hellenistic World.

Any edition of the books above is suitable for this course. They can be found, at great discount, online on Amazon, (see used prices for each book), Ebay, and In addition, all editions, including those from 60 years ago, of The Encyclopedia of World History, whether by William L. Langer or Peter N. Stearns, are highly recommended. Suggested readings on shelves at Healey Library: Boardman, J., J. Griffin, and O. Murray, eds. Greece and the Hellenistic World. Cary, M. A history of the Greek World from 323 to 146 BC. Green, P. Alexander to Actium: the historic evolution of the Hellenistic Age. Grimal P. et al. Hellenism and the Rise of Rome. Hadas, M. Hellenistic Culture: Fusion and Diffusion. Hammond, N. G. L. A History of Greece. Percy, W. A. Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece. Tarn, W. W. and G. T. Griffith. Hellenistic Civilization.

Contact Policy

Although I have provided my e-mail address and home telephone number, please e-mail or call me only if you have an urgent matter to discuss with me (MWF 7AM-1PM). Understand that if you e-mail me, it may take me several days to see your e-mail as I am computer illiterate and must rely on others to access my e-mail. Therefore, call me in case of an emergency. There is, however, no need for you to e-mail or call me to let me know that you will miss or have missed a class. I fully understand that events out of your control will arise from time to time and may cause the occasional absence. So explanations are unnecessary. If you would like to find out what you missed in class while you were absent, ask a classmate.

Class # Date Topic(s) of Lecture Readings 1 4 Sept. Tuesday Introduction, the physical setting, the Bronze Age; Semites, Hamites, and Aryans (Indo-Europeans); the Near East, Egypt Burn, section 1

2 6 Sept. Thursday Minoans, Myceneans, and Dorians Burn, section 2

3 11 Sept. Tuesday The Greek Dark Age – Phoenicians and Black Athena [Add/Drop Ends] Burn, section 3

4 13 Sept. Rise of the city-state Plutarch, Lycurgus

5 18 Sept. Sparta Xenophon, Spartan Society

6 20 Sept. Colonization Burn, section 4

7 25 Sept. The Greek Renaissance Burn, sections 5 and 6

8 27 Sept. Lydians, Medes, & Persians Herodotus I, II; Burn sect. 7

9 2 Oct. Darius Herodotus III and IV

10 4 Oct. Persian Wars Burn, sect. 8; Herodotus V, VI

11 9 Oct.. Xerxes Herodotus VII,VIII

12 11 Oct. FIRST EXAM

13 16 Oct. Archaic Athens Burn, section 9

14 18 Oct. Thursday Athens: from alliance to empire Thucydides I; Burn, section 10

15 23 Oct. Tuesday Athens at its height; Pericles, Democracy Burn, section 11; Thucydides II, 1-78

16 25 Oct. Thursday The Peloponnesian War, Phase I Thucydides III 1-85, IV 1-41; Burn, section 12

17 30 Oct. Tuesday The Peloponnesian War, Phase II Thucydides V 84-116, (VI-VIII); Burn, section 13

18 1 Nov. The Fourth Century Burn, section 14


20 8 Nov. Thursday Philip and Alexander the Great PASS/FAIL/COURSE WITHDRAWAL DEADLINE Burn, section 15; Plutarch, Alexander; Walbank Ch. 1 & 2

21 13 Nov. The Diadochi Walbank, Ch. 3, 4

22 15 Nov. Thursday Antigonids, Seleucids, and Ptolemies Walbank, Ch. 5, 6, 7

23 20 Nov. Tuesday The Hellenistic Age: Athens, Sparta, Pergamum, the Leagues Walbank, Ch. 8 22 Nov. NO CLASS – Thanksgiving

24 27 Nov. Hellenistic Society & Economy Walbank, Ch. 9

25 29 Nov. Thursday Hellenistic Culture Walbank, Ch. 10

26 4 Dec. Tuesday Neighbors of the Hellenistic states and their religions Walbank, 11, 12

27 6 Dec. The Roman Conquests Walbank, 13

28 11 Dec. Tuesday Greeks under the Romans to Christianization, the Arab Conquests, and the Ottoman Empire

29 13 Dec. Thursday REVIEW AND QUESTIONS 17-21 Dec. FINALS PERIOD (Monday-Friday)

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