The Ancient Greeks

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About this course: This is a survey of ancient Greek history from the Bronze Age to the death of Socrates in 399 BCE. Along with studying the most important events and personalities, we will consider broader issues such as political and cultural values and methods of historical interpretation.

Created by:  Wesleyan University
  • Taught by:  Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, PhD, Professor

    Classical Studies
Commitment 3-5 hours/week Language English, Subtitles: Spanish How To Pass Pass all graded assignments to complete the course. User Ratings 4.7 stars Average User Rating 4.7See what learners said Задания курса

Каждый курс — это интерактивный учебни…

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When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

About this course: This is a survey of ancient Greek history from the Bronze Age to the death of Socrates in 399 BCE. Along with studying the most important events and personalities, we will consider broader issues such as political and cultural values and methods of historical interpretation.

Created by:  Wesleyan University
  • Taught by:  Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, PhD, Professor

    Classical Studies
Commitment 3-5 hours/week Language English, Subtitles: Spanish How To Pass Pass all graded assignments to complete the course. User Ratings 4.7 stars Average User Rating 4.7See what learners said Задания курса

Каждый курс — это интерактивный учебник, который содержит видеоматериалы, тесты и проекты.

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Общайтесь с тысячами других учащихся: обсуждайте идеи, материалы курса и помогайте друг другу осваивать новые понятия.

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Wesleyan University At Wesleyan, distinguished scholar-teachers work closely with students, taking advantage of fluidity among disciplines to explore the world with a variety of tools. The university seeks to build a diverse, energetic community of students, faculty, and staff who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit.

Syllabus


WEEK 1


Prehistory to Homer



We will start our first module with an overview of the physical and geographical setting for our class – “the Greek world.” Then we will move rapidly across many centuries, beginning with two Bronze Age civilizations: Minoan on the island of Crete, and Mycenaean on the mainland. Our evidence for both of these is almost purely archaeological, and so you can consider the ways scholars have interpreted material remains to build a picture of how the societies were structured. After the collapse of Mycenaean civilization, there followed the so-called Dark Ages. These four centuries pose for us the challenge of reconstructing what happened during a long period that has left relatively little evidence. We will conclude this module with an all too brief consideration of the two magnificent Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, whose stories and heroes became essential elements in Greek cultural identity.


6 videos, 2 readings expand


  1. Video: Introduction: the Natural Setting, Geography and Climate
  2. Video: Minoan Civilization (ca. 1800-1500 BCE)
  3. Video: Mycenaean Civilization (ca. 1500-1150 BCE)
  4. Video: The Dark Ages (ca. 1150-800 BCE)
  5. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 1
  6. Video: Homer 1 - Iliad
  7. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 2
  8. Video: Homer 2 - Odyssey

Graded: Prehistory to Homer

WEEK 2


The Archaic Age (ca. 800-500 BCE)



Module 2 brings us into the turbulent, creative Archaic Age, during which the Greeks acquired a cultural identity distinct from that of their neighbors in the Eastern Mediterranean. They developed their characteristic form of community, the polis, or “city-state.” With a rebound in population, moreover, they founded numerous colonies abroad. In addition, the Greeks recovered literacy, which enabled them to write down law codes for the poleis. The newly established communities had a new form of military organization, the hoplite army, manned by citizen-soldiers. The lyric poets of that era wrote verses that address such great social changes, and also offer vivid accounts of individuals’ emotions and opinions. The module ends with another poet, Hesiod, somewhat later and less famous than Homer, but also very significant. His subjects range from the origins of the cosmos and the gods, to personal ethics, to practical advice about farming.


6 videos, 6 readings expand


  1. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 1
  2. Video: The Polis
  3. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 2
  4. Video: "The Greeks Overseas": Colonization
  5. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 3
  6. Video: Literacy, Lawgivers and Law Codes
  7. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 4
  8. Video: The Works of Ares - Hoplite Warfare
  9. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 5
  10. Video: New Voices, the Lyric Poets
  11. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 6
  12. Video: Hesiod: Gods and Farmers

Graded: The Archaic Age

WEEK 3


Two City-States: Sparta and Athens



In Module 3 we will analyze some major political developments in the Archaic Age, which were largely responses to the huge societal changes discussed in Module 2. We will focus on Sparta and Athens. Sparta evolved into a unique hoplite-polis, famed for strict discipline and military prowess. Athens followed a very different path, showing the first traces of democracy. We will also observe how tyrannies arose in many poleis, often, paradoxically, to the community’s benefit. In fact we can now consider the historical effect of individual leaders, like the renowned lawgivers, Lycurgus of Sparta and Solon of Athens. Both men came to be revered as the “founding fathers” of their poleis. Both men also belonged to the legendary Seven Sages, who were famed for their wisdom. The module concludes with a consideration of Peisistratos, who ruled Athens as a tyrant in the mid-6th-century BCE and led the Athenians to new levels of power and prosperity.


6 videos, 4 readings expand


  1. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 1
  2. Video: Sparta 1- Conquest
  3. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 2
  4. Video: Sparta 2 - Consolidation and the Spartan Way of Life
  5. Video: Tyrants and Sages
  6. Video: Athens 1 - The Social and Economic Situation Through 600 BCE
  7. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 3
  8. Video: Athens 2 - Solon: Poetry, Politics and Economics
  9. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 4
  10. Video: Athens 3 - Peisistratos: Tyranny and Civic Identity

Graded: Two City-States: Sparta and Athens

WEEK 4


Democracy. The Persian Wars



Module 4’s sessions will begin by focusing on the crucial decade at the end of the 6th century, when the Athenians instituted full democracy. In fact the development of democracy is one of the principal reasons to study Greek history. Athens was also the adopted home of Herodotus, who was the first author in the West to characterize his writing as history. Herodotus chose to recount the first great clash of cultures in the West, the conflict between Greece and Persia, and his story goes far beyond the war and its battles. He was deeply concerned with how societies define themselves. The breadth of his interests, his insight and his good humor all contribute to the appeal of his work. We will also observe how Athens, under the leadership of the brilliant general Themistocles, began to transform itself into a formidable naval power.


6 videos, 6 readings expand


  1. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 1
  2. Video: The End of Athenian Tyranny and the Democratic Revolution
  3. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 2
  4. Video: The Reforms of Kleisthenes
  5. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 3
  6. Video: Herodotus and the Creation of Historical Writing
  7. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 4
  8. Video: Persian Wars 1 - From the Ionian Revolt (499-494 BCE) to the Battle of Marathon (490 BCE)
  9. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 5
  10. Video: "Wooden Walls": Themistocles and the Athenian fleet
  11. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 6
  12. Video: Persian Wars 2 - Endgame - to the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis (480 BCE) and Plataea (479 BCE)

Graded: Democracy. The Persian Wars

WEEK 5


"The Great 50 Years" (ca. 480-431 BCE)



Module 5 surveys the period between the end of the Persian Wars and the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, which came to be known as Athens’ “Golden Age.” After the Persian Wars, there grew an alliance of Greek states that was meant to maintain security. The allies asked the Athenians to lead the confederation, called the Delian League. We will examine how the league was gradually transformed into an empire dominated by Athens. We will also discuss the extraordinary Pericles, who was a leader in the expansionist Athenian democracy and shaped many of its policies. In addition we will pay some overdue attention to the role of women in Greek society, with a consideration of the character of Antigone and a more general assessment of women’s status. We will conclude with an – again, too brief – account of the great building program that produced the Parthenon and the other renowned monuments on the Athenian Acropolis.


6 videos, 5 readings expand


  1. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 1
  2. Video: The Aftermath of the Persian Wars; the Delian League
  3. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 2
  4. Video: From Delian League to Athenian Empire
  5. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 3
  6. Video: Pericles: aristocrat, orator, and radical democrat
  7. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 4
  8. Video: Tragedy and Athenian civic life; Sophocles' Antigone (441 BCE)
  9. Video: Women in Greek Society
  10. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 5
  11. Video: The Periclean Building Program

Graded: "The Great 50 Years" (ca. 480-431 BCE)

WEEK 6


The Peloponnesian War I



For Module 6, we turn first to Thucydides the Athenian. He “wrote the war” that broke out between the Athenians and the Spartans and their allies and eventually affected almost all the Greek poleis. Thucydides’ method is very different from that of Herodotus. His style seems aloof, austere, dispassionate and scientific, and his narrative is much more tightly focused on the progress of the war. Nonetheless, he also has his own particular modes of interpretation that convey some powerful images and opinions. We will also look at the comic genius Aristophanes, whose Acharnians is a trenchant fantasy about an ordinary Athenian who is sick of the war and makes a private peace with Sparta. The Module concludes with Alcibiades, the dazzling rogue who dominated Athenian political life during the later stages of the war. We will also consider the social milieu in which he flourished.


6 videos, 6 readings expand


  1. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 1
  2. Video: "Thucydides the Athenian Wrote the War"
  3. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 2
  4. Video: The Outbreak of the War (431 BCE) and Pericles' Strategy
  5. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 3
  6. Video: Kleon, a "New Politician." The Peace of Nicias (421 BCE)
  7. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 4
  8. Video: Comedy and Athenian Civic Life
  9. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 5
  10. Video: War Resumes; the Conquest of Melos (416 BCE)
  11. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 6
  12. Video: Alcibiades: Aristocrat, General, and Libertine

Graded: The Peloponnesian War I

WEEK 7


The End of the War, the End of the Century



The final Module brings us to the end of the fifth century and beyond. The charismatic Alcibiades persuaded his fellow citizens to invade Sicily. Eventually they were routed. Along with the events of the end of the war, we will consider the social and economic importance for Athens of foreign residents (metics) and slaves. Despite the catastrophe in Sicily, the Athenians kept fighting for almost a decade. After their final defeat, they endured a period of oligarchic domination and a brief but vicious civil war. Although they resolved it with a general amnesty, it is likely that the lingering anxiety contributed to the prosecution and conviction of Socrates in 399 BCE. In response to prior learners’ requests, the module ends with a lecture about Philip II and Alexander the Great. The Macedonians also offer a salutary reminder that Greek history is a capacious subject that should not be artificially limited to the Classical period.


6 videos, 4 readings expand


  1. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 1
  2. Video: The Sicilian Expedition (416-413 BCE) and its Aftermath
  3. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 2
  4. Video: Slaves and Foreigners in Athenian Life
  5. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 3
  6. Video: The Last Years of the War; the Battles of Arginusae (406 BCE) and Aegospotami (404 BCE). The Thirty Tyrants
  7. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Reading Assignment 4
  8. Video: Socrates
  9. Video: The Fourth Century. Philip II and Alexander
  10. Video: Conclusion

Graded: The End of the War, the End of the Century

Course Pages



2 readings expand


  1. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Syllabus
  2. Материал для самостоятельного изучения: Assessment and Grading

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