Introduction to Greek History

Module code: AH1010

  • What made ancient Greek society so distinctive?
  • How did the peoples of Greece emerge and evolve in the context of other ancient civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, and western Asia?
  • Does the real Sparta match popular images of it today?
  • Why was Athens the first democracy in the world?
  • How did Alexander the Great conquer half the known world?

These and other questions are addressed in this introductory module, which assumes no prior knowledge but will give you the skills to begin using real ancient evidence to reach your own conclusions about Greek history between the end of the Bronze Age and the reinvention of writing and the generations after Alexander’s death. Core lectures, exploiting a range of evidence types from ancient books, poems, and plays to the data provided by archaeology, will give you a carefully structured narrative (arranged through time) while also focusing on key themes (across periods) such as politics and religion. In both lectures and small-group seminars, you will look at how ancient Greek perceptions of themselves and others have shaped modern attitudes, and will engage directly with the words and thoughts of ancient authors. Seminars, running alongside the lectures, explore selections from the central historical texts of Greek antiquity as well as selected archaeological monuments.

Topics covered

  • The rise of Spartan military power
  • Early Greek tyrants
  • The creation and evolution of Athenian democracy
  • The wars with the Persian empire
  • The great wars between Athens and Sparta
  • The rise of Macedonia
  • How Greek religion worked
  • The conquests of Alexander
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