The History and Culture of Ancient Greece

Tags: Ancient, Greece, Greek, History, Classics, Classical, Culture, Classical Civilisation

Category: Courses

8 week course by Josef Herman

Mondays, 6 - 7 pm - starting 12 October 2015

Did Athens invent democracy? How did 300 Spartans fight off the might of the Persian Empire? What did Plato think about Forms, and was Aristotle right about the best way to live? These are just some of the questions about the ancient Greeks that have fascinated historians, philosophers, kings, and filmmakers ever since. 

The Greeks gave us history, philosophy, tragedy and comedy and accounts of some of the most exciting warfare and intrigue in world history. When you study Greek culture, you won’t be surprised that John Stuart Mill called the Battle of Marathon a more important event for British history than the Battle of Hastings.

We’ll start in the 8th century BC, when western literature burst onto the scene with Homer’s extraordinary epic poems, the Iliad and The Odyssey. The first is the ancestor of tragedy, the second the ancestor of the novel, and they set the agenda for European literature ever since.

In the 7th century we’ll see power struggles between Argos and Sparta, and look at the development of Sparta into one of the most striking and bizarre civilisations of all time, inspiring both Nazi Germany and the British RAF. Moving on to the 6th century, we’ll look at the rule of the famous Lydan king Croesus and the tyranny in Athens before looking at the emergence of democracy.

The 5th century is the most fascinating period of ancient Greek history. We’ll be studying the Greek states as they united against Persia before turning against each other, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, the history of Herodotus and Thucydides, the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and the comedies of Aristophanes.

Finally, we’ll look at the decline of Athens and the Greek city-states in the 4th century, the rise of Alexander the Great, and finally the philosophies of Stoicism and Epicureanism, which have influenced figures as diverse as Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, and Derren Brown.