What do we do?

Read about a site. Read an ancient text connected with the site. Visit the site, hear a lecture and participate in a class discussion on site.

Students are called upon to recite key passages and to interpret them for us.

For a number of the sites we are joined by an experienced archeologist to provide more in-depth analysis of the archeology of the site.

At the end of the class we'll integrate our thoughts and see where our perspectives have changed.

Why is being there different?

You can read an ancient text in your room, study it in a classroom - why go around the world to study it?

In the end, the place we communicate affects the content of our communication. The environment affects what we learn. On-site we gain a perspective of the geography that went with the event, and more of our senses are engaged. As we put things in geographical context, it helps up put things in intellectual context.

And - there is just something special about walking where the ancient authors walked.

Themes of the class


How should a community be governed?

We will stand at the place where democracy was first practiced and discuss how it worked and how it differs from our own. Democracy had its opponents who don't think the "mob" should have a say. Are we doing better or worse than they did?


What stories do we tell; what makes us laugh and cry?

Every culture has told stories, but Athens had a civic festival with drama competitions. Plays at the Theater of Dionysus, both comedy and tragedy, are a window into this culture's self-understanding as well as a look into politics and the origins of rhetoric. We'll also visit the Theater of Epidaurus.


How do we persuade each other?

The first conceptualization of the skill of persuasion took place during classical times. But is it an 'art'? What do you learn when you learn rhetoric? Does it make you a good person?


How do we memorialize our values?

Three times Greece has produced immortal art. But art here isn't an act of private creativity but public, civic art that commemorates and memorializes what the community values.

Gender roles

What is proper to men and women?

It used to be said that Greek women couldn't leave the house. That's false. To be sure, ancient Greece was indeed a patriarchal society. But to say that is to ignore where women had power and how the culture managed roles differently than the U.S. did in the 50s.


Does life have an ultimate purpose?

Ancient Greek religion is different. Very different. What purpose did it serve? As for Christianity, during the centuries of Turkish occupation the Eastern Orthodox Christian church held Greece together and shaped their identity. The use of icons and space are forms of non-verbal rhetoric.


How does the physical matter to our lives?

Games at funerals? Games at spiritual sites? This is not big-time American athletics. We'll take a lap on the track at Olympia.


Crossing cultures

We will encounter the multiple cultures of the past, while moving through contemporary Greece--and then there is the culture we create as a group spending time together.

Can we go beyond stereotypes to see what is different and what is the same in these cultures?

How are grades determined?

The course draft syllabus. (Subject to revision.)

Grading components are the following

  • Discussion participation  At several points there are formal class discussions; one using a study guide. Most of these will be on-site, some will be in more of a class-room setting, and a few will be over dinner.
  • Site report  Each student is assigned one site or one specialized reading.  They are to distill the reading and do an oral report to the class at the relevant site.  Examples include Miller, "Women Athletes" at Olympia, or Ley, "Sceneography" for the Theater of Dionysus.
  • Journaling  Four journals are required during the trip with students expected to show reflection and integration of experiences.
  • Class participation Do you ask a lot of questions?  Do you show interest?  Do you in any way disrupt or delay the logistics of the class, or do you do anything especially helpful to make the class run smoothly? 

Because this is a short, intensive group activity your ability to be a constructive presence on the trip is important and part of your grade.

The class is not an "automatic A."