Matthew Klemm

Associate Professor, History


HIST 353: Ancient Greece

 Professor Matthew Klemm

Muller 405

Office Hours: MWF, 11-12; T, 12-1


Section 1: MWF 10am, Gannett 110

Section 2: MWF 2pm, Friends 203

"We are all Greeks..." (P. Shelley)

"Whatever, in fact, is modern in our life we owe to the Greeks. Whatever is an anachronism is due to medievalism." (Oscar Wilde) 

Course goals:

1. Gain a broad understanding of ancient Greek culture and mentalities.

2. Learn to analyze primary sources critically, taking into account the historical contexts in which they were created.

3. Evaluate a variety of different interpretations of sources and events.

4. Learn research and writing skills appropriate to the discipline of history.

5. Appreciate the ways that Greek culture contributed to the formation of modern Western civilization.  

Contacting me:

Please drop by my office hours if you have questions or want to talk about the class. If my hours don't work for you, I'm happy to make an appointment. If you have a quick question, you can always email me.

Texts to purchase:

1.  Tom Martin, Ancient Greece (Yale, 2000) 978-0300084931

2.  Homer, The Odyssey, trans. R. Fitzgerald (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998) 978-0374525743

3.  Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, trans R. Warner (Penguin, 1972) 978-0140440393

4.  Euripides, Medea and Other Plays, trans. P. Vellacott (Penguin, 1963) 978-0140441291

5.  Herodotus, The Histories trans. R. Waterfield (Oxford, 2008) 978-0199535668

6.  I.F. Stone, The Trial of Socrates (Anchor, 1989) 978-0385260329

Other readings will be made available electronically.


For questions about the nuts and bolts of writing and research for a history class, I recommend consulting Jules Benjamin, A Student's Guide to History. It is available on-line at

For other databases with images, texts, and maps see the links at my Classical Studies site.


Attendance and discussion (20%)

Two primary source analyses (20%)

Commentary on "Electra" (10%)

Critique of Stone (10%)

Historiographical research paper (20%)

Final exam (20%)

Attendance and discussion: Regular attendance is expected; if you must be absent, it is your responsibility to contact me beforehand.  In class, everyone will be expected to have completed the day’s reading and be prepared to discuss it. The format for the class will range from lectures, to discussion, to close analysis of primary sources. Even during days that are primarily lecture, you are encouraged – and in fact expected – to raise questions and participate based on your own interpretation of the course material. 

You and a partner will also be asked to lead the discussion of the texts once this semester.  To do this, you should distribute some themes or issues for the rest of the class to think about at least 24 hours before class time.

Source analyses: Two times during the semester, you should turn in a 2-3 page (double spaced) analysis of some aspect of the primary text(s) or other sources we are examining that day.  You must turn in at least one analysis before Fall break.  In addition to the assigned texts, there will be a couple collections of images of works of art and archeological surveys distributed in advance.  These will also be appropraite sources for an analysis.  We will discuss specific questions to consider for the different texts during the semester, but some general questions you might also keep in mind include:

·        What is the text's value as a historical document?  What kind information can we learn from it?

·        What do you think it tells us about Greek culture?

·        How does its portrayal of Greek culture compare to other texts?

·        In what ways does the source inform the larger themes of this class?

·        How does your source add complexity to issues we have dealt with in class?  

Commentary on Electra: In the first week of October, the theater department is putting on Euripides' Electra.  We will read the text of the play in class and go to one of the productions.  You are to write a critique/commentary about the production in comparison to the original text. 

Critique of Stone: Stone's thesis is rather controversial and deals with important issues for our understanding of classical Athens.  You will write a review of Stone with the help of some additional primary sources.

Historiographical Paper: 8-10 pages.  This is a research paper on a topic of your choice that focuses on secondary literature.  This should be an investigation into the opinions of experts on a particular issue or problem of your choice in Ancient Greek culture.

Final Exam (take home): c. 6 pages.  Questions will be distributed in advance.

All assignments will be discussed further in class.

Late policy: Late assignments will be marked down one third of a grade for each day late, beginning immediately after class.  Advance permission to extend a deadline or post-pone an exam will only be given in extremely compelling cases. 

Academic Integrity: It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the guidelines concerning plagiarism and academic conduct. These can be found in the IC Policy Manual 7.1.4 ( Note that plagiarism need not be intentional. We will review proper methods of documentation before the paper is due, and if you ever have questions about proper methods, you can consult Benjamin, ask me, or go to the writing center.

Students with disabilities that need modification(s) to class circumstances should speak to me after class or during office hours, so that we can make suitable arrangements.


August 25: Introductions

Topic 1: The Bronze Age and Homeric Virtues

August 27: Bronze Age Greece: Minoans

Read: Martin, Chap. 1-2

August 30: Myceneans and Dark Age

Read: Martin, Chap. 3

Iliad, Book 1, ln. 1-303; Book 9, ln. 305-425

Odyssey, Books 1, 5, 6


September 1: Homer and the Greek Canon

            Read: Odyssey, Books 9-11, 13


September 3: Homer

            Read: Odyssey, Books 17-23


Topic 2: Archaic Culture

September 6: Labor Day, No class


Sept. 8: Finish the Odyssey


Sept. 10: Epic Virtue to Hard Work.

              Read: Hesiod, Works and Days and Martin, Chap. 4


Sept. 13: Sports and the Olympics. 

              Read Illiad, Book 23 and check out other documentary evidence at Perseus.


Sept. 15: Hoplite and Polis

             Read: Herodotus, Book 1


Sept. 17: Colonization

            Herodotus, Book 2


Sept. 20: Archaic Art. 

             Look at the image files for sculpture and ceramic painting featured on the right.  This section of Perseus is an excellent place to find additional images.


Sept. 22: New literatures. 

             Read the poems in the file, "Lyric Poetry" on the right.  We will also talk about Herodotus.


Sept. 24: Sparta. 

             Read: Plutarch's Life of Lycurgus, Herodotus, 1.65ff and 4.101-105 and Thucydides, 4.80.


Sept. 27: Athens. 

             Read: Aristotle, Athenian Constitution, only section 1 and Herodotus 1.59-64.  Also, this is an excellent website for images of the development of Athens.


Sept. 29: Theatrical interlude! 

             Read: Euripides, Electra.


Topic 3: Persian Wars

Oct. 1: Persian Wars. 

             Read: Herodotus, 3.66-end of Book 3 and 6.100-140.


Oct. 4: Persian Wars Continued. 

             Read Herodotus, 7.1-26; 7.61ff (this is the beginning of the description of the Persian army -- read a few sections to get a sense of it.); 7.100-105; 7.132-148; 7. 201-end of Book 7.


Oct. 6: Finish Persian Wars. 

            Read Herodotus, 8.40-103.


          *Oct. 7: Attend Euripides, Electra 8 p.m. in Dillingham.  Tickets are $7 and I will bring them to class.


Topic 4: Classical Athens: 50 years of Glory

Oct. 8: Aftermath of the Persian Wars. 

            Read: Thucydides, 1.89-117.


Oct. 11: Rhetoric and Athenian Courts. 

            Read the "speeches" in the file on the right.  Visit from Bob Sullivan.


Oct. 13: *First Source analysis due


Oct. 15: Fall break, No class


Oct. 18: Athens and its monuments. 

            Examine the folder of images (to be posted on the right). 

Oct. 20: Religion and Athenian Hegemony. 

Read: Hymn to Demeter and a few other short fragments about the Mysteries.  If you want help understanding the hymn, there is a description here.


Oct. 22: Theater in Athens.

Read: Aristophanes, Frogs (selections).  The text and a brief introduction can be found on the right side bar of this page in a pdf file.


Topic 5: Stasis (or Civil War) in Greece

Oct. 25: Peloponnesian War I. 

Read: Thucydides, Book 1.18-23 and 139-146; Book 2.1-55


Oct. 27: Peloponnesian War II.

            Read: Thucydides, Book 3.1-85


Oct. 29: Peloponnesian War III.

Read: Thucydides, Book 5.84-116; Book 6.8-32 and 72-87


Topic 6: Culture after the War

Nov. 1: Pre-Socratics thought

            Read: Hippocrates, On the Sacred Disease, some short fragments from Thales and Anaximander , and David Pingree, "Hellenophilia versus the History of Science," Isis 83 (1992), 554-563 (easy to access via jstor).


Nov. 3: Philosophy and Rhetoric in Athens

            Read: Aristophanes, Clouds (short section making fun of Socrates), Plato, Protagoras (read up to the point that Protagoras finishes his defense of his style of education, about 2/3 of the way down the document), and here is a brief introduction to put this philosophical shift in context.

Nov. 5: Socrates. 

Read Plato, Apology and I.F. Stone, prelude and pp. 9-67.


Nov. 8: Trial of Socrates. 

Finish I.F. Stone.  *Stone Analysis due


Nov. 10: Plato's perfect state. 

Read Republic, Books 5 and 10*


Topic 7: The Rise of Macedon and the Creation of the Hellenistic World

Nov. 12: Thebes and Macedon after the War.  *Historiography topic question and bibliography due

             Read: Plutarch, "Life of Demosthenes," 12-20; "Life of Phocian," 1-18 (in pdf file in the right sidebar); and Martin, chap. 9 


Nov. 15: Philip II of Macedon

            Read: Isocrates, address to Philip and Demosthenes, 1st Philipic.  Notice that you have the option to view the entire speech at once by clicking "speech" on the left sidebar of Perseus.


Nov. 17: Alexander 1

            Read: Plutarch, "Life of Alexander," 1-35.  Read the entire text in the electronic version.  It is the first half of the life.


Nov. 19: Alexander 2

            Read: Plutarch, "Life of Alexander," 36-77.

Nov. 22-26: Thanksgiving break


Nov. 29: The Successor Kings

             Read: Plutarch, "Life of Demetrius"


Dec. 1: Hellenistic Science and Medicine. 

             Read: Galen's commentary "On Hippocrates' On the Nature of Man," sections 1-16


Dec. 3: Alexander *Historiography Paper Due

Dec. 6: Hellenistic Thought: Aristotle and Science

             Read: Aristotelian Problems (attached above)


Dec. 8: Hellenistic Thought: Stoics, Epicureans, and Cynics

            Read: Letter to Menoeceus

Dec. 10: Alexander