History | Ancient Biography
J300 | 2854 | Watts
J300: Also open to non-majors
Above section COAS intensive writing section and also requires
registration in COAS W333
Above section open to undergraduates only
“It is not of history we are writing but of lives”—Plutarch, "Life
of Alexander the Great"
Men in the ancient world distinguished between writing a biography
of a person and writing a history of the time in which they lived.
In this class, we will do both. We will focus upon the lives of
ancient men as they were presented by ancient authors. In the
course of the semester, we will learn about ancient philosophers
like Socrates, political leaders like Julius Caesar, and saints like
St. Antony. The lives of all of these people are notable and
distinct. The texts describing them, however, were written by
authors who share similar ideas about the characteristics that
separated an exceptional individual from ordinary people.
This course will use ancient biographies to reconstruct the lives of
prominent Greeks and Romans. At the same time, we will use these
texts to understand the historical circumstances of the ancient
world. The reading will include some modern scholarship describing
the techniques of the ancient biographer. Most of the assigned
reading, however, will be comprised of ancient biographical texts by
authors like Xenophon, Plutarch, Suetonius, and Porphyry. Students
will be expected to complete this reading (approximately 80 pages a
week) as well as a weekly response paper (1 page in length), 3 short
essays (2-4 pages), and a final project (10-12 pages).