European Humanities
Mr. Spragins
Fall 2018
Internet Research Projects on Periclean Athens
During the next week we will use our laptops to create presentations that explore the culture of the city of Athens during its Golden Age. After the defeat of the Persians at the Battle of Salamis (479 BC), Athens quickly became the dominant military power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Her strong navy controlled the seas, and Athenian merchants dominated trade. Money poured into the city. For the next eighty years, Athens was the most innovative, culturally vibrant, intellectually advanced city in the history of Western Civilization. Athens’ democracy liberated the creativity of its citizens. The Acropolis was rebuilt; art, literature, theatre, and philosophy flourished. Life became a quest to realize ideals of virtue, justice, and beauty, not a preparation for death. The Golden Age of Athens was shortlived. By the end of the century Athens had plunged into a destructive, endless war with Sparta; ultimately, democracy in Athens collapsed. However, the Athenians from this century established the modes of thinking, the forms of government, the styles of art which would dominate Western culture for the next two millennia.

You will be doing presentations on subjects like The Rise of Democracy, The Pre-Socratic Philosophers, Greek Sculpture, The Architecture of the Acropolis, The Peloponnesian Wars, The Origins of Tragedy, and The Philosophies of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. 
Instead of writing ‘term papers’ on these huge subjects, you will be creating presentations (5-7 minutes in length) which introduce us to the subjects. You will need to carefully document your sources for this project using MLA format.

And again, please observe the Siliciano Rules: Powerpoint Guidelines 

Here are the subjects from which you can choose:

1.                 The Natural Philosophers: The Ionian School: Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, Heraclitus

2.                  The Natural Philosophers: Heraclitus of Ephesus and The Eleatic School: Parmenides, Pythagoras,  and Zeno

3.                  The Natural Philosophers: The Atomists: Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Democritus

4.                  Pre-Socratic Philosophy: The Sophists

5.                  The Philosophy of Socrates

6.                  The Philosophy of Plato and the Academy

7.                  The Philosophy of Aristotle and the Lyceum

8.                  Hellenism: The Cynics, The Stoics, the Epicureans, and the Neo-Platonists

9.                  The Rise of Greek Democracy: Draco, Solon, Pisistratos, Cleisthenes, and Themistocles

10.              Thucydides and The Peloponnesian Wars

11.              Ancient Greek Architecture: The Rise of the Classical Ideal

12.              Sculpture of the Golden Age: The Rise of the Classical Ideal

13.              The Origins of Greek Tragedy

Here are some terms that you will encounter again and again:

  • philosophy:  Greek word, from phileîn, “to love,” and sophía, “wisdom,” 
  • cosmology:  In an intellectual movement new to the ancient world, cosmologists studied the origin and nature of the physical universe and advanced scientific hypotheses as to its structure. Before, thinkers had constructed myths of the gods to explain all natural phenomena.
  • metaphysics: The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.

To research your presentation start by reading the appropriate section in Gaarder's Sophie's World. To supplement Gaarder, consult the following Internet sources:


The Natural Philosophers: The Ionian School: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, and Heraclitus (see Sophie's World, pp. 32-36)

  • Describe the city of Miletus. 
  • Where is it? 
  • Why did this new way of looking at the world arise here?
  • Date the philosophers.
  • Describe the contrasting cosmologies of these philosophers.
  • What did they believe was the basic constituent substance of the universe?
  • How do they explain the transformation of this substance to the many forms which exist in nature?
  • How did these philosophers develop theories of justice and truth, good and evil, from these cosmological theories?
  • What did Heraclitus believe was the fundamental unit of reality?
  • How does Heraclitus' explain the paradox of change in the natural world?
  • How does Heraclitus incorporate moral thought into his cosmology?

Additional Sources:

The Natural Philosophers: The Eleatic School: Parmenides, Pythagoras, and Zeno (see Sophie's World, pp. 33-35)

  • Date each of the philosophers.
  • Where did they live?
  • How did each of these philosophers solve the problem of change? 
  • How did Pythagoras link music and mathematics?
  • Define deductive reasoning
  • What was his cosmology? 
  • Describe the Pythagorean conception of the eternal, ideal realm. 
  • What were Pythagoras’ political ideas? 
  • Describe Parmenides’ metaphysics. 
  • Define rationalism.
  • How did Zeno deny the appearance of motion with his paradoxes?


Additional Internet Resources:


The Natural Philosophers: Atomists: Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Democritus (see Sophie's World, pp. 36-46, 54-55)

  • Date each of the philosophers.
  • Where did they live?
  • Which philosophers influenced both of these schools? 
  • How did Empedocles resolve the dispute between Parmenides and Heraclitus? What is everlasting? What forces make change possible? How does perception take place?
  • What was Empedocles' understanding of evolution?
  • What was Anaxagoras' intricate conception of the structure of reality? How far fetched was his idea that everything exists in each piece of everything? What force brings matter together?
  • What was his conception of the mind?
  • Describe the cosmology of Democritus. How did he resolve the problem of change? Define atom. Why is Lego the most ingenious toy in the world?
  • What force brought matter together in different forms? What makes Democritus a materialist?
  • How did he explain sense perception?
  • What was Hippocrates' explanation of disease?
  • What ideal is at the heart of the Hippocratic Oath?

Additional Internet Resources:


Pre-Socratic Philosophy: The Sophists (see Sophie's World, pp. 60-63)

  • Sophists 
  • Sophists, 2MinuteThinker
  • Date each of the philosophers. Where did they come from?
  • What major shift in the focus of philosophy took place when Athens became the center of thought?
  • What does the word ‘sophist’ mean?
  • Describe how the sophists made their living. 
  • Describe the skills that the sophists taught.
  • What purpose did the study of rhetoric and grammar serve in Athens?
  • What did the sophists think of cosmological speculations? Define skepticism
  • What influence did the wide travels of the sophists have on their moral philosophy? Define nomos and physis. Define relativism.  
  • Why did their teachings stir up controversy in Athens?

Additional Internet Resources:


The Philosophy of Socrates (see Sophie's World, pp. 63-69)

  • What were his dates?
  • How do we know about Socrates’ teachings (considering that he never wrote a single line)? 
  • What do we know of his early life? What did he look like?
  • Describe Socrates’ teaching methods. How was he both a 'mid-wife' and a 'gadfly'?
  • How did Socrates distinguish his avocation from that of the sophists?
  • What did the oracle at Delphi say about him?
  • How is Socrates a rationalist? What to him was eternal?
  • What new focus did Socrates bring to Greek philosophy?
  • Describe his definition of ‘the good’ and how it can be discovered.
  • How was his understanding of the human soul fundamentally different from earlier Greek conceptions?
  • How did he infuriate the leaders of Athens? Why did Socrates allow himself to be killed?

Additional Internet Resources:

The Philosophy of Plato and the Academy (see Sophie's World, pp. 78-93)

  • Give Plato's dates and a brief biography.
  • Why have Plato's works all survived?
  • What was taught at the Academy? How long did this school survive?
  • For Plato, what was the purpose of philosophy?
  • How did Plato distinguish between the eternal (ideal) and the natural (material)? 
  • Describe Plato's Theory of Ideas. (Use his examples of the distinctions between a horse and horse-ness and between a circle in nature and a perfect circle.)
  • How did Plato distinguish between knowledge derived from the senses and knowledge derived from reason? (Use his Allegory of the Cave to explain this idea.) 
  • What role did mathematics and geometry play in Plato's theory of ideas?
  • Describe Plato's conception of the soul and of innate knowledge.
  • What was the political situation in Athens when Plato founded his school?
  • Describe Plato's conception of the hierarchies in the ideal political state.
  • What place did women have in Plato's ideal state?
  • How did Socrates influence Plato’s philosophical method and his conception of the good?

Additional Internet Resources:

The Philosophy of Aristotle and the Lyceum
 (see Sophie's World, pp. 104-120)

  • Give Aristotle's dates and a brief biography.
  • When did he found the Lyceum? What does ‘peripatetic’ mean? 
  • How did Aristotle rebel against his mentor Plato?
  • How did Aristotle refute Plato's Theory of Ideas? According to Aristotle, how is the idea of a horse formed
  • What is the only source of knowledge according to Aristotle? How does our mind organize these impressions? Is Aristotle a rationalist or a materialist?
  • Did Aristotle believe in innate ideas? How then does he explain the relation between form and substance?
  • Explain Aristotle's conception of causation in nature. (Distinguish between material causes, efficient causes, formal causes and final causes.)
  • Describe Aristotle's hierarchy of the natural world.
  • Why is Aristotle considered the father of the modern sciences of astronomy, biology and physics?
  • Describe Aristotle’s conception of the soul. What is the first cause?
  • What is Aristotle’s conception of the good life? How could it be achieved? Explain his conception of the ‘golden mean’.
  • What was his conception of the best political government?
  • What is his understanding of the purpose of art? Why did he consider tragedy to be the greatest art form?

Additional Internet Resources:

Hellenism: The Cynics, The Stoics, the Epicureans, the Neo-Platonists (see Sophie's World, pp. 120-139)

  • Why did the Greek philosophical tradition spread throughout the Mediterranean world?
  • When did Rome arrive on the scene as the dominant political power?
  • Define syncretism and describe its impact on religious belief throughout the Hellenistic world. What new notion of the concepts everlasting and ideal were creeping into thought?
  • What city became the new scientific capitol of the Hellenistic world? Why?
  • How, according to the Cynics Antisthenes and Diogenes, could true happiness be attained?
  • When and where was Stoicism founded? Describe the Stoics' conception of natural law and monism. How was their approach to happiness similar to the Cynics' view?
  • What route to happiness was proposed by Aristippus and Epicurus? How did Epicurus define pleasure?
  • How did Epicurus overcome the fear of death?
  • How does Plotinus build his vision of the soul out of Plato's Theory of Ideas? What is the difference between the two philosophies?


Additional Internet Resources:

The Rise of Greek Democracy: Draco, Solon, Pisistratos, Cleisthenes, and Themistocles 

  • What unique cultural, economic and military factors contributed to the rise of Greek democracy?
  • Explain the relationship between the rise of family farms and the rise of the polis.
  • Explain the relationship between the rise of the hoplite phalanx and the rise of the polis.
  • Explain how each leader contributed to its development.
  • Describe how Greek democracy functioned in practice.
  • Why didn’t this experimental form of government degenerate into chaos?
  • What role was each citizen expected to perform in this democracy?
  • What were the Areopagus and Pnyx? 
  • How did the Council of Five Hundred function?
  • When and why did the Greek experiment in democracy come to an end?


Additional Internet Resources:

Thucydides and The Peloponnesian Wars

  • How did Thucydides change the way history was studied and written?
  • Describe the progress of the Peloponnesian War.
  • How long did it last? What were the strategies of the various leaders?
  • What were the key battles?
  • What were the major conflicts? Why did the Spartans win?
  • How did Athenian unity come apart?
  • What form of government replaced democracy in Athens?

Additional Internet Resources:


Ancient Greek Architecture: The Rise of the Classical Ideal

  • When was the Acropolis rebuilt?
  • Find a good drawing and show the class the different elements of Greek Temple architecture.
  • What were the functions of these temples? How does their appearance reflect the Greek attitude towards life and the gods? 
  • Describe the development of classical Greek temple architecture to its most perfect expression in The Parthenon on the Acropolis.
  • Compare The Temple of Hera at Paestum (560 B.C.) and The Temple of Apahaia at Aegina (510 B.C.) to the Parthenon. What refinements were made to these earlier designs?
  • Explain how the Golden Section applied to the Parthenon.
  • Describe the sculpture carved on the Parthenon friezes and in the pediments.

Additional Internet Resources:


The Sculpture of the Golden Age: The Rise of the Classical Ideal 

  • Describe the development of Greek sculpture from its origins in Egyptian influenced style to the full expression of the Classical Ideal. 
  • Analyze as many of the following statues as you can find: Egyptian statues, Greek Kouros sculptures of the 6th c. B.C., the Kritios boy (480 B.C.), the Charioteer of Delphi (470 B.C.), The Doryphoros (Spear-Bearer), (450 B.C.), Discobolous (450 B.C.)
  • What characteristics express the Classical Ideal?

Additional Resources:

The Origins of Greek Tragedy

  • Describe how tragic theatre developed out of the worship of Dionysus, the half-human god of wine and resurrection. 
  • What rituals and practices were used in the Dionysian revels? 
  • What is a dithyramb? A satyr? The bacchae?  
  • How did Thespis’ innovations led to the creation of plays themselves? 
  • What does the chorus do in a Greek tragedy?  
  • Describe the festivals in which tragedy played a central role.  
  • Who was Aeschylus? For which tragedies was he famous? What innovations did he bring to Greek drama? 
  • Who was Sophocles? What made his best tragedies so great? What innovations did he bring to the stage? 
  • Who was Euripides? What made his best tragedies so great? What innovations did he bring to the stage?  Show us the parts of an ancient Greek theatre. 
  • Explain how the actors were costumed. Why did they wear masks?

Additional Internet Resources: Greek Drama