SRS200-06: The Ancient Historians (S11)Edit



200px-Thucydides-bust-cutout ROM


Titus Livius


Instructor: Tarik Wareh
What is a Sophomore Research Seminar? (including a list of the learning outcomes sought in common by all SRS's)

In this course we will learn the research methods appropriate to interpreting ancient literary texts. Our investigations are based on a careful study of one genre of ancient literature, historiography (the narratives of such ancient historians as Herodotus, Thucydides, Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus). The works of the ancient historians do not correspond to any single familiar kind of modern literature. They should not be thought of as mere sources of facts (though they are precious in that capacity also). They are much more, including:

  • imaginatively and dramatically presented narratives, using the fictional storyteller's traditional toolbox to develop and explain characters and their motivations;
  • philosophical explorations of the nature and principles of history, politics, justice, power, empire, human nature, religion, etc.;
  • expressive masterpieces of prose style, in which the author's attitude and thoughts are reflected in the detailed construction of each sentence and speech.

Through a series of daily and longer-term assignments we will progress through the following overlapping stages of mastering our subject and completing an original research project:

  1. careful reading of the Greek and Roman historians in English translation;
  2. exploring and describing the ideas, purposes, and techniques of the ancient historians;
  3. developing the skills needed to sustain an evidence-based argument (from thesis and overall argument to the sophisticated handling of the text's details);
  4. building, annotating, and organizing a bibliography of critical secondary readings (including expert use of the library's resources);
  5. practicing the proper citation of sources;
  6. applying the critical and interpretive methodologies we find in secondary readings to our primary-text readings;
  7. analyzing how selected concepts and themes are treated in a changing and evolving way over the course of a continuous literary tradition;
  8. preparing a final research paper of 15-18 pages, in which the ongoing scholarly conversation about our authors' aims, methods, and contexts (cultural, historical, political, intellectual, etc.) supports our own original interpretations.

(Those who wish to focus on the writings of Julius Caesar in their final paper may do so, as the study of the Greco-Roman historiographic tradition is the best background against which to understand Caesar's own literary work.)

Requirements, assignments, and policiesEdit

Reading scheduleEdit

Required booksEdit

Author Title Translator ISBN Call # in Schaffer Library Publisher
Herodotus On the War for Greek Freedom Shirley 087220667X Available On Hackett
Thucydides The Peloponnesian War Lattimore 0872203948 Available On Hackett
Sallust The Jugurthine War/The Conspiracy of Catiline Handford 0140441328 DG207.S4 H3 1963 Penguin
Livy The History of Rome, Books 1-5 Warrior 0872207234 PA6452 .A5 2006 Hackett
Tacitus The Histories Wellesley 0140441506 DG286 .T313 1975 Penguin
Tacitus The Annals of Imperial Rome Grant 0140440607 DG207.T3 G88 1989 Penguin

The historians' techniquesEdit

Online bibliographic researchEdit


Note: This section contains both our own course bibliographies (which you will help develop, annotate, and organize) and links to bibliographies elsehwere. Some of linked bibliographies are for a general English-speaking undergraduate audience, whereas others contain items that will be useful to us among many more items for a scholarly audience that reads Latin, Greek, and several modern languages (Classics is a very international field of scholarship!).

Project 1: Applying a Critical MethodEdit

Project 2: Comparative topic studyEdit