HIST 1210 Western Civilization: Antiquity to 1500 (Fall 2013 # 8892)

Prof. Kevin Uhalde

uhalde@ohio.edu / 593-0220
423 Bentley Annex
office appointments via email

    or drop-in MW 12:00-12:50

Lecture: B236 12:55-1:50 MW

Discussion sections:
(101) Fri. 12:55-1:50 B226 (Jones)
(103) Tue. 12:00-12:55 B009 (Jones)
(105) Thu. 12:00-12:55 B009 (Bloom)

Teaching Assistants & office hours
  Derek Bloom (
    BA052 Fri. 2-4
  Emily Jones (ej297509@ohio.edu)
    BA047 Mon. & Wed. 10:30-11:30
  Lance Poston (lp342610@ohio.edu)
    BA049 Tue. 1:30-2:30, Thu. 4:30-5


(102) Mon. 2:00-2:55 B009 (Bloom)
(104) Wed. 2:00-2:55 B009 (Poston)

(106) Thu. 1:30-2:25 B025 (Poston)

This is a course on the history of Europe and the Mediterranean from Antiquity through the Middle Ages.  Lectures and a textbook will help you get a handle on major political, social, and religious developments of this long period.  You’ll also read original sources: these are the basis for reading responses and discussions in weekly sections, where you may also expect to be quizzed on lecture and textbook material. Exams include very short answer questions, short answer questions, and two short essays (see the exam guide). Anyone needing special accomodations should notify me so that we may work together with Student Accessibility Services. Students who complete readings on time, attend lectures and take notes, prepare for discussion sections, and review at the end of each week should have little difficulty earning a satisfactory grade.

Late work is accepted and make-up exams offered only in case of serious illness (documentation required) or emergencies including death in the family (contact Dean of Students, 593-1800).  Three unexcused absences from discussion sections lowers a final course grade by ten percentage points (equivalent to an entire letter grade).  All cheating or plagiarism acts generate a failing grade for the course and referral to the judiciaries, no exceptions.  Do not distract yourself or others with noise, electronic devices, or other annoying behavior, whether in lectures or in discussion sections. Such behavior is considered equivalent to an unexcused absence. See me if you have questions about these or other policies.

Please don’t hesitate to come see me or the teaching assistants outside of class to discuss the course.  There are too many students for me to know each one well, but I want each of you to succeed.

Outcome Goals

1. A grasp of major developments in the intellectual, political, economic, social, and cultural history of Europe and the Mediterranean area.

2. Demonstrated ability to interpret literary sources as evidence within a historical framework.

3. Coherent, substantive contributions to oral discussions and in written assignments.

Course Grade is weighted as follows:

30% Reading responses, quizzes, & participation in discussion sections
15% First exam          25% Second exam          30% Final exam

Required Reading There is one required textbook, whose chapters are designated on the syllabus as WC Western Civilizations, Brief 3rd ed. (Norton 2011). New, discount, and used copies are available online (amz, abe), at Little Professor Book Center (65 S. Court St.), and at other bookstores in town.

All other readings are available online by clicking the link on the online syllabus (you may be prompted to provide your Ohio ID and password). Bring these readings to class and discussion sections when they’re assigned.

Finally, bring a large-format (11 x 8.5) ‘Blue Book’ or ‘Green Book’ for quizzes and reading responses to every discussion section. They are available at most local bookstores.

Schedule of Classes

Week 1 (Aug. 26-26)

Civilization, Part 1: Bread, Bricks, & Bronze

(M) Charting the Course

(W) Tyranny of Civilization


Read WC chs. 1-2

Discussion Sections (MTuWThF) introductions

Week 2 (Sep. 4, no class Monday)

Dark Ages: Archaic Greece

(M) no class, Labor Day

(W) Prejudice of History unwritten evidence | cuneiform | phoenician | guslar | Iliad aloud


Read WC ch. 3; start ANTIGONE

Discussion Sections (MTu) no meetings (WThF) review

Week 3 (Sep. 9-11)

Epic History: Heroism & Tragedy

(M) Terrible Beauty of War italian cinema | Achilles’ shield

(W) Tragedy & Comedy in Greek Society Dionysus (cult | texts) | Dionysia (theater festivals) | masks | kômos | phallus (Priapus | phallika)


Read Antigone & watch The Drama of Ancient Greece online (57 mins.)

Discussion Sections (MTu) review (WThF) Reading response 1

Week 4 (Sep. 16-18)

Forms of Justice & Liberty: Classical Greece

(M) Citizens and the Rest this is Sparta?

(W) Might Makes Right


Read THUCYDIDES; start WC ch. 4

Discussion Sections (MTu) Reading response 1 (WThF) Reading response 2

Week 5 (Sep. 23-25) Exam Wednesday

Great Man Theory: Alexander of Macedon & Hellenism

(M) Conquest, Cult, and Culture

(W) first exam


Read WC ch. 4; Great Man theory <wikip>

Discussion Sections (MTu) Reading response 2 (WThF) no meetings


Week 6 (Sep. 30-Oct. 2)

Forms of Justice & Liberty: The Rise of Rome

(M) Roman Republic

(W) Roman Revolution


Read WC ch. 5; PLUTARCH

Discussion Sections (MTu) no meetings (WThF) Reading response 3

Week 7 (Oct. 7-9)

Great Man Theory: Octavian Augustus & the Principate

(M) Son of Divine Caesar

(W) First Citizen


Read WC ch. 6; ROMAN PEACE

Discussion Sections (MTu) Reading response 3 (WThF) Reading response 4

Week 8 (Oct. 14-16)

Forms of Justice & Liberty: Imperial Rome

(M) Roman Peace

(W) Roman Tolerance



Discussion Sections (MTu) Reading response 4 (WThF) Reading response 5

Week 9 (Oct. 21-23) Exam WEDnESday

Dark Ages: The Fall of Rome

(M) Barbarians at the Gates

(W) second exam


Read start WC ch. 7

Discussion Sections (MTu) Reading response 5 (WThF) no meetings

Week 10 (Oct. 28-30)

Forms of Justice & Liberty: New Frontiers

(M) Rise of Islam

(W) Franks, Saxons, & Northmen


Read WC ch. 7; start WC ch. 8 and CRUSADE

Discussion Sections (MWThF) Reading response 6

Week 11 (Nov. 4-6)

Epic History: Holy War

(M) Reforming Christendom

(W) God Wills It


Read WC ch. 8; CRUSADE

Discussion Sections (MWThF) Reading response 7


Week 12 (Nov. 13, no class Monday, holiday)

Forms of Justice & Liberty: Feudal Order

(W) Bottom Up


Read WC ch. 9; start MAGNA CARTA

Discussion Sections (MTu) no meetings (WThF) review


Week 13 (Nov. 18-20)

(M) Top Down

Great Man Theory: Monarchs & Bureaucrats

 (W) Saintly King



Discussion Sections (MTu) review (WThF) Reading response 8


Week 14 (Nov. 25, no class Wednesday)

Dark Ages: The Four Horsemen

(M) Prosperity’s Edge


Read WC ch. 10

Discussion Sections (MTu) Reading response 8 (WThF) no meetings


Week 15 (Dec. 2-4)

(M) Famine, War, Pestilence, & Death

Civilization, Part 2: Guns, Germs, & Steel

(W) Medieval Horizon


Read WC ch. 11; environmental determinism <wikip>

Discussion Sections (MWThF) review


The University Registrar has scheduled the Final Exam for Friday December 13 at 10:10 AM.


Reading Responses

Responses are to be composed in your blue book during the first twenty minutes or so of discussion sections. You know the topics in advance. I give you room for creativity. You decide how best to put forward a clear position, supported by concrete evidence or examples from the reading. Ideally, your response will demonstrate some awareness of how the evidence relates to the historical context set up by the textbook and lectures. You shouldn't try to quote texts from paper or memory. Instead, use your own words to paraphrase important passages from the reading. Each response is evaluated on the basis of content (40%), analysis (40%), and clarity (20%). You are allowed to miss one response without penalty. The purpose of these responses is to develop your confidence and ability for reading sources as evidence. They’ll also help you develop ideas for the final exam essay.

* * * * *

Response 1 Come in having chosen three favorite passages from Antigone. Be prepared to write about what they mean to you. ‘Passage’ here means no more than a few lines in length. To be your favorites you must like something about them. But be thinking as well of what they might tell you about ancient Greek society. This is to warm you up to reading for evidence, not just for the story.

* * * * *

Response 2 Pick three passages from Thucydides that tell you something about one of the following topics: Honor, Loyalty, Justice. Be prepared to write about what they mean to you. This is to get you reading for evidence with a purpose in mind.

Also, be ready for the first exam to write a short essay entitled ‘X [your topic] in Ancient Greek Society’ in which you use passages from Responses 1 & 2 as evidence. This is your first crack at fashioning an argument out of a primary source.

* * * * *

Response 3 Pick at least three passages that you think give the most insight to what Plutarch thought of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. Be prepared to write about these passages and how far you think we should trust them to be part of an accurate portrait of tensions in ancient Roman society. Now you’re to start worrying about the credibility of our evidence.

* * * * *

Response 4 Having read about Roman Peace from several very different perspectives, be prepared to write about how Romans defined peace and prosperity and whether they worried about possible negative consequences. You should notice how the author’s purpose and intended audience of a source affects our handling of it as historical evidence.

* * * * *

Response 5 Read the letters between Pliny and Emperor Trajan, as well as the Passion of Perpetua, looking in all three documents for what exactly each author thinks is the problem between Christians and Romans. What does the government want? What do the Christians want? Who else is helping stir up trouble? Be prepared to write about how Roman officials and Christians perceive the trial and execution of Christians. This is another exercise in thinking about an author’s intention and the original purpose and audience of our evidence.

* * * * *

Response 6 Based on lectures and your reading of WC ch. 7, you'll be asked to write a thematic essay about the role of law (religious and secular) in Byzantine, Islamic, and western European societies.

* * * * *

Response 7 Read the sources related to medieval Crusade and be prepared to write a thematic essay on reasons to fight. What was worth fighting for in the Middle Ages? How was violence justified? How was it controlled or harnessed? Your essay should have a thesis supported by concrete evidence. (If you are unsure what constitutes a thesis, see below.) This is a first rehearsal for the final exam essay.

* * * * *

Response 8 Magna Carta and Machiavelli provide very different models for the relationship between rulers and the ruled, the best way to guarantee justice and safety, and the limits of political power. Be prepared to write a thematic essay on the reasons for government as proposed by medieval authors. As you would expect by now, your essay should have a thesis supported by concrete evidence. (If you are unsure what constitutes a thesis, see below.) This is a final rehearsal for the final exam essay.

Unsure of what constitutes a thesis? Maxine Rodburg and the Tutors of the Writing Center at Harvard University offer a fine explanation <www>:

An effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion. "Reasons for the fall of communism" is a topic. "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" is a fact known by educated people. "The fall of communism is the best thing that ever happened in Europe" is an opinion. (Superlatives like "the best" almost always lead to trouble. It's impossible to weigh every "thing" that ever happened in Europe. And what about the fall of Hitler? Couldn't that be "the best thing"?)

A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay.

and an even better explanation of what does not constitute a thesis:

A thesis is never a question. Readers of academic essays expect to have questions discussed, explored, or even answered. A question ("Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe?") is not an argument, and without an argument, a thesis is dead in the water.

A thesis is never a list. "For political, economic, social and cultural reasons, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" does a good job of "telegraphing" the reader what to expect in the essay—a section about political reasons, a section about economic reasons, a section about social reasons, and a section about cultural reasons. However, political, economic, social and cultural reasons are pretty much the only possible reasons why communism could collapse. This sentence lacks tension and doesn't advance an argument. Everyone knows that politics, economics, and culture are important.

A thesis should never be vague, combative or confrontational. An ineffective thesis would be, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because communism is evil." This is hard to argue (evil from whose perspective? what does evil mean?) and it is likely to mark you as moralistic and judgmental rather than rational and thorough. It also may spark a defensive reaction from readers sympathetic to communism. If readers strongly disagree with you right off the bat, they may stop reading.

An effective thesis has a definable, arguable claim. "While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline" is an effective thesis sentence that "telegraphs," so that the reader expects the essay to have a section about cultural forces and another about the disintegration of economies. This thesis makes a definite, arguable claim: that the disintegration of economies played a more important role than cultural forces in defeating communism in Eastern Europe. The reader would react to this statement by thinking, "Perhaps what the author says is true, but I am not convinced. I want to read further to see how the author argues this claim."

A thesis should be as clear and specific as possible. Avoid overused, general terms and abstractions. For example, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because of the ruling elite's inability to address the economic concerns of the people" is more powerful than "Communism collapsed due to societal discontent."