Week 1

What's so great about the Greeks?
Why are we studying them?
Our course of study will propose that the Greeks invented something totally new in civilization and that what they invented is still at the core of our Western Tradition.
Let me share with you a list of ten characteristics of the Ancient Greeks that Edith Hall has explained in her wonderful book, Introducing the Ancient Greeks.
As Hall has explained: "Between 800 and 300 BC, people who spoke Greek made a rapid series of intellectual discoveries that propelled the Mediterranean world to a new level of civilization."
Ten characteristics that distinguish Ancient Greece:
1. seagoing ("like frogs around the pond") swimmers and divers
2. suspicious of authority, reject tyrants (creation of democracy)
3. individualistic (freedom)
4. enquiring minds (science)
5. openness to other cultures (travel, Israel, Phoenicia)
6. articulate (special nature of Greek language) language
The Greeks themselves believed that they were incomparable at talking. They often said that it was this that made them superior to all “barbarians,” a word that originally meant “people who don’t speak Greek but speak unintelligibly.”
Odysseus the best talker of them all rhetoic & poetry
7. sense of humor/wit
8. competitive, passion for excellence (Olympics)
9. the value of beauty Adonis Venus...best athlete should also be the most beautiful
10. pursuit of pleasure, joy, fun
These ten qualities are at the core of the Greek Miracle.
And the Greek Miracle is still at the core of Western Civilization.



The Iliad,

translated by Robert Fagles,

Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition,

ISBN 0140275363


The Odyssey,

translated by Robert Fagles,

Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition,

ISBN 0140268863


Edith Hall,

Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind,

W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 16, 2014),

ISBN 0393239985

This is the best one-volume introduction to the Ancient Greeks that I have ever read. And it is almost brand new for us and our class.

“Penetrating…Ms. Hall is an engaging writer and an acute scholar.”
- James Romm, Wall Street Journal

“[Hall’s] book is a hearty, delightful voyage through 2,000 years of Greek history, written with wit and verve and deep insight.”
- Mark Gamin, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“In Edith Hall’s new and groundbreaking study of ancient Greek culture, society, and mentality over a millennium and more, from Agamemnon to Constantine, she acutely identifies and brilliantly explains why we simply cannot do without the ancient Greeks.”
- Paul Cartledge, A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, University of Cambridge, and the author of The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others

“Edith Hall’s characteristically original approach to the world of classical antiquity is on full display in this introductory survey of the ancient Greeks and their enduring accomplishments.”
- Froma Zeitlin, Ewing Professor of Greek Language and Literature, emerita, Princeton University

“In this vivacious and learned book, Edith Hall distills the essence of Hellenic culture to discover the secrets of its success and stamina. Filled with striking anecdotes and little-known facts, this book will delight any student of the ancient Greek world.”
- Adrienne Mayor, Stanford University, and author of The Poison King

“Introducing the Ancient Greeks is informative and inspiring. With deep expertise and unabashed enthusiasm, Edith Hall surveys the whole history of the ancient Greeks and pinpoints the shared traits that explain their enduring achievements.”
- Sheila Murnaghan, professor of classics studies and Alfred Reginald Allen Memorial Professor of Greek, University of Pennsylvania

About the Author
Edith Hall is one of Britain’s foremost classicists, having held posts at the universities of Cambridge, Durham, Reading, and Oxford. She is the author and editor of more than a dozen works and now teaches at King’s College London.