Skip to content
  • Print

Power to the People?

12:30 Seminar

Did the Greeks of classical Athens or the Romans of the Republic live in a good society? The founding fathers of the United States of America had two classical models available to them when they created a government of, by, and for the people: the direct democracy of Periklean Athens and the representative democracy of republican Rome. By looking into the societies of Periklean Athens (462-29 BCE) and republican Rome (509-031 BCE) we can gain new perspectives on how different democracies could create good societies, and why the founding fathers might choose the Roman model and not the Athenian one.

The worlds of Perikleaan Athens and republican Rome are distant from ours, both akin and alien. They are familiar because we recognize such aspects of society as their governmental structures, traditions of warfare, modes of performance, art and architecture. They are different because Athenians and Romans lived in societies that incorporated polytheism, slave-owning, misogyny, a non-capitalistic economy, and distinctive definitions of citizenship and law.

We will read and discuss two books that analyze various shared aspects of these two societies. We will also investigate a series of thematic questions and view videos to illustrate these aspects of Athenian and Roman society as well as the countercultural models provided by the Etruscans, Spartans, Amazons, and Carthaginians.

This course builds on a variety of PACS1 readings. It builds on readings about "Family and Civil Society," as it examines the families, gender constructions, slavery, economy, and art and architecture of Periklean Athens and republican Rome. It also builds on readings about "Politics, Law and Citizenship," as it focusses on governmental structures, warfare, law, religion, and empire. Students are likely to come away with a mixed opinion of the glory that was Greece and the grandeus that was Rome, as well as their own democratic society.