Pre-1500 Courses

Complete 1 of the following Pre-1500 courses. See Undergraduate Degree Requirements for more details.

This course will focus on the ancient Mediterranean from 800 BCE to the XXX of the Roman Empire in the third century CE, emphasizing concepts of power and identity as demonstrated in politics, gender ideals, material culture and religious practice.
A political, social and cultural history of Greek civilization from the Bronze Age to the death of Alexander the Great.
This course offers a survey of Roman History from the prehistoric settlements in the area of the Seven Hills to the deterioration of the western Empire in the fifth century C.E. Special topics of interest include the material culture of the Roman world; the use of images in the pursuit of political agendas; classical notions of the divine; and concepts of gender, power, and identity. Popular representations of ancient Rome, specifically in film, will provide another area of consideration for comparison throughout the semester.
Games provide entertainment and recreation, but they also reflect, influence, and supply metaphors for many other aspects of life. We will explore the importance of games in shaping medieval and early modern societies by focusing on four games that have come to symbolize the era - chess, jousting, hunting, and dice games. Through our examination of these and other games, we will explore the social, political, religious, economic, legal, military, and intellectual history of medieval and early modern Europe.
This course examines the history of the great diversity of beliefs, practices, ways of life, and forms of authority among Christians, and especially conflicts about these. Not narrowly theological, the course construes Christianity broadly, treating, for example, society, culture, and art.
This course explores the history of criminal justice systems in the ancient Mediterranean through close examination of select primary sources. Its primary focus is Greece and Rome, but it will also cover Pharaonic Egypt and the Ancient Near East. We shall move chronologically, geographically, and topically, treating a broad range of literary and archaeological evidence. Of central importance to the course will be the issue of boundaries: between right and wrong, imprisonment and freedom, individual and state. Law codes from Mesopotamia, tomb robbery in the Egyptian New Kingdom, the trial and execution of Socrates, police in the streets of Rome, execution by gladiator, spiritual and allegorical punishment: the course encompasses it all!
A lecture course focusing on Europe in the age of bubonic plague (from 1348 to 1720), with emphasis on changes in climate, food supplies, public health, epidemic disease, demography, and economy. The last third of the course will be devoted to the religious and artistic responses to disaster.
Rise of Islam, creation of Islamic society, relationship of religion and politics.
Beginning with Herodotus¿ history of the Persian Wars and concluding with Thucydides¿ account of the Peloponnesian War, you will read and discuss various types of ancient sources in order to write your own history of the growth of democracy, the spread of empire, and the persistence of war in Classical Greece.
By reading and discussing many different ancient texts, including philosophy, Jewish histories and literature, and, especially, papyri from Egypt, you will explore the social and cultural history of the eastern Mediterranean from Alexander the Great until the Roman conquest.
In this class, you will investigate a variety of topics related to people¿s lives in Classical Greece: democracy, economics, family life, gender, slavery, science, religion, and friendship. You will read and discuss ancient texts from the 4th century BCE ¿ histories, court speeches, how-to manuals, and philosophy ¿ in order to figure out for yourself what happened and how people lived.
This course will focus on the history of Rome as it expands from an archaic 8th century village to become the dominant power in the Mediterranean, through civil war and the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. Although there is special focus on Roman power as it was distributed, manipulated, and claimed by citizens, warlords and demagogues, we will also be looking at social networks and the family, sub-elites and women, polytheism and ritual practice, the development of the city as a space for civic performances, as well as the dynamics of cultural interaction in the ancient Mediterranean. Students will concentrate throughout on the primary evidence (written and archaeological) and the ways in which historians use literary and material documentation to uncover different perspectives on the Roman past.
This course will focus on the history of Rome under the emperors, from approximately the 40s B.C.E. to the deterioration of the western Empire in the fifth century C.E. Special emphasis will be given to concepts of power and how these play out in politics, spectacle, gender ideals, art and urban structures, and religious practices of the imperial period. Students will make use of the primary sources of evidence, both ancient texts and archaeological material, to increase their understanding of the ancient Romans and to gain greater familiarity with the techniques of the historian in analysis and communication.
This course focuses on Cleopatra VII (69-30 BCE), the last ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt and one of the best-known women in history and a key powerbroker during a period of important political change, one with enduring repercussions for the western world. She has been, however, deliberately memorialized as a "romantic" agent, a deployer of "feminine wiles", whose gender and political toolbox rightly doomed her efforts to failure. Students will interrogate the process of transforming a historical individual into an object lesson, a trope of femininity, and a cinematic legend, unpacking the messages crafted for a range of audiences and purposes by multiple creators, including Cleopatra herself. We begin with the historical background of the Hellenistic period, cosmopolitan and multicultural, focusing especially on the dynamism of women in the ideology of royal power and as image-makers in their own right, developing special forms for female authority and female patronage. A number of earlier Cleopatras establish context and particular precedents, creating official personae to engage effective interactions with fundamental groups; these include the resilient Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra II (r. 175-116 BCE) and Cleopatra Thea, token in a dynastic alliance who became Great Queen of Syria, dominating the Seleucid throne for a generation. Students will then sift through the evidence for Cleopatra VII, both the contentious (and largely hostile) material for her Mediterranean activities as well as the Egyptian record that may represent the specific efforts of the queen herself, utilizing then-ancient symbol and ritual to assert her legitimate imperial authority and structure her collaboration with major stakeholders in the Nile realm. The last section of the course looks to the lingering memory of Cleopatra long after her death, closely examining images in drama, art, and film to explore how the story of Cleopatra has been crafted and recrafted to represent different "truths" about sex, power, and identity.
Major institutions and trends in Europe from the breakup of the Roman World to the 14th century.
Major institutions and trends in Europe from the breakup of the Roman World to the 14th century.
Food and cuisine are foundational to knowledge of the human past and link the past with the present. In this course we explore the importance of food in its various roles (alimentary, cultural, economic, environmental, religious, social, political, etc.) in shaping the history of the late antique, medieval, and early modern world (ca. 300 to 1700).
Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries with special emphasis on Italy as the seat of the Renaissance. Topics include the city states, humanism, the Church in an age of Schism and secularization, Renaissance art, the New Monarchies and European exploration and imperialism.
The Reformation in thought and action both from the perspective of its religious origins and of the political and social conditions. Analysis of its impact on 16th century Europe including the spread of Protestant reformation and its companion movement, counter-reformation.
Political, socio-economic and cultural history of Russia and its expansion into an empire from the 10th century to 1917.
Survey of Indian history from 7th century to 1750.
History of Ottoman Empire from its origins through the direct Western European impact, focusing on the political and social history of the empire in Europe and Asia.
This course explores the ways in which events and narratives drawn from the ancient Mediterranean have been represented in film, focusing on such issues as the role of the archaeologist in connecting to the ancient past, the depiction of Egypt as a font of mystic (and doomed!) power, and the presentation of Roman spectacle as an emblem of ruthless imperialism.
This course focuses on the ancient history of the Middle East prior to the rise of Christianity and Islam. In reflecting on modern agendas and assumptions that have defined a certain image of "the classical world" in distinction to that of "the ancient Near East", we take a critical approach to Mesopotamian, Anatolian, Levantine, and Persian history from the development of writing to the conquest of Alexander the Great (fourth millennium to fourth century BCE).
The exchange of scholarly information and/or secondary research, usually in a small group setting. Instruction often includes lectures by several different persons. Research projects may/may not be required of course registrants.
The course is an enriched exploration of sports, spectacle and theatrical performances in ancient Greece and Rome, incorporating both traditional delivery of content (lectures and discussion based on reading) combined with the opportunity to engage creatively with the material in workshop format. The semester is structured around the ancient festival calendar, moving from private and local dramatic works to Panhellenic athletic competitions to the major performances at the festival of Dionysus in Athens and during the Games in Imperial Rome, culminating with amphitheatrical spectacle under the Emperors. The performative material selected grapples with universal human themes, specifically the formation of cultural identities against the volatile backdrop of war and the tension between the exercise of power and the demands of the populace. Students will investigate major performance events in their original social and political contexts and then adapt five such events for presentation in a modern setting. These re-enactments will range from an audio-only podcast adaptation of Aristophanes, to staged readings of tragedy and comedy, to a marathon public reading of Homer¿s Iliad, to a re-created Roman arena. Through this kind of active interaction, students will gain a better understanding of foundational texts of the western tradition, texts which were crafted to be heard and seen, as social events, as shared experiences, not in isolation as intellectual exercises. The dynamic quality of hands-on work also allows insights to the body¿s role in communication, opening windows into subtler non-verbal features of these events, opening different perspectives on ancient content and allowing students to develop broader analytical techniques. By engaging with the historical past on a personal level, by re-experiencing key elements of past societies, students will acquire powerful and lasting insights on Mediterranean antiquity and on the human experience.