This is an introductory course in Greek history tracing the development of Greek civilization as manifested in political, intellectual, and creative achievements from the Bronze Age to the end of the classical period. Students read original sources in translation as well as the works of modern scholars.
Professor Donald Kagan explains why people should study the ancient Greeks. He argues that the Greeks are worthy of our study not only because of their vast achievements and contributions to Western civilization (such as in the fields of science, law, and politics) but also because they offer a unique perspective on humanity. To the Greeks, man was both simultaneously capable of the greatest achievements and the worst crimes; he was both great and important, but also mortal and fallible. He was a tragic figure, powerful but limited. Therefore, by studying the Greeks, one gains insight into a tension that has gripped and shaped the West and the rest of the world through its influence. In short, to study the Greeks is to study the nature of human experience.
In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan explores the earliest history of Greek civilization. He demonstrates how small agricultural enclaves eventually turned into great cities of power and wealth in the Bronze Age, taking as his examples first Minoan Crete and then Mycenaean Greece. He also argues that these civilizations were closely related to the great monarchies of the ancient Near East. He points out that the Mycenaean age eventually came to an abrupt end probably through a process of warfare and migration. Reconstructing the Mycenaean age is possible through archaeological evidence and through epic poetry (Homer). Finally, he provides an account of the collapse of the Mycenaean world, and explains how in its aftermath, the Greeks were poised to start their civilization over on a new slate.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan addresses what scholars call the Homeric question. He asks: what society do Homer's poems describe? He argues that in view of the long oral transmission of the poems, the poems of Homer probably reflect various ages from the Mycenaean world to the Dark Ages. More importantly, close scrutiny of the poems will yield historical information for the historian. In this way, one is able to reconstruct through the poems, to a certain extent, the post-Mycenaean world. Finally, Professor Kagan says a few words on the heroic ethic of the Greek world.
In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan offers a sketch of the Greek heroic code of ethics. He shows that in this community, arête (manly virtue) and honor are extremely important and even worth dying for, as the case of Achilles makes clear. In addition, Professor Kagan shows how this society eventually produced a new phenomenon, the rise of the polis. The discussion ends with a strong emphasis on the importance of the polis in Greek history.
In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan tells the story of the emergence of the polis from the Dark Ages. He shows that by the time of the poet Hesiod, there is already a polis in place. He describes the importance of the polis in the Greek world and explains that it was much more than a mere place of habitation; it was a place where there was justice, law, community, and a set of cultural values that held Greeks together. Finally, Professor Kagan argues, following the lead of Victor David Hanson, that the polis came to be chiefly through the emergence of a new man: the hoplite farmer.
In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan discusses the emergence of a new style of warfare among the Greeks, the hoplite phalanx. After discussing the panoply of the hoplite solider and the method of fighting, he argues that this style of fighting came about early in the life of the polis. In addition, he shows that the phalanx was almost invincible on the field. At the lecture's conclusion, he answers several questions from students about hoplite warfare in the Greek world.
In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan explores the rise of Greek colonies. He argues that the rise of new colonies was primarily due to the need for new farmland, although he acknowledges several other important reasons. He also shows where the Greeks colonized and explains that the process of founding a new colony probably took place within the dynamics of a polis. Finally, he offers a few important outcomes of this colonizing impulse.
In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan explores the rise, fall, and significance of tyrannies in the Greek polis. He argues that the various tyrannies in the Greek world had both negative and positive aspects, which need to be appreciated. For instance, on the one hand, tyrannies promoted economic, commercial and artistic advances. On the other hand, tyrannies ruled absolutely and curbed the freedom of the polis. Finally, Professor Kagan intimates that tyrannies in many ways were a necessary step in the development of the classical polis. In short, through tyrannies, the power and influence of the aristocracy was broken and the hoplite farmer grew greater in significance.
In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan explores the development and character of Sparta. He points out that in Sparta, the ethos of the polis was present to an extraordinary degree. Then he describes how this came about. In short, Professor Kagan argues that the Spartans were able to create a distinct military culture on account of their subjugation of the inhabitants of Messenia, who were forced to carry on the work of farming while the Spartans trained for war. Finally, Professor Kagan examines the education and training of the Spartan citizen as well as the constitution of Sparta.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan finishes up his description of the Spartan constitution. He argues that Sparta had a mixed constitution and gained great power due to alliances that the Spartans made with their neighbors. After the discussion of Sparta, Professor Kagan examines Athens and the development of the Athenian constitution. In addition, he shows how different these two poleis were. Finally, Professor Kagan discusses the emergence of the hoplite class in Athens and the failure of Cylon to make himself tyrant of Athens.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan traces the development of Athens. He argues that Athens, like other poleis, undergoes political and social turmoil due to the rise of the hoplite farmer. This unrest is first seen in the attempted coup d'état of Cylon and the Law of Draco. Professor Kagan also points out that in response to these developments, Solon was made sole archon of Athens to establish peace in a time of unrest. It should also be noted that Solon established laws that were moderate in nature. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Solon was only partially successful. Eventually, a tyranny is established in Athens by Peisistratus, but Peisistratus, according to Professor Kagan, was a special type of tyrant, one that not only upheld the new laws of Solon, but was also interested in the welfare of Athens.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan examines in detail the development, growing pains, and emergence of Athenian democracy. He argues that the tyranny under the Peisistratids led to the development of the idea of self-government among the Athenians, which Cleisthenes used to develop Athens in a more democratic direction. One of the ways Cleisthenes was able to accomplish this was to diminish the power of the aristocracy by reordering and restructuring the tribes and giving greater power to the assembly. Finally, Professor Kagan says a word on the Athenian practice of ostracism as a political tool to protect a fledgling democracy.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan traces the development and the power of the Persian empire. He also shows how the Persian empire and the Greek world eventually came into conflict through a few incidents concerning Ionian Greeks in Asia Minor, which eventually turned into the Persian Wars. Professor Kagan ends this lecture with a description of the events of the battle of Marathon in which the Athenians defeated the Persians.
In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan examines the developments that took place after the Greek victory over the Persians in 479 BC. He argues that even after the Greek victories, there was great fear amongst the Greeks that the Persians would return to seek revenge. For this reason, many of the Greek poleis, especially the islands, looked to Athens to lead this league, which later became the Delian League. Athens, according to Professor Kagan, accepted this responsibility, since it too feared a Persian invasion, but Sparta was content to retreat into the Peloponesus. Finally, Professor Kagan intimates that this league would eventually turn into the Athenian empire.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan describes the mechanics of the Delian League and its transformation into the Athenian empire. This transformation caused Athens to rival Sparta as an equal in power and prestige. He also argues that this process took place rather smoothly due to the good relations between Sparta and Athens. Professor Kagan argues that Cimon the Athenian generally played an important part in this development. Finally, Professor Kagan begins to describe the workings of Athenian democracy by comparing it with modern American democracy.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan continues to discuss the constitution of Athens. In particular, he explores the judicial workings of Athens. He describes in detail the effort of the Athenians to create a system of justice that would not only minimize tampering, in order to insure justice, but also maximize citizen participation. After this discussion, Professor Kagan comments on the role of women in Athens by looking at two types of sources. The picture that emerges is considerably complex and left without resolution. Finally, he comments on the role of slaves. In each of these discussions, he draws illuminating analogies to our modern society.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan describes the events that lead up the Peloponnesian War. He argues that the rise of Athenian power and the concomitant challenge to Spartan dominance pointed to potential conflict. However, Professor Kagan also points out that there were many people who did not want war and that therefore war was not inevitable. The Thirty Years Peace was negotiated, and Professor Kagan finally argues that its clause for arbitration was the key clause that could have prevented war.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan describes the aftermath of the Thirty Years Peace. He argues that the Peace had the potential to keep peace between Athens and Sparta due to the arbitration clause. In addition, he argues that during this time, Athens sends various diplomatic messages to the wider Greek world stating their intentions for peace, such as the Panhellenic venture to establish Thurii. However, this peace is seriously challenged when Corinth and Corcyra come into conflict over Epidamnus. At this point, Athens could make an alliance with Corcyra and run the risk of angering Sparta or allow Corinth to potentially take over Corcyra's navy and change the naval balance of power. Athens decides on a defensive alliance.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan focuses on the causes of the Peloponnesian War and the possible motivations for Thucydides' book, The History of the Peloponnesian War. Concerning the first point, Professor Kagan parts ways with Thucydides and argues that the war was not inevitable and that the Athenians under Pericles followed a policy of deterrence, which was aimed at peace. Similarly, he points out that there were a number of Spartans who did not want war as well. Therefore, according to this line of reasoning, war broke out due to a number of factors that were avoidable. Concerning the second point, Professor Kagan argues that Thucydides was a revisionist historian. In other words, Thucydides was writing not as a disinterested historian, but as a historian with a point to make, namely, that the war was inevitable and that Athens was only a democracy in name under Pericles. Finally, Professor Kagan acknowledges that his two points are debatable.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan examines Pericles as a general. First, he describes Pericles' strategy of war and then he evaluates this strategy. According to Professor Kagan, Pericles' strategy was characterized by being both defensive and rational. It was defensive, because the Athenians did not engage the Spartans in a traditional hoplite battle, and it was rational, because Pericles assumed that the Spartans would cease fighting when they realized that the Athenians did not have to fight a land battle, since they had a walled city and a navy. On its surface, this strategy seems reasonable, but Professor Kagan points out that there were two flaws. First, the Athenians did not have an offensive plan: that is, a plan to deter the Spartans from quitting the war. Second, Pericles failed to realize that war is not always rational.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan describes the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War and how the Spartans began to dominate other Greek poleis, instead of liberating them. The Spartan general Lysander at this point not only grows in influence and power, but also follows an aggressive plan to establish pro-Spartan, oligarchical governments. However, according to Professor Kagan, this fact angered many cities. Therefore, Thrasybulus, along with the help of other poleis, resisted Spartan rule. Eventually he opposed Sparta at Phyle and in time reestablished the democracy of Athens.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan examines the continuation of Spartan tyranny over the Greek poleis and the response of the Greek world. According to Professor Kagan, it became clear that the Greek poleis needed to do something to check the power of Sparta. So, Thebes, Argos, Corinth, and Athens along with some of the smaller poleis joined together to fight Sparta in the Corinthian War. The war ended in a stalemate, but now the Persians were afraid of the growth of Athenian naval power. So, the king made an alliance with Sparta to bring about the King's Peace, which emphasized Greek autonomy and which had the effect of breaking up all alliances, except the Peloponnesian League. After this fact, Sparta continued in its tyrannical behavior.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan describes the growth of a new power: Thebes. Under the leadership of Epaminondas and Pelopidas, Thebes grows into a major power among the Greek cities. In fact, the Thebans even rout the Spartans in a standard hoplite battle in the battle of Leuctra. Finally, Professor Kagan points out that by the time of Theban hegemony, the Greek world had experienced so many wars and conflicts that it opened the door to a powerful leader: Philip of Macedon.
In this lecture, Professor Kagan tells the story of the rise of Philip and describes his early actions: unifying Macedon, defeating barbarian armies, and creating a new, professional, national army. According to Professor Kagan, through these actions, Philip was able to make inroads into the Greek world. What made these inroads more effective was Philip's uncanny talent for diplomacy and the fighting between the various poleis. Eventually, the Greeks under the efforts of Athens and Demosthenes decided to face Philip in the battle of Chaeronea. The battle, though close, was won by Philip and his Macedonian forces. Finally, Professor Kagan evaluates the actions of Demosthenes and concludes that his actions should be judged as a noble endeavor of one who loved freedom.