Spring 2023 Courses

Classical Studies (Spring 2023)

CLSS 141: Roman History: Empire
Lester Stephens

At the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, Gaius Octavius (better known as Augustus) finally conquered the last of the Greeks—and the Romans as well. This course explores Rome and its provinces during the 300 years between the establishment of the Roman Empire and the emperor Constantine I’s foundation of Constantinople in 324 CE as the new imperial capital. In addition to a chronological survey of the major political and military events of the imperial period, we will discuss the impact of Roman rule on social, religious, economic and legal developments throughout Europe, Northern Africa, and the Near East, as well as interactions with regions beyond Roman control (e.g. India). Special consideration will be paid to how life differed for people in the empire according to their region and place (e.g. urban vs rural), local pre-Roman culture, social and legal status (e.g. slave or free), religion, gender and other factors. Students will read secondary scholarship on the Roman world, while also engaging closely with primary sources like art, architecture, archaeology and texts in translation.

CLSS 160: Intro to Roman Literature
Charles McNelis

A survey of ancient Latin literature from the late republic and early empire (c. 200 BCE – 150 CE) and its reception. Authors such as Caesar, Livy, Horace, Ovid, and Apuleius will be covered in detail, focusing on themes such as religion, gender and politics in light of artistic strategies. A major topic of the course will be the profound importance of Vergil’s Aeneid: we will study the poem itself, its literary background, and then consider subsequent reactions to and interpretations of it, and what those points reveal about Roman literary strategies and thought. In the process, we will pay attention to formal aspects of the works that are common to so much literature. 

CLSS 217:  Greek Sexuality
Victoria Pedrick

“I desire you!” What did these words mean to the ancient Greeks, both in terms of physical acts of sex and in terms of the emotion and sense of possession that are also part of the experience? What was the etiquette of desire and how did the rules of this game map onto other social structures, such as marriage, friendship, service to the state, or even warfare? When the ancient Greeks looked at the human body, what struck them as desirable? What struck them masculine or feminine—what we might call today gender codes? What were other social, religious and moral codes that informed the ancient Greek construction of sexuality? This course studies such questions in the belief that sexuality is an excellent window into ancient Greek culture—a means for understanding how the Greeks thought about themselves in relation to others. And we pursue these questions through readings and material objects drawn from all periods of Greek history, including the early Archaic poems of Homer, to the philosophic and theoretical meditations on desire of the Classical period, to the Hellenistic poetry and medical writings. We also study modern theory of sexuality and gender.

This course involves explicit material and language, and if you are uncomfortable with such content, this is not the course for you. We treat this material, however, in an academic manner, and students are expected to frame discussions and papers with appropriate scholarly discourse.


CLSS 218:  Egyptomania
Brett Evans

D.C. lives under the shadow of an “Egyptian” obelisk made in America. Why? What did ancient Egypt signify to nineteenth-century Americans? What social, historical, and political factors shaped their cultural taste? To understand D.C.’s Egyptomania, we will first examine the long history of Greeks and Romans exploring, representing, conquering, and appropriating Egypt, from Archaic Greece to Ptolemaic Egypt to the Roman empire. The literary and material culture we investigate will then inform our study of local sites including the Washington Monument, Library of Congress, House of the Temple, and Freer-Sackler Gallery. Class visits will take place, health guidance permitting. 

CLSS 285: Slavery in Ancient Mediterranean
Lester Stephens

Slavery was an important feature of the Roman world; Rome’s farms, palaces, and markets included the presence of enslaved people.  This course attempts to better understand the people who served as the labor force of ancient Rome, often under brutal conditions.  We will examine ancient slavery using a variety of sources; while enslaved voices are rarely preserved directly, we can see their traces throughout Roman culture.  Students will not only learn about the lives of enslaved people within the Roman empire but will also assess the methodological problems inherent in studying non-elites through records of elite activity. Students will be tested on this material with a midterm exam in addition to a short and a long paper.

CLSS 293: Environmental History of Rome
David Pickel

We live in the Anthropocene age, defined by humanity’s dominant influence on climate and the environment. There remains much debate as to when exactly the Anthropocene begins. This debate puts into perspective our current environmental crises and the significance of human-environment interaction across time. This course will reflect on the short- and long-term by casting an environmental lens on the archaeology and history of the Roman Empire. The primary goal of this course is to learn the role of the environment in the history of Rome, and vice versa. We will draw from diverse paleo-environmental, archaeological, art historical, and literary evidence to:

—  interrogate Roman mentalities towards the environment

—  examine Roman technologies and organizational systems which enabled their ability to bring about enduring environmental transformations

—  and explore the confluence of socio-political events and environmental calamities.

Course content will be organized in three modules:

—  Fragmented Landscapes: students will explore how the Mediterranean basin both connected and separated people in antiquity

—  Environmental Mentalities and Management: students will explore how Roman mentalities of nature reflected and/or affected the Romans’ management of the environment

—  (Un)natural Calamities: students will explore what role, if any, the Romans played in bringing about environmental catastrophes.

Students will compare Rome’s relationship with the environment to our own, in particular how ideas, tools, and institutions bring about or obstruct transformation. In what ways were the interactions between humans and the environment during Roman antiquity similar to or different from today? How is this reflected in the changing character of the environment in ancient historical and archaeological research? And does such comparison reveal an essential relationship between humans and the environment?

CLSS 323: Resistance & Rebellion in Rome
Lester Stephens

Rome at the height of its supremacy rivals any of the great powers that have existed in human history. The influence of Rome invites questions concerning peoples and nations on the opposite end of Roman hegemony, and it consequently creates space for discussing Rome as an incubator of resistance and rebellion. This course serves as an investigation into the modes of resistance available to inhabitants of the Roman empire and analyzes comparanda within modern contexts in order to better understand the successes, failures, and techniques of rebels in ancient Rome. A primary objective of the class is to explore the Roman milieu as a springboard for counteraction by closely examining ancient sources and secondary scholarship, with the hope that we might gain greater insight into not only Rome as a site of resistance but also the world in which we live today.

Classics: Latin (Spring 2023)

CLSL 002:  Latin II
Justin Haynes

Latin II is the second course in the two-semester set of First Year Latin. In this second half, students will read Latin from original texts written in both prose and poetry. In particular, for prose, Caesar’s Commentarii de bello Gallico, Book 1, will provide us with both textbook grammar cases and an overview of Rome’s foreign policy in the first century BC. For poetry, we will read a selection from the poems written by Catullus, the first lyric and elegiac Roman poet whose work was transmitted to us (almost) completely; as a condition for, and a function of, reading verse, students will be also introduced to classical metrics (especially stichic hexameter, elegiac couplet, and hendecasyllable). Caesar, Bellum Gallicum 1, will be read from Ewan’s edition for Bristol Classical Press; Catullus from Garrison’s anthology The Student’s Catullus (Oklahoma); both books are available at the GU’s bookstore.

CLSL 101: Intermediate Latin
Brett Evans

Intermediate Latin is intended for students who have successfully completed Latin II at Georgetown or have otherwise acquired the ability to read Latin texts in the original, with a good basic knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. While these same elements (vocabulary, morphology, syntax) will be constantly reviewed and constitute an essential part of home and class work, a new stress will be increasingly posed on matters related to literary genres, poetic diction, rhetoric, meter, etc. In fact, students will be introduced to handling Latin literature directly, and especially through the study of those very authors that represent the basis for virtually all grammatical notions and abstractions so far learned, i.e. Cicero and Virgil. Satisfies COL language requirement.

CLSL 230: Roman Achilles
Charles McNelis

Achilles is celebrated as a quintessential hero in Homeric epic, yet he was the subject of a number of Latin poems that view the hero from different perspectives, from his boyhood to his death at Troy. This course will read accounts of Achilles in Catullus, Vergil, Horace, Ovid, and Statius and consider the ways in which Roman poets used the familiar epic hero for their own purposes. By focusing upon the representation of Achilles in a range of texts, students will also gain a broader sense of Latin literary history.

CLSL 243: Petronius
Marden Nichols

A literary masterpiece, Petronius’ Satyricon is the story of a young man, Encolpius, and his friends and their encounters with a series of absurd characters in what seems to be a Greek city but can also be taken as a parody of emperor Nero’s Rome. A highlight of the novel is the Cena Trimalchionis, a first-person narration of a banquet at the house of an extravagant freedman, Trimalchio, a model for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby. The text of the Satyricon will be read in the original, with attention to its language and style as well its literary complexity and the diversity of viewpoints displayed.

Classics: Greek (Spring 2022)

CLSG 002:  Ancient Greek 2
Brett Evans

A continued intensive introduction to the ancient Greek language with primary emphasis on the acquisition of reading skills.  Drills in grammar and syntax.  Programmed reading selections from a variety of ancient authors.

CLSG 400: Homer: Iliad
Victoria Pedrick

For advanced students of Greek only. Students read selected books of Homer’s Iliad and engage this archaic poem on numerous levels: the Homeric dialect and the performative pressures from which it emerged, the heroic themes and poetics of the poem; the archaic dactylic hexameter; and significant threads in modern scholarship on Homeric epic.