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CLA 61 — Greek Political Thought from Homer to Aristotle

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: On-campus course
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jun 26—Aug 14
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Jul 9
Unit: 1
Tuition: $355
Instructor(s): Barbara Clayton
On-campus course
7:00—8:50 pm
Jun 26—Aug 14
8 weeks
Drop By
Jul 9
1 Unit
Barbara Clayton
From “democracy” (rule of the people) to “demagogue” (leader of the mob), our language of politics declares its roots in ancient Greece. So too with the word “politics” itself. It comes from the Greek ta politika, meaning issues concerning the polis (city-state). For the Greeks, polis signified the people who lived in the city-state; it named a community rather than a place. Aristotle famously said, “Man is a creature of the polis.” In other words, from an ancient Greek perspective, politics was an idea profoundly connected with the very fact of being human.

In this course, we will look at how the Greeks understood what it meant to be a “creature of the polis,” and how that idea evolved and changed from pre-democratic times to the late 4th century BCE and the arrival of Alexander the Great. This course will cover aspects of the actual practice of ta politika as well as theoretical reflections about this practice. We will see what the Greeks had to say about different forms of government and differing opinions about which types worked best, about imperialism, about justice and law, about citizenship and equality, and about virtue’s role in politics. Our readings will include excerpts from a wide range of authors and genres, including the statesman Solon, the historians Herodotus and Thucydides, Plato’s Apology of Socrates, and Aristotle’s Politics.

Barbara Clayton, Independent Scholar

Barbara Clayton has been teaching at Stanford Continuing Studies since 1999. She has also taught Classics at Oberlin College, Santa Clara University, and Stanford, where she was a lecturer for eight years. She has published articles on texts as diverse as Homer’s Odyssey, Lucretius’s The Nature of Things, and Aristotle’s biological writings, and she is the author of A Penelopean Poetics: Reweaving the Feminine in Homer’s Odyssey. Clayton received a PhD in Classics from Stanford.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Adkins, A. W. H. and Peter White, eds., The Greek Polis (ISBN 9780226069357)
(Required) Melissa Lane, The Birth of Politics (ISBN 9780691173092)
(Required) Paul Woodruff, trans., Thucydides. On Justice, Power and Human Nature: Selections from the History of the Peloponnesian War (ISBN 9780872201682)