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CLA 61 — Greek Political Thought from Homer to Aristotle

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: Virtual
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jun 25—Aug 13
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Drop Deadline: Jul 8
Unit: 1
Tuition: $410
Instructor(s): Barbara Clayton
Status: Closed
Please Note: This is a virtual course. Click here for more information about our course formats, including FAQs.
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jun 25—Aug 13
8 weeks
Drop By
Jul 8
1 Unit
Barbara Clayton
Please Note: This is a virtual course. Click here for more information about our course formats, including FAQs.
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.” 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. We 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 their differing opinions about which types of government worked best, imperialism, justice and law, citizenship and equality, and 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 taught Classics at Oberlin College, Santa Clara University, and Stanford, where she was also a lecturer in a freshman humanities program for many years. 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) Arthur W. H. Adkins, Peter White, The Greek Polis (ISBN 0226069354)
(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)