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CLA 66 — The Mirror and the Razor: Herodotus, Thucydides, and the Beginnings of Historical Thinking

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 24—Dec 3
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Oct 7
Units: 2
Tuition: $485
Instructor(s): Christopher Krebs
Status: Closed
Please Note: No class on November 26
7:00—8:50 pm
Sep 24—Dec 3
10 weeks
Drop By
Oct 7
2 Units
Christopher Krebs
Please Note: No class on November 26
Two curious minds founded a new discipline—history—in the 5th century BCE: Herodotus (the mirror) and Thucydides (the razor).

Herodotus left his hometown in Caria, a multicultural region in ancient Anatolia, to explore the world, then wove his experiences into an account of the Greco-Persian Wars: a showdown between East and West, tyranny and liberty, two worlds colliding at the path of Thermopylae. In titling this work Histories, he introduced into Western tradition the term that would come to designate “investigation of the past.”

When Herodotus recited from Histories in Athens, a certain young man was in the audience: Thucydides. He served his city during the Peloponnesian War, which pitted shiny Athens against stern Sparta, then contracted and survived the plague, only to be exiled for military incompetence. With unwelcome time to spare, Thucydides also turned to writing history. In his incisive account of “the greatest war,” he revealed the laws of human nature, analyzed the breakdown of communication, and cried over the tragedy of the Sicilian expedition.

In this course, we will read selections from these historians’ works, study their methods, explore their enduring influence all the way up to Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, and walk their walk in reconstructing their worlds.

Christopher Krebs, Associate Professor of Classics, Stanford

Christopher Krebs studied Classics and philosophy in Berlin and Kiel and at Oxford and taught at Harvard before coming to Stanford. He is the author of A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’s Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich, which received the 2012 Christian Gauss Award.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) R. B. Strassler, The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories (ISBN 1400031141)
(Required) R. B. Strassler, The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, 1998 (ISBN 10:0684827905)
(Recommended) S. Hornblower, Thucydides, 1987 (ISBN 10:0715622277)
(Recommended) J. Romm, Herodotus (Hermes Books Series) (ISBN 10:0300072309)
(Recommended) C. Dewald, J. Marincola (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Herodotus (ISBN 10:0521536839)
(Recommended) R. Thomas, Herodotus in Context: Ethnography, Science and the Art of Persuasion (ISBN 0521012414)