Make your own free website on

History 4

Survey of Early Western Civilization


Fall 2003                                                                                              Office:  Benicia 1011                    

Dr. Martin Secker                                                                                Office hours: TTh 1:30-2:30

Class hours: TR  12:00-1:15                                                               Phone:



Course website:  The weekly reading schedule, links to online readings and websites, and handouts will all be posted on the website. You will need to check it continually.

Course weblog:  Announcements, changes, writing prompts, discussion questions, and other course materials will be posted here. A link to the log will be on the online syllabus, or you can type the address directly.

Course Forum- This venue is provided as a place for you to pose questions, discuss course materials, and assignments with other students, as well as with me. If you are having problems with a text or a topic, or have questions about something, this is the place the throw out the issue for discussion. The use is the forum is purely optional for this class. It is simply there to facilitate the exchange of information and a limited kind of cooperative effort or study.



Required Texts:


Perry, Marvin.  Western Civilization. A Brief History, Vol. I to 1789, 4th edition.


We will also read extensively from primary sources in handouts and on the internet.


Course Description


This course is designed to provide an overview of the roots and early development of what later will become western civilization. Along the way, the student will have the opportunity to acquire a superficial familiarity with civilization in the early Middle East, classical Greece and Rome, and the European middle ages. At the same time, the course will suggest some of the factors that have affected and continue to affect the way societies work and people live. By the end of the course it is hoped that each student will have gained some sense of the cultural and historical roots of contemporary human societies as well as an appreciation of the universal character of human history.


Course Goals


Upon completion of the course students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of:

Ø      The origins and roots of western civilization.

Ø      The contributions of different peoples and cultures to the mix that eventually becomes a whole new civilization in western Europe.

Ø      The chief characteristics of the institutions and value systems of the societies studied here.

Ø      The processes of change and development within societies and civilizations.

Ø      The complex interplay of value systems, social structure, geography and ecology, technology, economics, and political institutions in human societies. 

Ø      How societies and civilizations have confronted issues of diversity and cultural differences within their populations.

Students will also be able to demonstrate:

Ø      University-level methods of historical inquiry, text interpretation, analytical writing, and critical thinking.

Ø      The ability to reflect upon their own lives in the light of world history. 



Course Requirements


Attendance is required. You are allowed four absences without penalty. Each absence beyond that will result in a one grade reduction in your course grade. With eight absences you automatically fail this course.

Class preparation and participation.  I expect students to come to class each day having read thoroughly all materials assigned for that day and ready to discuss the topics covered that day. Consistent thorough preparation will greatly help your grasp of the sometimes complex subject of this class, and will improve the chemistry within the classroom making the class itself a better learning experience. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be mentally “into” this course.

Text glosses-  (5%) Each student must submit brief glosses of required source readings four times during the semester. These glosses will be the basis for class discussions of the texts. Assignment specifics to follow.

Internet/website sources and commentaries.  (15% = 2 x 7.5%): 1) Art or music sample.  Each student must submit at least one example of art from one of the cultures under study in this class in the time periods covered by this class. You must also provide a brief commentary on the example, and identify the website (URL) from which it comes. 2) Description of and commentary on a website dealing with some aspect of western civilization prior to 1600 C.E. The website must be fully identified. This website must not be used for either the Art/Music. Assignment specifics to follow.

Responses to prompts (5%): Writing prompts will be posted for each week’s readings. You must respond in writing to a prompt from five weeks throughout the semester.

Extended analyses of writers and documents (20%- 2 x 10%). You are allowed to use one the writers and documents assigned for our readings. You may use other writers or documents, but these choices must be approved by the instructor in advance.

Exams (55%)   There will be two exams- a midterm (20%) and a final exam (35%). Please note: You must average a passing grade on the exams to pass the course!!! There are no make-up exams without an acceptable, verifiable, written excuse, or unless arranged in advance.

 Assignment sheet: History 4 assignments


All your work should be kept in a portfolio throughout the semester and resubmitted at the end of the semester.




Written work is due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late work is accepted, but a one grade penalty is applied for each day (not each class period) it is late, beginning at the end of class.

Course grades are determined on a 1000 point scale. Weight is given to assignments according to the above percentages. For instance, the journal is worth 300 points.


900-1000=A            600-699 =D

800-899 =B            Less than 600=F

700-799 =C


Resources on the Web


Writing Guides: Brown University; Carney; Bowdoin College

History texts: Internet History Sourcebook Project; world civilizations; Internet Sacred Text Archive; Perseus Project; Internet Classics Library; The Latin Library; Forum Romanum; From Primitives to Zen (Eliade site); Exploring Ancient World Cultures; The Labyrinth; ORB: the Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies; NetSERF; WWW Virtual Library for Medieval Studies

Online textbook:




Weekly Schedule


Readings should be completed prior to the class period for which they are assigned. Students are responsible for any and all changes made to the syllabus during the semester. Additional readings will be added.


Week 1


9/2    Introduction. Early human history and the first civilizations


9/4    Gilgamesh, Eden, and the Origins of Civilization

            Perry, 4-18;

Primary sources: Proverbs from Ki-en-gir; Gilgamesh:the Flood Story;  Code of Hammurabi;

The Precepts of Ptahhotep; The Dead Pharoah Becomes Osiris;

The Dead Pharoah Ascends to Heaven; Egyptian Love Poetry


Week 2


9/9    Hittites, Hebrews, Assyrians and Persians- the Evolution of Near Eastern Civilization.

            Perry, 18-28;

Primary sources: Code of the Nesilim; Code of the Assyrians;

 Accounts of the Campaign of Sennacherib; Exodus (ch. 19-22)

Handouts: Ancient Mesopotamia


9/11  Snake Goddesses and Homeric Heroes: Civilization Reaches Europe

Perry, 39-42;

Primary sources: Iliad, excerpts


Week 3


9/16  Man is a Political Animal- rise of the polis

Perry, 42-46

Primary sources: The Funeral Oration of Pericles; The Spartan Constitution; Antigone, excerpts;

 Solon; Poems of Sappho; Greek Lyric Poets

Handout: Polis


9/18  Greek religion and values

Primary sources: Accounts of Greek Religion; A Homeric Sacrifice for the Dead; Hesiod- Theogony


Week 4


9/23   Women, Slaves, Mules and Sophists- The Fifth Century

Perry, 48-52, 56-59; 65-69

Primary sources: On Greek Women; Herodotus, on Persians and Greeks


9/25  Useless Questions, Self-knowledge, and the Cave

Perry, 59-65

Primary sources: Greek materialists; Euthyphro (first three selections); Apology


Week 5


9/30   “Revolution Thus Ran Its Course From City to City, . . . “- the Breakdown of the Polis

Perry, 52-53

Primary sources: Thucydides, on the civil war in Corcyra; Melian Dialogue


10/2  Alexander Cuts the Gordian Knot

Perry, 53-54, 70-81


Week 6


10/7 Elephants over the Alps, Pyrrhic Victories, and a Roman Lake

Perry, 82-89

Primary sources: Livy, excerpts


10/9 Lucretia and the XII Tables: Virtue and Law in Early Rome

Perry, 91-92

Primary sources: the Twelve Tables; Polybius

Handouts: Roman Terms


Week 7


10/14    Rome Crosses its Own Rubicon- Crisis and Revolution

Perry, 92-97

Primary sources: The Cataline Conspiracy; Catullus


10/16     The Last of the Old Romans?

Perry, 97-108

Primary sources: The End of the Republic; Augustus


Week 8


10/21  It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” – Rome in the Principate and the Crisis of the

 Third Century.

Perry, 108-111

Primary sources: Apuleius; Apuleius 2; Tacitus, on Adoption; Pliny the Younger; Marcus Aurelius- Meditations; Aurelian's conquest of Palmyra;

10/23 A New Religion, a New Capital, a New Society

10/23  A New Religion, a New Capital, a New Society?

Perry, 111-118

Primary sources: Herodian of Syria; Efforts to control the economy; Battle of Adrianople; Conversion of Constantine; Ambrose; Alaric's Sack of Rome; Sidonius;


Week 9


10/28   Jerusalem and Athens- What has Salvation to Do with the World?

Perry, 119-136

Primary sources: Matthew 10:1-42; Matthew 24:3-31; Faith and the Law; Accusations against Christians; Tertullian; Two Cities;


10/30  The Prophet, Veils, Peoples of the Book,  and the Survival of Empire

            Perry, 138-143

Primary sources: Selections from the Qur'an; Sunnah; Byzantium and the Arabs

            Handout: Early Islam


Week 10


11/4 Wergeld, the Consolation of Philosophy, and the Roman Shepard

Perry, 143-148

Primary sources: On Attila; Battle of Chalons; Tacitus;

Gregory of Tours; Salic Law; Life of St. Benedict; Life of St. Boniface


11/6  Charlemagne and the Making of Europe

Perry, 148-152

Primary sources: Einhard; Capitulary de villis; de litteris colendis


Week 11


11/11  Lords, Vassals:  Freedom, Service and Obligation

Perry, 152-154

Primary sources: Feudal capitularies; Mutual obligations; Feudal agreement; Granting fiefs; Fiefs and obligations

Handout: Terms- Middle Ages


11/13  Manors, Fairs, Merchants, and the Rise of Towns

Readings: Perry, 154-160

Primary sources: Description of a manor house; Privileges of London; Manorial pleas; Wharram Percy; Grant of privileges; Charter for the town of St. Omer;


Week 12


11/18  Monks, Saints, Popes, and St. Peter’s Keys

Perry, 164-173

Primary sources: Unam Sanctam; Clericos laicos


11/20  How to live in this world, but for the next?”  Patron saints, Crusades, investiture, and marriage.


Primary sources: Urban II; Concordat of Worms;


Week 13


11/25 Heloise and the Doctors

Perry, 176-186

Primary sources: Abelard's Misfortunes; Heloise's letter to Abelard; Sic et Non; Anselm on God's Existence


11/27 The Tomb,  the Light, and the Troubadours

Perry, 186-186-189

Primary sources:


Week 14


12/2  Rats,  Plague, and Dislocation: Social and Economic Reorganization

Perry, 189-191, 260-266, 195-200

Primary sources:


12/4 New Worlds and New Monarchies: Reexamining Authority

Perry, 236-239, 254-260

Primary sources: The Prince; Columbus; Da Gama


Week 15


12/9   Schisms, Mystics and Reformers

Perry, 191-194, 218-234

Primary sources:


12/11  Beatrice, Lucretia, and Mona Lisa

Perry, 194-195, 204-218

Primary sources: Letter to Cangrande; Life of da Vinci; Oration on the Dignity of Man