Course: History of the Ancient World

Class Hours and Room: Mon. 6-8:30 P.M., M-618


Course Number: HIS 141-001

Semester: Spring 2010


Credits/Hours: 3 credits, 3 hours

Instructor: Nicolás Agrait



Contact Information:

History Department

Rm. H-838

Office Hours: Monday/Wednesday 3-4:30 and by appointment.

Tel. 718-488-1357



I.                       Course Description: A survey of the history of the Ancient World from the earliest civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia to the decline of the Roman Empire, with particular reference to the emergence of governt ment and society, the spread of commerce, the place of art and architecture in public and private life, and the various roles of women. (from L.I.U. Brooklyn Bulletin 2007-2009)


II.                    Course Goals and Objectives:

1)        Diligent students will develop analytical skills by reading both secondary and primary sources.

2)        Diligent students will further develop writing and critical-thinking skills through the completion of a term paper.

3)        Diligent students will hone public speaking skills by designing and delivering oral presentations in class.


III.                 Resources:

1)        Textbook:

The required textbook is Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Ancient World; From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007).  I have asked the L.I.U. Bookstore to stock copies.  You may get it there or on your own.


2)        Students need to bring a notebook, paper or other material with which to take notes.


3)        Students absolutely need to have access to a computer with Internet access to complete reading assignments and papers.


4)        Extra Source Readings: see below under Course Calendar.


5)       Web Links:

a)        L.I.U. Prof. Agrait’s His. 1, His. 2 Web Site (

This is the instructor’s personal and academic web site. You can find information regarding his schedule, specialty and office hours. Most importantly, you can get copies of the course syllabus if you need it.

b)        Internet Ancient History Sourcebook:


6)       How to access ERES:

a)        Whenever a reading has the letters (ERES) right behind it, it means that it is in the Electronic Reserves section of the library and not on the public Internet.

b)        Go to L.I.U. Brooklyn Electronic Reserves: and then click on “Electronic Reserves and Materials”

c)        Look for the course in the main index or using my name.

d)       Enter the course password: _______

e)        Click on the text you need and you will be able to view and/or print a .pdf version of the readings.  You may not be able to save it to your computer because it may copyright protected.


7)       L.I.U. Attendance and Tardiness Policies: (from L.I.U.-Brooklyn Bulletin)

a)        Attendance: All students are expected to attend classes and to participate in classroom activities. Instructors have the right to weigh attendance and class participation in determining grades. Consequently, excessive absences may negatively affect the evaluation of a student’s performance. Freshmen and probationary students are allowed no more than two class-hour absences per credit hour. All students enrolled in science laboratory courses may not be absent for more than 20 percent of laboratory time. Instructors are urged to record attendance in all classes for counseling purposes.

b)        Tardiness: Students are expected to be present from the beginning of a class until the instructor dismisses it. If students arrive late, they may be denied admission or marked absent.


8)        Additional Course Policies:

a)        Cell Phone, Text-Messagers, Wireless E-mail: these are strictly prohibited during class.  Turn cell phones and pagers off (off, not vibrate, not silent). Any student caught surfing the web or checking e-mail in class will be expelled. Furthermore, any use of electronic devices during quizzes or tests will result in the student failing the test and possibly being referred to the proper L.I.U. authorities for further disciplinary action.

b)        Academic Dishonesty: All dishonest behavior (cheating, plagiarism, disruption) will be subject to severe punishment including grade reduction, expulsion from the class, or other disciplinary action.

IV.                 Course Requirements/Assignments:

1)        Grading Breakdown:





Take-Home Final


Class Participation



2)        Papers: all papers are to be handed into my mailbox in the History Department or to me personally in my office or in class.

Students are required to write at least two 4-5-page typewritten, double-spaced essays (handwritten papers will be ignored) on topics provided by the instructor.  There will be two opportunities to write papers: Monday, March 8, 2010 and Monday, April 5, 2010.  All students have to hand in at least one paper on the first due date and cumulatively two or more papers by Monday, April 5th.  The instructor can read full drafts if they are handed in a week ahead of time.  Since students have to hand in at least two papers to pass the course, they may write as many new papers (no rewrites) as they want until they get the grades they want.  The instructor will only count the highest grades.  Students who do not hand in two papers will automatically receive an “F” for the paper segment of their grade.  These deadlines are final and essays will be downgraded one half-grade per day the paper is late.  It is the student’s responsibility to make the instructor aware of any potential problems at any stage with the papers. Students are also required to hand in a printed copy of the essay AND an electronic copy (floppy disk, e-mail attachment, e-mail message text, CD-Rom, USB flash drive, etc.). The electronic copy will be used to check against plagiarism.  Any papers handed in without an electronic copy will not be graded until the electronic version is received.


Anyone caught cheating (misrepresenting information copying papers, buying papers off the web, using cliff-notes, Wikipedia, etc.) will receive an “F” in the first offense.  If the student cheats again, he or she will automatically fail the course and will also be referred to the proper L.I.U. authorities.

3)       Paper Topics:

a.         Using the Code of Hammurabi ([] or any other complete version) as your source, please delineate what the status of women was in Babylonian society.  Make sure to use specific examples to buttress your arguments regarding the position of women in society, their rights and freedoms as well as their limitations.

b.        Using the Code of Hammurabi ([] or any other complete version) as your source, how was Babylonian society structured. Make sure to use specific examples that show political, economic and social differences.

c.         Using the Code of Hammurabi ([] or any other complete version) as your source, what types of problems did Babylonian society face on a daily basis?  Be sue to use specific examples to support your assertions.

d.        Using the Code of Hammurabi ([] or any other complete version) as your source, what methods of conflict resolution were used in the Code to resolve conflicts and/or crimes.  Be sure to use specific examples from the text.

e.         Compare the creation stories in Genesis (( or any full text in a Chrisian Bible), chaps. 1-3 with the Enuma Elish, Epic of Creation (  What do they have in common?  How are they different?

f.          Read Petronius Abiter The Satyricon ( or any complete text) chapters 5-10 (“Trimalchio’s Feast”).  Who is Trimalchio and how is he characterized in this narrative?

g.        Read Petronius Abiter The Satyricon ( or any complete text) chapters 5-10 (“Trimalchio’s Feast”). How can this fictional text be used to study Roman History?  Please provide specific examples from the text and why you think they are important.

h.        China: Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism
Read the following Powerpoint ( and the following web sites:
History World: History of China (Zhou and Qin) ( 

In April 29, 1992, the city of Los Angeles was hit by some of the largest urban riots since the Civil Rights Movement.  As the city was gripped by six days of rioting there was widespread looting, arson, assault, and murder.  Imagine that you were present during the riots and witnessed many acts of violence and mayhem.  Devoting two pages to each philosophy, explain how a Confucian, Daoist and Legalist would respond and why.


4)       Presentations: each student will be required to research, prepare and present an oral presentation before the class lasting between 7-10 minutes with a short 5 minute discussion period to follow.  Students may avail themselves of any audiovisual materials and technology that they may find useful, except video.  Students may use the Internet to prepare for their presentations, but all sources have to be approved by the professor.  The students’ grades will be based on the rigor, organization and interest of their presentations, as well as on the type of discussion elicited by the material.  Students in the audience will be required to take notes and ask questions of the presenter.  These presentations shall be delivered during the last two class periods.  Possible topics include:


a.         Ancient Military Armies and Systems (except the Roman Republic and Empire)

b.        Thermopylae: 300 Fact and Fiction

c.         Status of Women in Egypt, Greece, Hebrew, Persian or Roman Society

d.        Art and Architecture of any civilization covered in class.

e.         Development of Technology and Engineering in the Ancient World

f.          Naval/Maritime Developments in the Ancient World

g.        Decline of the Western Roman Empire

h.        Daily Life in any of the cultures studied during the semester

i.          Sexuality in the Greek World

j.          Religion and Mythology (except Christianity)

k.        Examples of Classical Art or Architecture in Brooklyn or New York

l.          Individual Philosophical Systems in Individual Cultures.

m.      Any topic a student chooses that is relevant to the class


Since the topics can be so varied, each student has to meet individually with the professor to choose a topic and discuss how to develop it.  It is also crucial that each student meet a second time with the professor to ensure proper progress is being made and what, if any, audiovisual technology is necessary. 


V.                    Course Calendar (Classes, Topics, Reading Assignments): remember that computers are supremely stupid things. Therefore, it is best to go to, find your syllabus and then click on the reading assignments web sites.  If you do not type them perfectly your computer (dumb thing) will not know where to send you.



Mon. 25 First Day of Class, What is required for Human Civilization?



Mon. 1 Sumerians

Readings Due: Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Ancient World, chaps. 1-3, 7. Hereafter, referred to as Ancient World; “The Creation of the Pickax by Enlil or Babylonian Holy Spirit” (, Sumerian Beer: Banquet Image (, and “Hymn to Ninkasi-Making Beer” ( “Introduction,” V. Gordon Childe, “The Urban Revolution,” Samuel Noah Kramer, “The Sumerians,” chaps. in Perspectives on Urban Society; From Preindustrial to Postindustrial, ed. Efren N. Padilla (New York, 2006), pp. 1-3, 8-16, 27-36. (ERES)


Mon. 8 Egyptians

Readings Due: Ancient World, chaps. 4, 9, 15, 19; Check out these images on the web: Nile Delta from Space (, Hymn to the Nile, c. 2100 BCE (, King Tut Exhibit (, The Court of Amonhotep III at the temple of Luxor (, The Sphynx (, Pyramid of Cheops (


Mon. 15 Presidents’ Day No Classes


Tues. 16 (Monday Schedule) India (Harappan, Vedic)

Readings Due: Ancient World, chaps. 5, 14, 25, 37, 44; Map of Indus Valley and Harappan Civilization (; Laws of Manu (excerpts) (


Mon. 22 China

Readings Due: Ancient World, chaps. 6, 21, 30, 36, 42-43, 46, 53; Go to Ancient Dynasties on China ( : click and read the information on “Neolithic China,” “Xia Dynasty,” “Shang Dynasty,” and “Zhou Dynasty.”



Mon. 1 Persian Empire, Greek Polis (Paper #1 Due)

Readings Due: Ancient World, chaps. 26, 29, 34, 38, 55, 58-59, 63; Persian Empire Map (


Mon. 8 Sparta and Athens

Readings Due: Ancient World, chaps. 56, 64-65; Aristotle from Politics, books III and VII only. (; Xenophon (d. c. 354 B.C.E.), “On the Polity of the Spartans, c. 375 B.C.E.” (


Spring Break March 13-21, 2009


Mon. 22 Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Period

Readings Due: Ancient World, chaps. 68, 70, 74; Lewis Mumford, “Hellenistic Absolutism and Urbanity” chap. in The City in History; Its Origins, Its Transformations and Its Prospects (New York, 1961), pp. 183-204. (ERES).


Mon. 29 Olmecs (Mesoamerica), Andean Civilizations

Readings Due: Read essay and study the images in Olmec Civilization (; Thomas H. Maugh II, “Celestial Find at Ancient Andes Site,” Los Angeles Times ( (3 pages!!); Chavín de Huantar (



Mon. 5 Qin Shi Huangdi

Readings Due: Ancient World, chaps. 62, 67, 72, 75, 80; Portrait of Qin Shuangdi (, Qin Shuangdi’s Terra Cota Warriors (, Great Wall of China, (; Map of the Great Wall of China (


Mon. 12 Roman Republic/Empire

Readings Due: Ancient World, chaps. 60, 66, 69, 74, 76-79; The Twelve Tables (excerpt) (; Polybius (d. c. 118 BCE):
Rome at the End of the Punic Wars (


Mon. 19 Rise of Christianity

Readings Due: Gospel of John Prologue, 13-14, 18-20; Gospel of Matthew 5-7.  You may use any Christian Bible that contains the whole text.


Mon. 26 Roman Military System, Presentations

Readings Due: Reread Polybius and pay special attention to the section on the Roman Military; Handouts by the presenters.



Mon. 3 Last Day of Class Presentations

Readings Due: Handouts by the presenters.


Take Home Final Examination due date to be determined.