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seminars > fall 2013 schedule > seminar: Alexander the Great


Honors Seminars Fall 2013

Alexander the Great

HON 290 Sec:002  
3 hours  
GER Cat:
Humanities--History and Global Knowledge  
HVC Conference Room  
Dr. Molly M. Pryzwansky
Restrictions: N/A  

In his short lifetime of 33 years, Alexander III of Macedon (356-323 BCE) achieved such military success that he has become known as one of the "Great" men of history. Alexander acquired one of the largest empires of the ancient world, which spread from Macedonia to Asia Minor, Bactria (modern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), Egypt, and the formerly Persian territories of modern Iraq and Iran; he even campaigned into India, which at the time was on the eastern edges of the known world to the ancient Greek mind.

This seminar traces Alexander's conquests and examines the contributing factors that led to his success. We shall also explore the social, political and military obstacles that Alexander faced and ask how effectively he responded to them. Should the fact that Alexander's kingdom did not survive his death color the ways we think about his "success"? Although Alexander's territory did not remain intact, his conquests nevertheless had a cultural impact on the Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds by spreading Greek language, religion, art and literature. At the end of the semester, we shall consider the legacy of Alexander's image and how it has been called upon over time by various leaders to support their own claims to greatness.

The class will be based on primary source ancient histories and documents read in translation. Beyond texts, we shall also consider other historical evidence in the forms of art, archaeology, and numismatics. In the first half of the semester, there will be three short response papers (3 pp. each) that will teach the mechanics of critical reading and writing in history. In the second half of the semester, each student will produce a research paper on a topic of his/her choice (10 pp.). The final paper will be written in stages so as to emphasize the process of research and revision. There will be no formal tests, but there will be two short quizzes (20 min.) to test factual knowledge. Active, informed seminar participation will be emphasized and will make up 20% of the final grade.