The presence of ancient Greece and Rome in our modern world cannot be overestimated. The Greeks taught us dēmokratia, our computers have a Latin name. Through ancient Greece and Rome western civilization has assimilated cultural achievements of the Near East like the art of writing. Presenting striking show cases, this course enables you to recognize how your life and thought has been shaped by such influences and to acquire a basic overview of more than 2000 years of Greco-Roman civilization – from the time of Troy to the many ends of Rome in late antiquity. No prior knowledge is required.

The course will follow a chronological order. The first half will be devoted to Greece until Alexander the Great, the second half to the rise of Rome in the Hellenistic world, the Roman Empire, and late antiquity. In contrast to a history or an art history course, we will approach Greco-Roman antiquity through famous texts, follow seminal ideas and concepts, and reflect on processes of cultural reception and translation.

Methodically, the course will combine systematic acquisition of elementary factual knowledge, for the most part via textbook readings and quizzes, with explorative and creative learning activities in which you take a more in-depth look at single themes or aspects and connect the new information with your own experience. The following themes have been prepared:

  1. Eastern Origins of Western Civilization
  2. Troy: Mythical Fantasy or International Trade Center?
  3. The Great Colonization
  4. Tyrants and Revolutions
  5. Paradigmatic Antiquity: 5th century Athens
  6. Rhetoric and Argument: Inventing Arts of Persuasion
  7. Greece and the East: Clashes and Mergers
  8. Empire Builders: Alexander the Great vs. Rome
  9. Caesar and Cleopatra: The End of Two Worlds
  10. Orgies and Excesses? How Did a Roman Emperor Rule?
  11. Searching an Identity: Classicism, Mysticism, and New Religions
  12. In Hoc Signo Vinces: Christianity Becomes Respectable
  13. Barbari Intra Portas: The end(s) of Rome

This outline will be supplemented and modified according to the interests, backgrounds and the prior knowledge you as participants bring to this course.

Teaching will be a mixture of lecture, group work, class discussion as well as supervision of individual assignments and may include visits to museums, exhibitions, performances or other sites and events in Paris.

A more detailed day-to-day timetable and other materials will be made available on the Blackboard site that accompanies this course. If you have formally registered, you should be able to access that site via If there is any problem, please contact me (Jula Wildberger) immediately.


  • Acquisition of elementary knowledge needed in many more specialized courses at AUP or other universities that deal with particular texts or aspects of Greco-Roman antiquity.
  • Structured overview of more than 2000 years of ancient history that helps to integrate new information about the classical world and locate art and literary works in their historical context.
  • Basic acquaintance with various aspects of ancient Greece and Rome (material culture, art, history of thought, philosophy, literature, religion and myth).
  • Awareness and personal experience of the complex and multiple ways in which Greek and Roman antiquity is – or can be – present in the modern world.
  • Ability to reflect on the causes and conditions as well as the impact of such processes of cultural reception.
  • For students from a non-Western background: acquire a better understanding of the Western world by learning something about its roots.


De Blois, L., and R. J. van der Spek. An Introduction to the Ancient World. Trans. Susan Mellor. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.