21H.301 | Fall 2004 | Undergraduate

The Ancient World: Greece


The first and second writing assignments are provided for this course. Samples of student work are also available.

Paper 1

Due beginning of lecture 11.


  1. How useful are the concepts of honor and glory in understanding the motivation of the heroes in Homer’s Iliad?

  2. How would you characterize the values that form the basis of Achilles’ decision-making in Books 1, 9, 18, and 24 of the Iliad?

  3. In what ways can Hesiod’s Works and Days be shown to be more concerned with moral than practical teaching?

Grading Criteria

Papers receiving high grades will excel in each of the following:

  • Argument and Structure

    Your paper should seek to convince its reader of an argument, a thesis, offered in answer to one of the questions set. The thesis should be clearly stated in the introduction to the paper. The body of the paper should then seek to support your thesis by marshalling an abundance of evidence from the ancient sources in a clearly structured, coherent, and linear argument. Finally, a conclusion should remind your reader of the thesis you have been supporting and show how that thesis is relevant to a wider historical context. Remember throughout that your paper should be a work of critical analysis.

  • Knowledge and Understanding

    Your paper should display a close knowledge of the ancient source(s) on which your argument rests: knowledge both of the details of relevant passages as well as of the work as a whole. Your ability to subject the sources to critical analysis and to come to your own understanding of their significance should also emerge clearly from your paper.

  • Quality of Writing

    Your argument should be expressed in clear, concise, and readable English. There should be no errors of grammar, syntax, or spelling. Precision and elegance of expression will be rewarded.

  • Referencing

    You must always acknowledge your sources. Every time you either quote directly from a source or even simply refer to a source, you must provide a full citation. Since this paper is intended to be written entirely from ancient sources, your citations will most likely be to Homer or Hesiod only. It is conventional in the field of ancient history to cite ancient authors in the text of an essay, not in footnotes or endnotes; so, for example: ‘Hesiod here reveals…….(Hesiod, Works and Days 246-260)’ or ‘The embassy to Achilles…….(Homer, Iliad 9.240 ff.)’. Since your paper should include an abundance of ancient evidence in support of your argument, there should be many such citations along the way.

    Should you choose to consult modern sources in addition to Homer or Hesiod themselves, you must be sure to provide full references to those sources. Such references should usually be provided in footnotes.


Full referencing is the only way to avoid plagiarism. Any unacknowledged borrowing of ideas, arguments, or direct quotes - whether intentional or not - is plagiarism and must be avoided. If you are not sure what plagiarism is, go to the MIT Online Writing Communication Center and follow the ‘Citing and Using Sources’ link or see the Humanities Library’s publication, Plagiarism and How to Avoid It.

Using the Internet

There is much of use to the ancient historian on the internet. There is also a lot of nonsense. Feel free to use the internet; but be aware that you are responsible for being critical of the material you encounter there and will be penalized for making use of sites that spout nonsense. As with any source, you must provide full references to material you consult on the internet, including the title and author of the page in question, the date on which it was written or last updated, the URL, and the date on which you accessed the site.

Formal Presentation

All papers must comply with the following presentational guidelines:

  • Papers must be 5 to 6 pages in length.
  • Papers must be typed in 12-point Arial font, with 1½ line spacing.
  • Standard margins (1.25" left and right, 1" top and bottom) must be used.
  • Papers must be held together with a paperclip (Not stapled: all papers will be photocopied after initial grading for reference of the writing tutor).

Penalty for Late Submission

Papers are due at the beginning of the lecture on the scheduled due date. Any paper submitted after the beginning of the relevant lecture will be considered late by one day. Any paper submitted on the day after the due date will be considered late by two days, and so on. Unexcused late submissions will incur a penalty of one partial grade step (e.g. from A- to B+) for each day late. Only serious and documented circumstances will be accepted as excuses (e.g. serious matters of health or other personal emergencies). Late papers should be submitted to Prof. Broadhead’s mailbox.

Paper 2

Due beginning of lecture 26.


  1. In what ways does Plutarch reveal his priorities as a writer in his lives of Lycurgus and Solon? How does his approach affect the use of his biographies as sources for early Sparta and early Athens? (Remember to consult the introduction to the lives by Stadter for help.)

  2. Why have commentators so frequently been tempted to describe Solon’s reforms as ‘democratic’? (Use both Plutarch, Solon and the account of Solon in the Athenian Constitution, with the useful notes and introduction by Rhodes.)

  3. You have by now read a fair amount of Herodotus’ Histories, from the stories about Croesus and the early tyrants to the battle narratives of the conflict between the Greeks and the Persians. You should have a pretty good sense of his method as a historian. How does his approach to writing history affect the value of his account of the Persian Wars? (You will probably find Marincola’s introduction to the Penguin translation a useful reference.)

  4. Slavitt’s translation of Aeschylus’ Persians, as Slavitt himself explains in the introduction, is based on his own very particular interpretation of what Aeschylus might have been trying to convey with the original. Compare Slavitt’s translation to one other translation of Aeschylus’ Persians (try, for example, that on the Perseus Digital Library). Analyze the differences between the two translations and discuss the ways in which Greeks and Persians are portrayed in each.

Student Work

  • Comparing Interpretations (Courtesy of Erika Erickson. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • Socrates According to Plato and Aristophanes (Courtesy of Erika Erickson. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • Paper #2 (On Plutarch) (Courtesy of Stephen Fredette. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • The Center of the Greek World: The Myth and Reality of Delphi (Courtesy of Stephen Fredette. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • Parallel Lives – a Historical Lesson in Ethical Behavior (Courtesy of Yelena Gorlin. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • Hesiod’s Moral Teachings on Living (Courtesy of Rubaiyat Khan. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • Hesiod’s Works and Days: Moral or Practical Teaching? (Courtesy of Panayiotis Mavrommatis. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • Founding Democracy: The Democratic Character of Solon’s Reforms (Courtesy of Panayiotis Mavrommatis. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • City-States and Alliances in Ancient Greece: Underlying Reasons of Their Existence and Their Consequences (Courtesy of Panayiotis Mavrommatis. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • Is Really Achilles a Hero? (Courtesy of Efstathios (Stathis) Metsovitis. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • Honor and Glory in the Iliad: Life After Death (Courtesy of Cheryl Texin. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • Democracy: Starting with Solon (Courtesy of Cheryl Texin. Used with permission.) (PDF)
  • The Peloponnesian War: The Struggle for Security (Courtesy of Cheryl Texin. Used with permission.) (PDF)

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2004
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples