Summer 2019 - HS 307 D200

Selected Topics in Hellenic Studies (4)

Ruling the World: Imperial Capitals of the Medi

Class Number: 5946

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Location: TBA

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Selected Topics. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HS 307 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught. Students with credit for HIST 307 may take HS 307 for credit only when a different topic is taught.


This course is being offered as part of the Greece Field School 2019.

This is a history of cities, people, and of Mediterranean societies. It takes students through a tour of the social, political, economic, and cultural history of the ancient and medieval world’s prominent imperial states, by focusing on their administrative and cultural centres, their capital cities. From ancient Athens and its naval empire to Constantinople and Byzantium we will be looking at Mediterranean history from an urban lens.

The city developed as a social, economic, and political unit in the Near East, where it gradually gave rise to empires. From Babylon to Nineveh, from Egyptian Thebes to Hittite Hattusa cities eventually turned into hubs for the management of large territorial states. In that sense they soon became laboratories for the development of ideas about governance, religion, and society at large. From the Near East and Egypt the city-DNA spread around the Mediterranean world to condition global history.

In this course we will look at 5 Mediterranean cities, which at different times in history became hubs out of which large territorial states were managed. What was special about ancient Athens, Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople and Thessaloniki that led to their rise to prominence? What makes an imperial capital in the pre-modern Mediterranean? What social, political, religious and cultural realities emerge from the cities in question?

To go deeper into the study of this history we will read modern articles and book chapters as well as ancient and medieval texts in translation, which you will be called to interpret, understand, and contextualize. Those sources along with short summaries of the weekly lectures and other useful resources will be found on a course website whose URL will be shared closer to the beginning of classes.


  • Class Participation 20%
  • First Paper 20%
  • Second Paper 20%
  • Final Paper 40%


First you need to actively participate. At the end of each tutorial I will collect from each one of you a paper with questions and notes you produced as you were reading the primary or secondary material under examination. Such questions should allow you to more effectively participate in the class’ activities. This part of your grade (participation and written questions) is valued at 20%.

Then you will produce two papers, 6 pages long, on topics that I will chose. Those are due on May 22 and June 19. The two papers are each valued at 20%.

Finally there is a final paper, 8-10 pages long, on a topic I will assign on the final day of classes, Wednesday June 19 (Week 7). The paper is due on August 3. There will be NO FINAL EXAM in this course. This paper is valued at 40%.



Students will have access to all required readings on the course website. No textbook is required for this course.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.