Fall 2023 - HUM 275 D100

From Alexander to the Caesars: The Hellenic and Roman Worlds to the End of Antiquity (3)

Class Number: 4582

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Oct 6, 2023: Tue, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

    Oct 11 – Dec 5, 2023: Tue, 2:30–5:20 p.m.



This overview of Near Eastern and Mediterranean history, from Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire to the rise of Christianity and the emergence of Islam, covers the Hellenistic, Roman, and early Byzantine Worlds and gives emphasis on the place of Hellenism in social, political, religious, and cultural life. Students with credit for HIST 275 or HS 275 may not take this course for further credit. Students who have taken HIST 308 or HS 308 first may not then take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities.


The Victory of Alexander over King Porus, Charles-André Vanloo, France, circa 1738

The history of ancient Greece is marked by the emergence of the polis, the city-state, a fertile ground for ideas, art, and politics. While the artistic and cultural legacy of the city-state has been enduring, Athens, Sparta, and the other Greek poleis had otherwise a more limited impact on the Mediterranean world. It was rather the dynamic Macedonian monarchy under Philip II and Alexander the Great as well as the Italian city-state of Rome that were to leave their mark on the Near East and the Mediterranean by bringing disparate territories and diverse peoples and cultures under the hegemony of a Hellenistic and, later, a Greco-Roman culture. 

This course studies the Hellenistic and Roman worlds and examines their eventual melding, following their history all the way to the rise of Islam in the Seventh century. By tracing the footsteps of Alexander all the way to modern day Afghanistan and outlining the history of the Hellenistic kingdoms that emerge after his death, it examines the spread of Greek ideas about politics, religion, ethics, art, and social formation in the rich world of the Near East. At this very moment, in the western part of the Mediterranean, Rome set itself on the path of imperial expansion. The course outlines early Roman history and internal political evolution and then follows the eventual clash between the Hellenistic and Roman worlds, the victory of the latter, the gradual integration of the Hellenized Near East into the Roman Empire and the Romanization of those previously under Greek cultural hegemony.  

The addition of Christianity into the Greco-Roman cultural blend that marks the Mediterranean of the early centuries CE will bring us by the 4th century to Constantine the Great and the gradually Christianizing Roman Empire that we have come to call Byzantium. In this course we follow the history of the Later Roman Empire (or alternatively Byzantium) all the way to the reign of its greatest, if not uncontroversial emperor, Justinian, and the rise of Islam, some 50 years after his death in the early 7th century. At the time, the Caesars of the Romans almost lose their crown to the nomadic warriors of Arabia, even as in the west, in the original homeland of the Caesars, new peoples adopt Roman culture as a means for cultural and political self-definition. 


  • Attendance and Participation 20%
  • In-class pop quizzes 10%
  • Paper 1 20%
  • Paper 2 20%
  • Paper 3 30%


For students enrolled in a Global Humanities major or minor program, this course counts towards a concentration in:

This course counts towards a Global Humanities certificate in:



We will read selected passages from the books below. All books and reading materials available online for free from the library

Peter Thonemann, The Hellenistic Age: A Very Short History (Oxford, 2018)

Christopher Kelly, The Roman Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2006)

Gillian Clark, Late Antiquity: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2011)

The primary documents studied in the tutorials will all be provided in PDF form online.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html 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. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.