Fall 2023 - HUM 302W B100

Athenian Democracy (4)

Class Number: 4957

Delivery Method: Blended


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Thu, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 17, 2023
    Sun, 3:30–6:30 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Topics include rhetoric, law, and a democratic ideology that championed freedom, equality, and slavery, examined through a range of texts that include tragedy, comedy, philosophy, historiography, and oratory. Students with credit for HUM 302 may not take this course for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


“Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time …” – Winston Churchill 

Winston Churchill captured the sentiment of many people when he described democracy. The democracy that Churchill described, however, was not the democracy of ancient Athens. While many individuals, particularly within the modern world, have sought to attach their own governments as part of a tradition that stretches back over 2500 years, the democracy of Athens was considerably different from the democracies of the present. That said, even if considerably different, it did possess many of the pitfalls that are confronting states today. 

This class will examine the Athenian democratic experience in the fifth century BCE using surviving texts, laws, and dramas to understand the Athenian democratic experience. In so doing, we will seek to answer questions such as: what was Athenian democracy? How was it different from the democracies of today? What issues did Athenian democracy face, and how did it attempt to resolve them? Can Athenian democracy help us understand the issues democracies face today? In answering these questions, we will not only gain a greater appreciation for the experiment that was Athenian democracy, but also better understand our world. 


At the end of the course, students will be able to demonstrate their proficiency in the following activities: 

  • Read and analyse Humanities texts to academic standards. 
  • Place texts in their historical and cultural context. 
  • Understand the concept of democracy, and how it relates to the human condition 
  • Analyse the plurality of democracies that exist, and situate Athenian democracy within this context 


  • Paper Proposal 10%
  • Participation 20%
  • Two Quizzes (15% each) 30%
  • Final paper 40%


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:



All readings will either be provided by the instructor or available online at the SFU Library.


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.