Spring lecture series

Ancient Greece

How have the art and culture of ancient Greece echoed through the ages? What problems did the Greeks tackle that we still struggle with today? Explore these and other questions in our lecture series, which brings to life the ideas and times of ancient Greece.


Ancient Greece: The Emergence of Logos

During what philosopher Karl Jaspers termed the “axial age” (800–200 BCE), ancient Greece gave birth to a unique way of thinking. Rather than explaining the world in terms of mythos— poetic myths—thinkers began to examine the great questions through logos— rational investigation. This process was termed “philosophy,” from the Greek phileo (love) and sophia (knowledge, wisdom). In this lecture we will see how ancient Greek philosophers considered, among other questions, a fundamental inquiry that has underpinned Western thinking: what is more believable, mind or matter?

Note: Adapted from a class in Plato and Aristotle: A Beginner’s Guide, offered in fall 2018.

Currently not available for registration.



Ancient Greece: Ancient Lessons for Modern Medicine

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, insisted that physicians acknowledge the limitations of medicine and refrain from “treating those who are overmastered by their diseases.” As a result, physicians treated curable diseases, while conditions identified as chronic and incurable fell increasingly under the care of priests of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine. We will explore the enduring implications of this early classification of disease for health care practices in the 21st century, with an emphasis on heroic and compassionate medicine and the emergence of assisted dying as an accepted medical treatment.

Currently not available for registration.



Ancient Greece: Aphrodite in Art

When the Romans adopted the Greek pantheon, the goddess of love, Aphrodite, became Venus. We will examine the life and loves of the Greek and the Roman goddess in artworks by Tintoretto, Velázquez, Botticelli, Titian, Carracci, Veronese and others who created dramatic scenes with Aphrodite/Venus and Hephaestus, Mars and Adonis. We’ll also consider the goddess of love as the subject of domestic and erotic art, culminating in Manet’s Olympia. Among other works, we’ll consider Cézanne’s A Modern Olympia, Gauguin’s The Loss of Virginity, Goya’s The Nude Maja, Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque, Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love and Velázquez’s The Rokeby Venus.

Currently not available for registration.



Ancient Greece: Athenian Democracy: Engagement and Dissent

At its zenith, ancient Athens was a vibrant democracy that relied on an unheard-of level of engagement by its citizens and produced much of the art, literature and thought that characterizes classical Greek civilization. But democratic Athens also executed Socrates, brutally governed the city’s empire, extorted and massacred its allies and severely punished officials who failed to perform. We’ll examine the peculiar features of Athenian democracy, seeing how it was designed to prevent abuse and corruption, but also why virtually all Greek thinkers, including Plato and Aristotle, saw democracy as a flawed form of governance.

Currently not available for registration.


How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Audio and/or video clips

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class.

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