HIST 121: Western Civilization I
Fall 2010: 3 credits
Location Churchill-Haines 118, 9:30-10:45 TTh

Mr Lehmann
Office hours: 11-12 TTh or by appointment
East Hall 210, 677-5573, clehmann@usd.eduhttp://www.usd.edu/~clehmann



This is the first of a two-part survey of Western Civilization, and introduces the student to some of the leading figures, ideas, and events of the Ancient Near East and premodern Europe. The goal of this course is for the student not only to acquire historical information but also to learn through example (lectures) and practice (discussions, essays, papers) a historical/critical method of thought and expression.

In order to do well in this course students must attend all lectures and read all assignments.  Many lectures involve visual material available on the instructor's Home Page. Students who expect to miss more than three meetings should see the instructor within the first week. The readings and the mini-themes on them are especially important, and should be given ample time for reading, reflection, and writing. Students should secure all on-line handouts, which contain chronological and supplemental background to the lectures and readings.  A set of study questions, also available on-line, will assist the student preparing for examinations.    Finally, each student must maintain a portfolio containing all written work.  The portfolio will be a simple green two-pocket folder with the minithemes and exams as they are complete.

There will be a midterm exam covering parts one and two of the course; a second midterm exam covering parts three and four; and a final exam covering parts five and six. Exams consist of one long and a choice of two out of three short essay questions; the final exam includes a comprehensive essay question. Each student will write a mini-theme on a choice of suggested topics for each reading, due on the assigned date during discussion of the topics.  The first midterm exam counts 50 points, the second 50, the final 75, and the mini-themes 100 points (20 points each), for a total of 275 possible points.

275-248 A
247-220 B
219-193 C
193-165 D
164- F

Students who wish to arrange another method of evaluation should see the instructor within the first two weeks.  By all means consult the Top 10 Ways to Lower Your Grade in Humanities.

See the end of the syllabus for additional information concerning cheating, ADA policy, and outcomes of learning.


The Mini-themes

Each mini-theme should be between 250 and 500 words long (one to two pages), typewritten or carefully handwritten. It can earn up to 20 points as follows: 10 points for content (clarity of argument, familiarity with the work), 5 points for style (grammar, spelling, use of words), and 5 points for care in presentation. The instructors will return essays with special problems for rewriting.  Try to work a week in advance; your instructors will gladly evaluate and mark up your first clean draft and return it to you for rewriting in time for the final submission.

Unless you make special arrangements in advance or have a medical or family emergency, you must participate in the discussion in order to receive credit for a given paper.  Submit the paper inside your green binder.

As you read the assignments keep all the suggested topics in mind, and take notes. Then pick one topic and answer it carefully and concisely. Feel free to consult with fellow students and with your instructor as you prepare the assignments, but the result must be entirely your own. Be particularly careful to avoid plagiarism; you must give references for every idea or quotation you borrow as you construct your argument. See Turabian, Manual for Writers, for the proper way to indicate references. At the head of your paper write the title and your name and staple your sheets together.

1. The Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah 1-39) and the story of the flood from The Epic of Gilgamesh

a) "The Hebrews and History."  Much of the reading recounts the early history of the Hebrews.  Why do you think the authors thought the task of the historian worthwhile?  Compare the motivation of the Hebrew historians with that of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Livy.

b) "Great Expectations."  Paying particular attention to the laws in Exodus and to the desires of Yahweh as expressed through his representatives (patriarchs judges, and prophets), analyze the expectations God had of the Hebrews and they of God.

c) "The Flood Story" 
Compare the flood story in Gilgamesh with that in the book of Genesis. Notice the similarities, but concentrate especially on differences, particularly the difference between the motivation and actions of the Mesopotamian and Hebrew gods.

2. Aeschylus, Oresteia

a) "Greek Justice."  As you read the plays think about why the characters suffer as they do.  By what system of justice is it "just" that Clytemnestra kill Agamemnon, then that Orestes kill Clytemnestra, and finally that Orestes escape punishment?

b) "Tragic Women."  Pay special attention to the women in these plays and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.  What did the Greek (male) audience expect its women to be like, and how did the female characters fit or not fit the expectations?

c) "The Source of Justice."  In these plays Aeschylus works out the nature and origin of justice.  Where does he think it comes from--natural or divine or human sources?

4. Virgil’s Aeneid, books 1-8

a) "The Roman Hero"
What are the actions and moral qualities that make Aeneas a hero? How does Aeneas compare to Odysseus?

b) "Dido and Aeneas"
Was Aeneas right or wrong to leave Dido? Was she right or wrong to react so violently? As you evaluate their actions, try to put yourself into the shoes of the ancient Roman reader.

c) "Virgil and the Roman State"
How does Virgil use foreshadowing to exalt the Roman state of his own time? Isolate and comment on the specific relevant passages

4. Augustine, Confessions 1-9

a) "A Classical Education."  Augustine's dad wanted his son to get ahead in life, so put him through the best available education.  What was it like?  What skills and areas of knowledge did it emphasize?  What sort of person was it supposed to produce?  What career did it prepare Augustine for?

b) "The Late Roman World."  Augustine traveled and lived in several places in northern Africa and Italy.  What was the world like in his time?  Think about how it differs from our world.  For example, how do we move about, what are we interested in, how do we make a living, how does the state affect us?  Is Augustine's world strange to us, or familiar?

c) "Religious Conversion."  Describe Augustine's inner struggle and his various attempts to resolve it.  How does he finally do so?  Is Augustine's struggle and conversion a spiritual one merely?

5. Machiavelli, The Prince

a) "The Purpose of Life."  If the prince is in a better position than anyone else to realize the full potential of human achievement, what is that achievement?  What is the goal of human existence?

b) "Human Nature."  Does Machiavelli have a positive or negative view of human nature?  Does he think there is any kind of absolute moral order in the world to guide human conduct?  How is the prince to judge his own actions?

c) "Fortune."  What is the role of fortune or luck in human affairs?  Is there any way to guard against bad luck or enhance good?


Part I: Introduction

31 Aug
How we know about the past, and why we study it
Disc: Ancient Historians (read handout)

Part 2: The Ancient Near East [Civilizations chs 1-2]

2 Sept
Chronology and Geography (handout)
7 Sept
Prehistory and the Earliest Civilizations
9 Sept
Mesopotamian Religion
Writing Center Presentation
14 Sept
Israel, Yahweh, and History
16 Sept
Disc: The Bible and the flood story from The Epic of Gilgamesh (first mini-theme due)
Slides: The City of Jerusalem
21 Sept

Part 3: Greece [Civilizations chs 3-4]

23 Sept
Chronology and the Bronze Age (handout)
28 Sept
The Homeric World
30 Sept
Early Sparta and Athens
5 Oct
Athenian Democracy and its Crises
7 Oct
Disc: Aeschylus, Oresteia  (second mini-theme due)
12 Oct
Slides: The City of Athens

Part 4: Rome [Civilizations chs 5-6]

14 Oct
Chronology and Rome's Origins (handout)
19 Oct
The Roman Constitution (handout on Polybius) and the Senatorial Aristocracy
21 Oct
Roman Imperialism
26 Oct
The Roman Revolution
28 Oct
Disc: Virgil’s Aeneid (third mini-theme due)
Slides: The City of Rome
2 Nov

Part 5: The Middle Ages [Civilizations chs 7-11]

4 Nov
Chronology (handout)
9 Nov
Rome and the Christians
Disc: Augustine, Confessions (fourth mini-theme due)
16 Nov
Byzantium and Islam
18 Nov
Medieval Society and Feudalism
23 Nov
Medieval Renaissances
Slides: The City of Paris

Part 6: Renaissance and Reformation [Civilizations chs 12-14]

30 Nov
Chronology; Renaissance Humanism (handout)
2 Dec
The Church and its Reformers
7 Dec
Disc: Machiavelli, The Prince (fifth mini-theme due)
9 Dec
Slides: The City of Florence
13 Dec

Statement of Compliance with the ADA: 

Any student who feels he or she may need academic accommodations or access accommodations based on the impact of a documented disability should contact and register with Disability Services during the first week of class.  Disability Services is the official office to assist students through the process of disability verification and coordination of appropriate and reasonable accommodations.  Students currently registered with Disability Services must obtain a new accommodation memo each semester. 
Ernetta L. Fox, Director
Disability Services, Room 119 Service Center
(605)677-6389; www.usd.edu/ds;


The College of Arts and Sciences considers plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty inimical to the objectives of higher education.  The College supports the imposition of penalties on students who engage in academic dishonesty, as defined in the “Conduct” section of the University of South Dakota Student Handbook.
No credit can be given for a dishonest assignment.  At the discretion of the instructor, a student caught engaging in any form of academic dishonesty may be:
            a.         Given a zero for that assignment.
            b.         Allowed to rewrite and resubmit the assignment for credit.
            c.         Assigned a reduced grade for the course.
            d.         Dropped from the course.
            e.         Failed in the course.

Adopted by vote of the faculty
12 April 2005

This class fulfills the following Goals of the South Dakota System General Education Requirements: 

GOAL #4: Students will understand the diversity and complexity of the human experience through study of the arts and humanities

Student Learning Outcomes: As a result of taking courses meeting this goal, students will:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the diversity of values, beliefs, and ideas embodied in the human experience
    1. Essay exams treating cultural and historical problems raised in class and readings
    2. Mini-themes treating specific historical problems relevant to assigned works with historical and cultural content..
    3. In-class discussion of assigned works.
  2. Identify and explain basic concepts of the selected disciplines within the arts and humanities.
    1. Exam essays demonstrating historical analysis.
    2. Mini-themes demonstrating historical analysis.

In addition, as a result of taking courses meeting this goal, students will be able to do at least one of the following:

  1. Identify and explain the contributions of other cultures from the perspective of the selected disciplines within the arts and humanities
    1. Exams, mini-themes, class discussion
  2. Demonstrate creative and aesthetic understanding
    1. Exams, mini-themes, class discussion
  3. Explain and interpret formal and stylistic elements of the literary or fine arts
    1. Exam questions and discussion concerning works of literature and art; mini-themes on literary texts.
  4. Demonstrate foundational competency in reading, writing, and speaking a non-English language.
    1. NA

Each course meeting this goal includes the following student learning outcomes: Required: #1, #2 At least one of the following: #3, #4, #5, or #6 (Credit Hours: 6 hours (in 2 disciplines or a sequence of foreign language courses))

Regental and University policies

1. Freedom in learning. Students are responsible for learning the content of any course of study in which they are enrolled. Under Board of Regents and University policy, student academic performance shall be evaluated solely on an academic basis and students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study. Students who believe that an academic evaluation is unrelated to academic standards but is related instead to judgment of their personal opinion or conduct should contact the dean of the college which offers the class to initiate a review of the evaluation.
2. If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Director of the Office of Disability Services, (Service Center 199; 677-6389) as early as possible in the semester.
3. No credit can be given for a dishonest assignment. At the discretion of the instructor, a student caught engaging in any form of academic dishonesty may be:
a. Given a zero for that assignment.
b. Allowed to rewrite and resubmit the assignment for credit.
c. Assigned a reduced grade for the course.
d. Dropped from the course.
e. Failed in the course.