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Level 5

5AACTL13 Mapping Society and the Past: Historians and Sophists

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor 2019/20: Dr Dan Jolowicz
Module convenor/tutor 2018/19: Professor Michael Trapp
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour classes
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment 2019/20: 1 x essay of 2,500 words (100%)

Assessment patterns pre-2019/20 

Graduate Diploma: 2 x 2,000-word essays (100%, worth 50% each)

Undergraduate: 1 x 2 hour exam (50%); 1 x 2000 word essay (50%)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

This module takes you into the world of early Greek thinking about the past, other peoples and places, and human society and social institutions, in the period from 500 to 350 BC.  

This was the period which saw the beginnings and early development of the writing of history, with the likes of Hecataeus and Herodotus, but also the beginnings of geography and ethnography (with the same authors), and – with the Sophists of the fifth century - the beginnings of sociology and theories of communication.  All these thinkers and writers were trying, with varying degrees of explicitness, to construct new, and newly rationalizing approaches to this range of subject-matter, and to supplement and find alternatives to older ways of dealing with them (what we now call ‘myth’, itself a category invented in this period).  

We will examine their thought and attitudes, and the structure of their works, with special attention to Herodotus and the major fifth-century Sophists Protagoras, Gorgias and Prodicus.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • Hecataeus  selected fragments (translation to be supplied).
  • Herodotus  Histories I and II (new edn of Penguin Classic, tr. A. de Selincourt, rev. J.M. Marincola, 1996).  Greek text in OCT or Loeb.
  • The Greek Sophists (tr. J. Dillon and T. Gergel, Penguin Classics) or The First Philosophers (tr. R. Waterfield, Oxford World's Classics): Protagoras, Gorgias, Antipho, Prodicus, Critias; cf. McKirahan (1994), pp. 374-86, 393-408.  Greek texts in H. Diels and W. Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (ed. 6, Zürich 1952 and repr.), vol. II, pp. 252ff.
  •  Plato    Protagoras  309-328d; Gorgias  447a-461a. 
  • Aristophanes   Clouds.
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