Fulfills Humanities, Intermediate
In today’s world it is vitally important to think about how best to engage with the natural environment. With this in mind, literary scholars and historians have brought a new, environmentalist focus to their areas of study: they have tried to read the environment as a central component of literature, as important if not more so than its human characters, and to analyze history in terms not merely of human agents but also of environmental forces.
This course offers crucial comparanda for study of modern environments by considering different aspects of the relationship between the ancient world and the natural environment that was familiar to the Greeks and Romans. Firstly we shall explore a number of general topics that will underpin the course as a whole: the characteristics of the Mediterranean environment, the effect of nature on mankind, the impact of mankind on nature, and the work of historians who have drawn on the natural environment in their explanations of ancient historical developments. Secondly we shall study ancient perceptions of nature as tame or tamed, discussing themes such as agriculture and the locus amoenus (an idealized natural environment). The third and final part of the course considers ancient engagements with wild nature, focusing on war, gender, hunting and sacrifice, and on the contested relationship between the civilized and the natural.
Throughout the course we shall keep an eye on the relation of these themes in ancient texts and societies to their treatment in the modern world – both through our readings and through presentations from students. In this way, we get a sense of how knowledge of the ancient world both complements and enriches our understanding of the environment in this current age of crisis.
Prior experience of studying the ancient world is not necessary. The course is well suited to those pursuing majors in Classical Humanities, Classics, or Environmental Studies, or the Certificate in Classical Studies, but it is very much accessible to those interested in such topics but pursuing other majors and/or certificates.