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The Athenian Empire


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: to be confirmed
  • Assessment: two 2500-word essays (25% each) and a 48-hour online examination (50%)

    Module description

    In this module we examine the history of the Athenian empire, from its beginnings in the 470s until its fall in 404.

    This period coincided with what many consider the peak of Greek civilisation, namely the Periclean 'golden age'. However, modern scholarship has often been uncomfortable with the close link between brutality and power on the one hand, and democratic practices in Athens on the other. We ask:

    • How important was imperialism for the achievements of fifth-century Athens?
    • Can we really make a distinction between Athenian imperial practices and Athenian democracy?

    We also consider how this 'new' way of exercising power was conceptualised in the literature of the period. To reconstruct the history of the empire and rising notions of imperialism in Greek thought, we shall closely examine texts from:

    • Thucydides
    • Herodotus
    • fourth-century orators
    • comedy
    • tragedy
    • epigraphic material from within and outside Athens.