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HUM 2051 Civilization 1: Ancient Through Medieval

Course Description

This course introduces civilization from its early development to the European Renaissance. It emphasizes the interpretation of primary texts that reflect the intellectual and historical changes in society. This course is the first of two interdisciplinary courses.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to

  • Identify major historical events in the ancient and medieval history of Western civilizations
  • Describe fundamental cultural developments of the West, including religion, technology, government, and philosophy
  • Discuss significant literary texts of Western civilization and how these texts mirror their respective cultures and cultural values

Week 1

Lecture: The Bible


  • Explain the controversy over the term “Western civilization”
  • Discuss how life changed for people in Mesopotamia when they began to live in cities
  • Compare and contrast the environmental factors affecting the emergence of the world’s first civilizations in
  • Mesopotamia and Egypt
  • Describe how religion guided the lives of people in early Egypt and the Levant
  • Describe the main differences between the various forms of government in the early Greek city-states

Week 2

Lecture: The Greek Golden Age


  • Identify differences in Greek and Persian political and military organization and how they determined the course of the Persian Wars
  • List the differences between Greece in the Archaic Age and in the Golden Age
  • Discuss how new ways of thinking in the Golden Age threatened cherished traditions
  • Summarize the events that contributed to the outcome of the Peloponnesian War

Week 3

Lecture: Greek and Roman Mythology


  • Define the most important common theme in Roman traditional values
  • Discuss the positive and negative consequences of war for the Roman Republic
  • Analyze the issues that fueled the struggle of the orders
  • Explain who were the most important leaders in the Republic’s downfall and what were their policies
  • Distinguish the rule of “good” emperors and “bad” ones
  • Review the similarities and differences between the following:
    • The crisis in the first century B.C.E. that undermined the Republic
    • The crisis in the third century B.C.E that undermined the principate

Week 4

Lecture: Rome and the Gladiatorial Games


  • Explain the changes Diocletian and his successors made in the reorganization of the Roman Empire and why
  • Discuss the major spiritual disputes among early Christians
  • Explain what role the Emperor Justinian saw himself playing in Roman history
  • Summarize the similarities and differences between the three heirs of Rome – the Byzantines, the Muslims, and the Western Europeans
  • Explain how and why the Muslims conquered so many lands in the very short period of 632-750 C.E.
    Discuss the stresses of the Byzantine Empire in the seventh and eighth centuries and how iconoclasm was a response to those stresses

Week 5

Lecture: Classical Humanism to Early Christian Culture


  • Discuss the effects of expansion on the power of the Byzantine Emperor
  • Explain the forces that led to the fragmentation of the Islamic world in the tenth and eleventh centuries
  • Distinguish the strengths and weaknesses of Carolingian institutions of government, warfare, and defense
  • List the new professions and institutions that arose as a result of the commercial revolution
  • Explain the causes and consequences of the Gregorian reform
  • Discuss to what degree and in what ways religious life and thought were influenced by the new learning of the schools

Week 6

Lecture: Islam and Christianity


  • List the new sources and institutions of power that became available to the rulers in the twelfth century
  • Interpret the work of the troubadours and vernacular poets and what it reveals about the nature of twelfth century entertainment – its themes, its audience, its performers
  • Discuss why guilds developed in medieval European cities
  • Analyze how artists, architects, musicians, and scholastics tried to link this world with the divine
  • Illustrate in what ways the secular rulers of the period 1215-1320 cooperated with the church; and ways they did not

Week 7

Lecture: The Gothic Cathedral


  • Explain how the dynastic warfare and popular uprisings were related in the fourteenth century
  • Estimate the demographic, economic, and psychological consequences of the plague
  • Discuss how the papacy lost and then recovered its authority in the late Middle Ages
  • Provide examples of the new secular culture of the fourteenth century

Week 8

Lecture: Renaissance Europe and the Renaissance Man


  • Explain how humanism and the printing press influenced learning during the Renaissance
  • Summarize how the shift from artisan to artist, a new naturalistic style, and the use of perspective in art reflect and influence a Renaissance mentality
  • Illustrate the ways in which the Renaissance state shaped the private sphere
  • Identify the European countries that led the way in maritime expansion and describe their motives
  • Distinguish the differences and similarities between Renaissance and medieval culture
  • Evaluate the centers of Renaissance creativity and why this movement arose in those places

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. November 2011