Homework for the Week of 25 Sept


  • Mon 25: finish reading the Enuma Elis, this time thinking about the deeper meaning of the text. (You may wish to revisit tablet 4.) AND…
    • write 3 passages from the text in your notes that you think can shed light on the deeper meaning of the EE. Be prepared to present one in class on Monday.
  • Tues 26: read
  • Wed 27: read
  • Thurs 28: TEST!  You may wish to look at my review information.
  • Fri 29:



  • If you can’t get signed on to post a comment, simply write your response in your notes and show me in class tomorrow.

PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING INTRODUCTION AND COMPLETE YOUR ASSIGNMENT BY ADDING A COMMENT FOR THIS POST. Include in the comment: 1) your first name and last initial and 2) the name of what you consider to be a ‘great city’ (other than DC) and 3) ONE thing that makes this city ‘great’ in your opinion. Please  be respectful with your language and interactions on my site. (Remember that anyone may read your posts.) NOTE: you may be asked to open an account with WordPress in order to post a comment. This is just a basic sign-on requirement – it will NOT cost you anything or steal your soul.

Two thousand years ago, a traveler on his way to Rome — one of the greatest cities of all time and the administrative center of one of the most significant civilizations — was greeted by its citizens long before entering one of its fames gates. All along the highways leading into the capital, columned tombs, shrunken sarcophagai, and walled masoleums lined the streets. Tombs of the dead addressed themselves to the passersby, like billboards from the beyond:

You are human, stop and contemplate my tomb, young man, in order to know what you will be. I did no wrong. I  performed many duties. Live well, for soon this will come to you. Goodbye hope and fortune. There will be no more prayers from me, so have your sport with others.

These tombs greeted everyone seeking entrance to the great city and were so situated because Roman law prohibited burials within the walls (only Caesar won a dispensation to be buried within the walls). Cities are for the living, and space always at a premium; but the tombs outside Rome served as poignant reminders that the living participate in a much grander chain of existence, that the lives of individual men, however short, nasty, and brutish, exist within a much larger and more significant context.

This course will investigate the connections between the city and that ‘more significant something’ that we term a civilization. We will discover that ancient civilizations, more often than not, organized themselves around specific cities rather than any modern notion of national identity. It was the City that reshaped nature itself, the City that provided a radically new way to live, the City that cultivated the genius of man and gave vibrancy to the commonalities of life. Throughout this semester, therefore, we will be looking at ancient history through the lens of the urban environment, i.e. the city.

At certain times throughout history, individual cities have been so instrumental in fostering major developments in religion, politics, art and science, that they achieved a status of greatness. What makes a particular city, at a particular time, suddenly become immensely creative, exceptionally innovative, and universally important to humanity? This is the overriding question we will address over the course of the semester as we study the civilizations of ancient Sumer, Greece, and Persia and the cities that defined them.

For class you will always need to bring a single notebook and a pen with you – and your Cities book. Almost all of the material for this course is also right here on this site, so please take some time to familiarize yourself with the blog format. If you forget your book at school, for instance, you can always find the readings on this site too. I will usually post your homework for an entire week so you can judge how to manage your time. I try to post the upcoming week’s work before Saturday afternoon.

Apple “Campus’ Sucks

Food for Though about History


First Test: Epistemology and Documents

This guide should help you prepare for your first test in Cities. Ultimately, a formal assessment (test) lets me see how well you fuse class discussion with reading, how well you understand the big picture concepts, and how well you make use of historical facts in support of understanding the big picture.

Ok – so first order of business before your test: DO NOT PANIC and DO NOT GIVE UP. I am not trying to slam you or trick you with tests, but rather to get you to assemble information and make something of it all. So the more serious thought you give to the themes we’ve discussed, the better prepared you will be for sitting a test. NO ONE NEED FAIL THIS TEST if you follow my advice and prepare properly. And it’s not too late to prepare. So…

FIRSTLY, many questions on my tests will ask you to think through something rather than simply provided simple data as responses.

Here is a good video to follow up our discussion of the importance of irrigation for the development of civilization. YES, please watch (after minute 2:20), as it will give you an idea of how Sumerian civilization came together c.3500 BCE. You will also see a great example of how reeds are still used by the marsh Arabs who live south of BASRA.

A good way to go about review this week is to organize the main elements of your notes into 3 categories: 1) concepts/terms, 2) cities 3) people & gods   The lists will provide you, with a quick glance, the relevant information that you will be asked to use on the upcoming test. Just the simple act of creating the list helps the information sink into different areas of your brain, and you are much better able to recall information that is organized. Believe me, this will seriously help you prepare.

For example:

  • CONCEPTS: Animism, Cosmology, Assumptions, Civilization, etc.
  • NAMES: Huntington, Ohiyesa, Apsu, Tiamat, Anu, Marduke, etc.
  • PLACES: Jericho, Sumer, Bahrain, Mesopotamia, etc.

You will be asked to relate information to the bigger concepts we have discussed AND asked to analyze some texts. We have analyzed TWO separate historical texts in class, so you should be able to apply the same method to something you see on the test.

‘Wild to Civilized’

FIRST: finish reading ‘Wild to Civilized by Ohiyesa (‘Always Wins’). Then…

This is your first writing exercise. In it you will practice writing a cogent argument based upon a text. This means that you will 1) write a thesis statement, and 2) provide evidence from the text that supports your argument – in this case, I want you to write THREE passages from Always Wins’ writing. You do not need to write more than four sentences, your thesis and the three support passages.

NOTE: coming up with the thesis is up to you. This means that you have to ask yourself WHAT ARGUMENT can you make from the text. What, for example, does Ohiyesa have to say about civilization?


History is NOT simply a compilation of random facts, but the selection, arrangement, an interpretation of facts to make a point. Historical arguments are at the core of historical writing. Almost every essay you will be asked to write at St. Albans will demand a thesis of some sort. The thesis statement, usually a single sentence, serves as your argument. It is the controlling idea around which you construct your essay. A thesis is a conclusion you have reached after analyzing evidence. A successful thesis should

  1. provide an answer to the question posed, and
  2. give some indication of why you think this to be the case.

A simple way of thinking about how to construct a thesis involves making two points to your reader in a single statement:

  1. I want to convince you that…, and
  2. the reasons why you should believe me are….

Therefore, the following is not a particularly good thesis: Sparta and Athens didn’t like each other and finally went to war in 431 BC.  This is more a statement of fact than an argument. A proper thesis explains and provides direction for your writing. Much better would be: Due to concerns over the economic expansion of Athens and its military recklessness in the Greek world, Sparta and its allies felt compelled to go to war in 431 BC in order to check the power of an over-mighty state. The second thesis wants to convince you that Sparta declared war because of its fears over the increasing power of Athens (a debatable point, that is, an historical argument) and provides direction by indicating that economic and military concerns will be discussed as integral to your argument (that is, they are reasons to believe you). The six question words might also help guide you in constructing a strong thesis: Who? What? How? When? Where? And WHY?