The Ancient Polis
Travel Dates: April 22-May 5
Instructors: Frank Russell and Peter Fosl
Number of Students Enrolled: 17
Location: Greece

Course Description

In wandering through Greece in the second century CE, Pausanias came to a small settlement, which he hesitated to call a polis, since it encompassed “no government offices or gymnasium, no theater or agora or fountain-house” (Paus. 10.4.1). Yet, as Pausanias knew, a polis was more than the sum of such parts. Through visiting relevant sites and texts, we will attempt to establish a more specific and relevant description of the conceptual and physical development of the polis.

From the sites we will obtain a sense of the physical composition and design of the polis, and the significance of its change over time. Of concern are the location and architectural embodiment of civic cult, burials, public buildings, logistic infrastructure, commercial and industrial areas, and recreational facilities. Professor Russell will lecture on these dimensions of the course. Along the way will read texts of ancient literature and philosophy to illuminate the changing ideas of the subject/citizen, the law, individuals, and the relationship of the divine to the political. Professor Fosl will lead the course through this terrain. Our attempt will be to synthesize these different elements into a more thorough and more comprehensive grasp of the polis. A common theme of the journey will be scrutiny of the question of what constitutes the good life and the distinctive manner in which the polis attempted to realize it.

Why a travel course?

One of the greatest challenges in teaching the rich legacy of the ancients is communicating the relevance of a world so distant in time and space. The most effective way to bridge this distance is personal contact with the material elements of that world. It is far more meaningful to discuss Socrates' belief that the laws of the polis trump the fate of the individual when the words of the discussants echo from the very walls that enclosed the philosopher as he sat, talking with his friends, awaiting his final draught. The impact of devotion to a civic ideal is more keenly felt when one reads Herodotus' account of the final stand of the Spartans on the very knoll where their broken bones still lie, obedient to the Rhetra. Such experiences continue to haunt the mind and soul long after we strangers have returned from Lacedaemon, and communicate meaning far more effectively than the dry dust of chalk.

Our approach, then, will be more than interdisciplinary. It will be inter-textual in the broadest sense. Our texts will be not only the translated writings of the ancients and the lectures and handouts of professors. They will be the very stones, geometries, and lived-spaces of the poleis. Teaching and learning in such a way produces an inter-disciplinary and inter-textual experience much deeper and more sophisticated than that of the classroom.

Course Schedule

4/22 W   Departure
4/23 Th Thira Arrival in Athens, connection to Santorini/Thira
4/24 F Thira Orientation
4/25 Sa Thira Pre-Historic Museum
4/26 Su Thira Free day
4/27 M Thira Hellenistic Museum
Archaia Thira
4/28 T Mykonos Ferry to Mykonos (11.45am, arriving 14:30)
4/29 W Athens1 Excursion from Mykonos to Delos: 9:10 departure, 13:10 return to Mykonos
Afternoon/evening departure for Athens by ferry
4/30 Th Athens a.m.: Acropolis and Acropolis museum
p.m.: agora and agora museum
5/1 F Athens Labor Day – museums closed
Academy; walking tour
5/2 Sa Nauplio2 a.m.: Corinth; Corinth museum
p.m.: Mycenae; late p.m.: Palamidi
5/3 Su Nauplio a.m.: free
p.m.: Tiryns
5/4 M Nauplio a.m.: Epidaurus
p.m.: free
5/5 T Nauplio a.m.: early departure for Sparta; Mystra
p.m.: Sparta museum; Sparta's acropolis, theater & Orthia sanctuary
5/6 W Delphi3 a.m.: drive to Delphi
p.m.: Delphi
5/7 Th Athens a.m.: Delphi museum
p.m.: drive to Athens
5/8 F Athens a.m.: National Museum
p.m.: Kerameikos
5/9 Sa ferry 19:00 ferry to Samos
5/10 Su Kusadasi a.m.: ferry to Kusadasi; proceed to Ephesus
city of Ephesus, shrine of the Virgin
5/11 M Kusadasi Priene (city, esp. prytaneion), Miletus (city, esp. theatre), Didyma (temple)
5/12 T Pamukkale Hierapolis, Pamukkale, Aphrodisias
5/13 W Antalya Sagalassos.
5/14 Th Antalya Perge, Aspendos, Antalya Museum
5/15 F Fethiye Termessos
5/16 S Kusadasi Rock tombs (Tomb of Amyntas), museum
5/17 Su Athens 8:30 ferry to Samos, afternoon ferry (13:30) to Athens, arrives 23:35
5/18 M Athens Daytrip to Aegina, temple of Aphaia
5/19 T Athens4 a.m.: rest
p.m.: National Archeological museum; evening at Mt Lykavettos
5/20 W home Flight home

1Hotel Attalos
2 Dioscuri Hotel
3 Acropole Hotel
4 Attalos Hotel