CLAS210 Ancient Literature:
Images of Masculinity

Fall Semester, 2001, Department of Classics, Monmouth College

Images of Masculinity examines the portrayal of males in ancient Greek and Roman literature. The cultures of ancient Greece and Rome are often described, with good reason, as male dominated. In this course, some of the major literary works of these cultures will be used to determine the extent to which their value systems and world views are really male-based.  Consideration will be given to the impact of these images of masculinity not only on males, but also on females in these cultures. 

The course begins with the portrayal of Homer's swift-footed Achilles in the Iliad, and examines this hero's relationship with other males, including Agamemnon, Patroclus, Hector, and Priam. Greek lyric poets like Archilochus of Paros and Anakreon of Teos are important examples of first-person male expression. Athenian dramatists provide additional portraits of males in plays like Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes, Sophocles' Ajax, and Euripides' Alcestis and Hippolytus. Plato's Symposium also offers an important statement about male sexuality and interpersonal relationships in ancient Greece.

These examples of Greek literature will be compared to several important texts from ancient Rome. These include: Terence's The Brothers, a comedy about fathers, sons, and brothers; a philosophical essay entitled "On Friendship" by the great orator Cicero; and the novel Satyricon by Petronius.

Throughout the semester the images of masculinity developed in these examples of ancient Greek and Roman literature will be compared to  expressions of the similar themes in ancient art and in authors from later periods in the western tradition and in world literature. All of these works will be read in translation, not only from the point of view of American readers but also from the perspective of their original audiences.

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