Document Type


Publication Date



I am delighted to submit to you my report on the freshman seminar which I offered this past semester, Community, Neighborhood, and Family in Ancient Athens and Modern Philadelphia (Classical Studies 125). It was, indeed, an extremely rewarding experience for me, and I am quite certain that the students in the class found it so as well.

As you know, although I had a number of related objectives in running this course, overall I was concerned to see whether I could make students feel that the study of antiquity is as relevant to our contemporary world as I have always felt it to be. I chose to focus on classical Athens not only because the evidence for its social and political history is relatively full and reasonably accessible in translation, but more importantly because our own society has mythologized the entire period into a construct that is often thought to reflect our own cultural values. Much of the rhetoric that we hear today about democracy, freedom, citizenship and community, in other words, is often alleged to have derived from "the Greeks", with little consideration of the actual historical conditions that produced their own forms of political and social discourse. I figured, therefore, that the students would have some basic familiarity with the "myth of the classics" in our society, and that this would make it relatively easy to go back and forth between modem Philadelphia and ancient Athens in focusing on topics that clearly concerned each society.