Humanities I: The Ancient, Classical, and Medieval Worlds (680:021): Spring 20010 (Section 06 & 08)

Instructor: Dr. Kenneth Atkinson

Dates: MWF

Office: Baker 154

Time & Location: (Section 08) 11-12:00 p.m.—LNG 20 (Section 06) 2:00-3:00 p.m.—LNG 211  

Office Phone: 273-6990

Location: Lang Hall 211

Office Hours: I maintain an open door policy for your convenience. Feel free to drop by my office whenever my door is open. I am always happy to talk with students.

My policy is to answer your message once I have received it. I try to check my e-mail throughout the day, so if you have not heard back from me please be patient.

Mailbox: Baker 135.I check my mailbox each day in case you want to drop something off for me to read.

Course Web Site:

Visit my web site frequently for class updates and links to sites of interest.

Required Texts:


Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization: Volume A: To 1500. 6th edition (Wadsworth, 2006).


George, Andrew. Translator and Editor, The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin, 2003).


Homer. The Iliad. Robert Fagles, Translator (Penguin Books, 1991).


Augustine. Confessions. Rex Warner, Translator (Signet Classic, 2001).


Procopius. The Secret History. G. A. Williamson, Translator (Penguin, 1982).


The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'an: Explanatory Translation Revised and Edited in Modern Standard English, M. M. Pickthall, Translator, Revised by Dr. Arafat El-Ashi (Amana Publications, 1996)


Einhard, Two Lives of Charlemagne, Lewis Thorpe, Translator (Penguin, 1969). 


Note: You will need a Bible for this course. You may use any version. If you wish to purchase a Bible, I recommend the following edition: The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, Third Edition, New Revised Standard Version, Michael D. Coogan, General Editor (Oxford University Press, 2001).

NOTE: Please do not use other editions of these texts since I will make references to specific pages during class discussions.

Course Description

Why does the past matter? How do events that took place centuries ago affect me today? Why do people kill in the name of God? Why has Western history been so violent? Should I care about the humanities? If you are interested in these questions, then this is the course for you. My goal in this class is to introduce you to the study of the humanities and show you why it is important. Throughout the semester you will take a journey through the history of Western civilization from its beginnings in the Middle East to approximately 1300 C.E. I am confident that you will find this exploration of the ancient, classical, and medieval periods fascinating for the light that it sheds on our modern world. In this class you will not only study the good side of Western civilization, but you will also explore the origins of contemporary religious violence in order to help you understand the important role that history, culture, and faith continues to play in today’s world conflicts.

In this class you will not merely read about the humanities, but you will also examine the major teachings and traditions of Western civilization by reading some of its classical texts. As you progress through this course you will realize the important role that history continues to play in today’s increasingly pluralistic and multicultural society. For this reason, it is more important than ever for you to acquire a basic knowledge of the humanities since issues of nationalism, violence, terrorism, and discrimination are frequently rooted in religious and cultural misunderstandings that often originated in the periods we will study. Like all classes that make up the “Liberal Arts Core,” the purpose of this course is to open your mind to new ideas, teach you how to acquire knowledge, and enable you to successfully apply what you have learned to new circumstances that you will encounter throughout your life.

Course Goals

As we undertake our journey through the history, religion, culture, and literature of Western civilization, we will focus on how the past continues to shape the present. My basic goals in this class are:

1. To expose you to the major events and ideas that have shaped Western civilization.

2. To illustrate how the shifting relations between religion, society, and the state influence events.

3. To help you understand how the past continues to shape our modern world.

4. To teach you the analytical skills of writing, reading, critical inquiry, and discussion that remain the core of a liberal arts education.

I believe this is one of the most important courses that you will take during your time at UNI. For this reason, I will try to expose you to the most recent and accurate information about the humanities. In many instances, I will include information and photographs from my extensive travels and archaeological excavations to make the course more exciting. By integrating new historical and archaeological discoveries into this class, I hope to show you how experts process knowledge before it appears in the textbooks. Some of the questions we will examine in this course include:

•Why is religion often violent?

•Was there a Trojan Horse?

•Did Moses or King David exist? •Did King Arthur and Camelot actually exist?

•Was there an Atlantis?

•Which woman in antiquity wore a wooden beard?

•What is jihad? •When did sexism began?

•How do archaeologists uncover the past?

•What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?

•Have archaeologists recently discovered the site of one of Jesus’ healings?

•What do secret Gospels hidden in the Egyptian desert have to tell us about Jesus?

•Which New Testament discovery was associated with a murder and cannibalism?

•What does the Qur’an teach about other religions?

In this course we will also learn about unruly students in the Middle Ages, the birth of political scandals and much more. You need to check your UNI e-mail account regularly for this class. I will send you information about this class by e-mail. Because university e-mail inboxes can become full rather quickly, be certain to delete your old messages on a regular basis. For more on the humanities and the Liberal Arts Core at UNI, please visit:

Course Requirements

1. Attendance/Class Participation (approximately 5% of grade). This course requires your active participation. Because you have chosen to take this class I assume that you want to learn as much as possible about the Humanities (Ancient, Classical, and Medieval Worlds). If so, then please be certain to arrive on time ready to share your ideas and thoughts about the assigned readings. I expect you to be respectful to other students regardless of whether or not you agree with their opinions. I also expect you to remain open to new ideas throughout this course, which is the first requirement of the academic study of the humanities. Because attendance is critical to understand the material and texts that we will study, I will deduct a few points for more than three unexcused absences when I determine your final grade. I assume that you will miss a few classes due to illnesses, university activities, or other life issues. Only unexcused absences will be penalized, so if you have a good reason for missing class I will not count your absence. If you are sick you do not need to obtain a note from a doctor or nurse to prove your illness. I will trust you, so just let me know that you were ill, and I will not count your absence. Whether your absence is excused or not, you are required to keep up with the readings and lectures. If you miss a class, I suggest that you obtain copies of the notes from a fellow student. I am always happy to sit down with you and go over any material at any time. I am pleased to have you in my class if you are involved in any university program (sports, ROTC, student government, etc.) that may occasionally prevent you from attending this course. Please provide me with a letter by January 22 about your activity or program, the name and phone number of a contact person, and the projected number of absences.

2. Quizzes (4 total; approximately 40% of grade). There are four quizzes. Each quiz covers the assigned readings and the lectures. All quizzes are worth 50 points. There are no make-up quizzes. The quizzes will cover major events, people, places, and vocabulary from the assigned readings and material presented in class. Because we have much material to cover in this class, I may not discuss each reading in depth. I like to include a few questions on material that I did not explain in class in order to reward you for reading the assigned texts. You are always free to ask me questions in class about any of the assigned readings to help you prepare for the quizzes.

3. Exams (4 exams; approximately 40% of grade). There are four (4) exams in this class. Each exam includes identifications of events, terms, names, quotations, multiple-choice, and sentences for you to complete with the appropriate word. You must be present for the exams: no make-up exams will be given unless you have an excused absence in advance or some legitimate emergency! The exams are not cumulative.

4. Essays (2 total; approximately 15% of grade). You will write two short essays in this class. The essays will be no shorter than THREE and no longer than FIVE double-spaced pages (standard 12 point font, 1 inch margins all around). You will not receive full credit for a short essay. Rewrites are allowed only after consulting with me in advance. You are responsible for keeping a copy (photocopy or computer disk) of your essay for reference in case the original should become lost. I am happy to read a draft of your essay. The due dates for the essays are March 5 (Essay # 1) and April 23 (Essay # 2). The questions for the essays will be sent to you by e-mail. The essays will be based on the primary texts and Spielvogel.

General Comments: I am required by the university to provide you with the following information.

•Grading: When I calculate your final grade I will look at how you have improved during the class. I like to see evidence of intellectual development over the course of the semester. I will reward you for your contributions to the class discussions and your regular attendance. If you simply show up for each class, do the readings, and participate in class discussions, as well as study the assigned materials, you should have no trouble receiving a passing grade for this course.

•Reading: In addition to the readings listed on this syllabus I will periodically send you short articles about current events by e-mail. These will be sent to your university e-mail account. You must have access to your assigned UNI e-mail address for this class. If you need help with your university e-mail account, please consult the ITS home page for assistance ( Make certain that you periodically delete old messages since these accounts are rather small.

•Final Exam: Note the Final Examination Schedule in your Spring 2010 Schedule of Classes (page 17) on the UNI website ( Please read this information and keep this chart handy since some exams are scheduled for different dates and times. I am required to adhere to this schedule unless you follow the procedures described in this book.

•Policy on Late Work: All assignments must be completed for class on the day listed on the syllabus. Late submissions will not be accepted. No exceptions! If you do not show up for an exam, presentation, or quiz, you will receive zero points for that exam, presentation, or quiz.

•Disabilities and Assistive Testing Services: Assistive Testing Services are provided to enrolled students approved by the University of Northern Iowa Office of Disabilities Services for accommodations. Alternative testing formats, as well as auxiliary aids such as readers, scribes, or assistive technology, are available. Tests are to be scheduled in advance with the Department of Academic Services -- Examination Services Office. The test service is provided for University course tests and final examinations (not quizzes) to students enrolled in classes that are unable to provide the approved accommodations (i.e. extended time, large print options, reader/recorder, or computer testing). Course testing accommodations are based on disability documentation as determined by the University of Northern Iowa Disabilities Services. I will make every effort to accommodate disabilities. Please contact me if I can be of assistance in this area. All qualified students with disabilities are protected under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.A., Section 12101. The ADA states, “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” Students requesting instructional accommodations due to disabilities must arrange for such accommodations through Student Disability Services. The Office of Disability Services is located in 103 Student Health Center (319-273-2676 [Voice] or 319-273-3011 [TTY]). Email: See pages 10-11 of your Spring 2010 Schedule of Classes for more information or consult the Office of Disability Services website (

•Discrimination: It is the policy of the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, disability, veteran status, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or any other basis protected by federal and/or state law. Further details concerning UNI’s policies may be found in your Spring 2010 Schedule of Classes (pages 12-13). For additional information, visit:

•Plagiarism: Any attempt to present someone else’s work as your own is plagiarism, and may result in an “F” for the course. The University of Northern Iowa has a very specific policy statement related to the issue of plagiarism. This policy statement can be found in several places on the UNI website, but it is most prominent in the UNI Student Handbook in Section 3.01 “Academic Ethics/Discipline” ( You should become familiar with the Academic Ethics Policies found at this website or in the University Catalog. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about this topic.

•Weather Policy: My policy is to conduct class as long as the university is open. In case of bad weather please check the UNI homepage for information. I do not expect you to risk your life to attend this class. If you feel that it is not safe for you to attend class, then please stay home. I will trust your judgment and allow you to make up any assignments you have missed without penalty. Just let me know that you could not attend class due to the weather and I will not count your absence. For UNI’s weather policy, see:





Week 1—Introduction to the Humanities. What is Western Civilization? Why Study the Humanities?

January 11

Class Introduction

January 13

The beginning of civilization

January 14

How do we know what actually happened in the past?

Spielvogel, Chapter 1

Week 2—The Epic of Gilgamesh and Mesopotamian Civilizations

January 18

No Class: Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

January 20

The World of Gilgamesh

Epic of Gilgamesh, pages 1-99

Bible: Genesis 6-11

January 22

Gilgamesh and Ancient Epic Tradition

Week 3—Egyptian Civilization

January 22

Early Egyptian Civilization

Spielvogel, Chapter 1

January 24

Old and Middle Kingdoms

January 26

New Kingdom

Quiz # 1

Week 4—Ancient Near East Civilizations

February 1

The Hebrews

Spielvogel, Chapter 2

Bible: Genesis 12-25; Deuteronomy 1-10

February 3

The Biblical Kingdoms

February 5

Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians

Week 5—Civilizations of the Mediterranean

February 8

The Minoans and Mycenaeans in The Iliad

Homer, The Iliad

February 10

The Age of the Iliad: Is this story true?

February 12

Exam One

Week 6—Classical Greek Civilization: Culture and Conflict

February 15

The Greek Dark Ages

Spielvogel, Chapter 3

February 17

The Persian Wars

February 19

The Peloponnesian War

Week 7—The Hellenistic Age and the Emergence of Rome

February 22

Macedonia and Alexander the Great

Spielvogel, Chapter 4

February 24

Hellenistic Society and Culture

February 26

The Emergence of Rome

Quiz # 2

Week 8—The Roman Republic

March 1

The Early Roman Republic

Spielvogel, Chapter 5

March 3

Carthage vs. Rome

March 5

Julius Caesar and the End of the Roman Republic

Essay One Due

Week 9—The Roman Empire

March 8

The Age of Augustus

Spielvogel, Chapter 6

March 10

The Early Emperors

Bible: Mark; Luke (Chaps. 1-3)

March 12

Exam Two

Week 10—Spring Break: March 15-19 (No Class)

Week 11—Late Antiquity

March 22

Augustine’s World

Spielvogel, Chapter 7

Augustine, Confessions

March 24

Augustine and Christian Intellectual Life

March 26

The End of the Western Empire

Quiz # 3

Week 12—The Byzantine Empire and Islam

March 29

The Byzantine Empire


March 31

The Byzantine Empire, Continued

April 2


Quiz # 3


Week 13—The Byzantine Empire and Islam: Continued

April 5

Life of Muhammad

Spielvogel, Chapter 8

April 7

Muhammad's teachings

Qur’an: Suras 1-2, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 48, 55, 62-76, 97-114

April 9

Exam Three

Week 14—The Early Middle Ages (750-1000 C.E.)

April 12

Charlemagne and the Carolingian Renaissance: Part I

Spielvogel, Chapter 8 Einhard, Two Lives of Charlemagne  

April 14

Charlemagne and the Carolingian Renaissance: Part II


April 16

The Expansion of Islam

Week 15—The Growth and Emergence of European Kingdoms (1000-1300 C.E.)

April 19

Life in the Middle Ages

Spielvogel, Chapter 11

April 21

Crusaders in the Middle East

April 23

The Later Crusades

Quiz # 4

Essay Two Due

Week 16—The World of Chaucer

April 26

Black Death

Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

April 28

The Hundred Years’ War

April 30

The Power of the Church

11-12:00 p.m class (Section 08) May 4 (Tuesday) Exam Time: 10-11:50 (LNG 20)

2:00-3:00 p.m class (Section 06) May 3 (Monday) Exam Time: 3-4:50 (LNG 211)