Department of Classical Languages

GRS 1001: Ancient Greek Life and Culture

Academic Year 2020-2021

Semester 01


Instructor: V. Edirisinghe

Class Hours: Office Hour: (MA 56, #1)


This course introduces ancient Greek culture and civilization from the earliest to the Hellenistic times through literary, archaeological, and other source-based evidence. It explores the nature of life, thought, and experience of the ancient Greeks. The course serves as a foundation for advanced courses in life, culture, civilization, thought and experience of the ancient Greeks.

Prescribed Texts:

Robin Sowerby. The Greeks: An introduction to Their Culture. Routledge, London and New York, 2015.

Jacob Burkhardt. History of Greek Culture. Translated by Palmer Hilty, Dover Publications, 2013.


1. Weekly written submissions: 60%* 

2. End Semester Examination (short essay questions/short notes): 40% 

  • The objective of this exercise is to train students to identify the relevance of Western classical culture on their own life and experience.  Hence students are expected to pick a section of the lesson for the week and write their response to it commenting on its relevance (or lack of it as the case may be). Submissions should be at least 01 page long.   

Course Delivery:

The course will be delivered online during the pandemic closure of universities. An MP4 file containing the relevant chapter of the textbook for the week will be uploaded on the course page where students shall also upload weekly submissions. 


Weeks 1-3 

1. Early Greece: Bronze age

Minoan civ

Mycenaean civ

Dark age

Reading---- Sowerby; pp. 1-10

2. Homeric poems: life and living, poetry, art

Hesiod: poetry


Sowerby: pp. 11-33.

Burkhardt: chapter 8; 9. 1-3, 7.

Weeks 4-5 

3. Historical sources

Before Persian wars

Persian wars and after

Athens under Pericles

Peloponnesian war




Hellenistic kingdoms


Sowerby: pp. 34-45; 46-92.

Burkhardt: Chapters 1-4

Weeks 6-7 

4. Social and religious life

Reading--- Sowerby: pp. 93-139.

Weeks 8-11 

5. Literature





Oratory and prose

Literature of the Hellenistic age 


Sowerby: pp. 140-186.

Burkhardt: Chapter 11. 7-11; 12, 13-15; 16; 17 

Weeks 12-13 

6. Poetry and music

Reading----Burkhardt: Chapter 9. 4-6; 10; 11

Weeks 14-15 

7. Art

Burkhardt: Chapters 5-7; 10; 12-17


This course provides an introduction to the literature, language and culture of the ancient Greeks and lays the foundation for future classical studies through a reading of Homer's Odyssey, Euripides' Medea, Plato's Apology, Longus' Daphnis and Chloe, a selection of Lucian's Satirical Sketches, main features of the Greek Language and the introduction to the Parthenon.