CentreTerm: Recreating Ancient Athens

Posted by Centre News in CentreTerm, News 11 Jan 2016

Recreating Ancient AthensHistory comes alive this CentreTerm in the course Recreating Ancient Athens with Professor of Classics James Morrison. Students study, perform and reenact central features of everyday life in Classical Athens, including athletic competition, comic theatre, dinner parties, funeral ceremonies and philosophical debates.

CentreTerm is Centre College’s three-week January term that gives students and faculty the opportunity to explore specific subjects in intensive ways. In Recreating Ancient Athens, the course will include the reading materials Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes’ Frogs, Sophocles’ Philoctetes, and excerpts from Thucydides, Aristotle and Lucretius. Interesting lectures feature topics such as “Philosophy and Drinking” and “Comedy and Journey to the Underworld.”

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While reading and discussing these texts, the class is encouraged to imagine the sights, smells and sounds of ancient Athens. However, they take the exercise a step further by also creatively imagining how the ancient activities fit into the modern world.

“We’re able to focus on recreating the experiences of ancient Athenians but also to think about what modern experiences are in some ways equivalent,” Morrison explained.

For example, athletic competition at the Olympics has been reborn with a few different events and female competitors. Similarly, theatre traces its roots back to 5th century Athens, yet actors today do not always wear masks, often perform indoors, and theatre generally isn’t part of a religious festival honoring Dionysus.

The class is also taking two trips, the first to the local Bellevue Cemetery to read Pericles’ Funeral Oration, and the second to see art collections, the Parthenon and the Tennessee state capital building in Nashville, Tenn.

“The Nashville trip allows us to view Classical Greek architecture and sculpture,” Morrison said. “The Parthenon is a recreation of the ancient work, while the Tennessee state capital is a modern adaption of the classical model.”

At the end of the term, students will present live action group projects, such as a battle reenactment, religious festival or dinner party.

“Reenacting is a kind of experiential learning that works best once students have done the reading and studying and viewing of images,” Morrison concluded. “Then they work as a team to see how they can best either recreate the ancient experience as well as they can, or modernize and adapt and update the experience.”

by Elise L. Murrell
January 11, 2015