Ancient Warfare

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 28, 2021 - July 14, 20216/28 - 7/142 WeeksOnlineWaitlistedOnlineJessica Tomkins

Course Description

This course will examine warfare in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. Blood, battles, and brutality have romanticized these warrior rulers -- Ramesses the Great, Darius the Great, Alexander the Great, and Caesar -- and have kept their memory alive into the modern era. To understand their fame, this course will use a cross-cultural approach to the study of war in ancient societies using both archaeological and textual sources.

War is a recurring and ubiquitous human phenomenon that has existed throughout history. In order to understand why humans have been unable to coexist harmoniously, we will question what exactly war is and examine how ancient societies practiced warfare. Why did these ancient societies resort to war over diplomacy? How effective were their military exploits? How and why did empires rise and fall? Using ancient images, material culture, and texts (in English!) we will gain an insight into the mechanics and ancient perceptions of warfare. This course will study armies and soldiers, battles, weaponry, logistics, soldier training, and diplomacy. War has been depicted since prehistory, and images can show us how soldiers trained as well as how armies were equipped. Material culture (that is, artifacts) provides us with physical evidence of the kinds of weapons and armor used in antiquity. In addition, texts describe war and warfare from an ancient perspective. We will, therefore, look at a range of primary sources, paying particular attention to the validity of the ancient evidence. History is so often written by the victor, and we will constantly consider how this colors our comprehension of war in the ancient world.

This course will provide an introduction to the study and history of the ancient world, as well as the general developments of warfare throughout ancient history. Each day of the course will concentrate on one specific ancient culture. A survey of the major historical events and an introduction to the culture of the ancient society will be given before delving into an exploration and examination of that culture's relationship with war and warfare. Each class will be a mixture of lectures, presentations, and group work. In addition, students will develop analytical thinking and source criticism skills; by the end of the course, they will be able to critique ancient sources and evaluate their usefulness for writing historical narratives.

Prerequisites: The only prerequisite is an interest in the ancient world!

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEHI0948

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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