So far this semester, we have used literature such as The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Epic of Gilgamesh or
The Aeneid to discern the ethos or values of a society. We’ve especially looked at what makes a hero,
how women are treated and portrayed, and the relationship between humans and their gods. This
option asks you to take the principles we have learned in class and apply them on your own to a work
of literature. Following is a list of works of literature that we did not study in class but that relate
closely to the works that we did study. Select one of the works to read, study and analyze. Consider
questions such as: What does it teach us about the culture? What cultural ethos does it portray? More
specifically, how are men portrayed? What seems to be the “ideal” man or hero? How are women
portrayed? What is the relationship of men and women to the Gods? How does it compare to the heroic
ethos of Gilgamesh? Achilles or Agamemnon? Odysseus? Aeneas? You don’t have to answer all of
these questions in your essay, but these should be a starting point for you to build your analysis. All
excerpts can be found on Blackboard under Assignments – Essay #1.
Thucydides: from Peloponnesian Wars
Sophocles: from Antigone
Josephus: from Description of the Roman Army
Seneca from On Tranquility of Mind
Cicero: from On Duty
Ovid: Selected Poems
Marcus Aurelius from The Meditations
For example: Euripides’ Medea describes how Medea, infuriated by her husband’s betrayal, kills their
children as well as his new wife. If you choose to write on this work, you might compare Medea’s
revenge to the faithful, patient Penelope—the wife of Odysseus. Or, you might consider the portrayal
of Medea’s actions—though violent and shocking—to the passive, inactive portrayals of Briseis and
Chryseis—two concubines at the center of the feud between Achilles and Agamemnon in The Iliad.
Another example: In Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, he describes a peaceful, non-volatile man
governed by reason rather than emotions. You might contrast this to the portrayals of Achilles or
Agamemnon in The Iliad. Do the Greek concepts of “hubris,” “time,” or “arete” have anything to do
with the ideal described by Aurelius?
If there is another work in the same time period that you would like to analyze for the paper, please let
me know. Note: You are not required to use an outside source for this assignment. However, if you do
PLEASE CITE YOUR SOURCES CORRECTLY! Failure to do so will result in an F on the assignment.
Option 2: Divine Intervention
Homer often interpreted events in his epics Iliad and Odyssey as being caused or influenced by the
gods. The gods interacted with each other and with the characters, argued amongst themselves, took
opposing sides in the war, played favorites, got their feelings hurt, etc. They would then cause things to
happen to the mortals that changed the course of their lives, of the war, etc.
Rewrite one of the events in your life as if it were orchestrated by one (or a few) of the gods from the
Greek or Roman Pantheon. Decide which god(s) would have been involved with the event and how
he/she/they would have intervened. Include their possible motivations—why they intervened the way
they did. Also make sure they interact with the characters rather than simply directing from above.
Write your essay as a narrative or creative piece. For example – how Aphrodite intervened to bring you
together with a significant other; how Ares caused you to “war” or argue with someone; how Poseidon
affected a boating or swimming accident; etc. In your essay, demonstrate that you understand the
nature of the god or goddess and how they interact with humans.
Option 3: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
Briefly describe Plato’s allegory and then give a detailed explanation of what it means. What does each
aspect of the allegory symbolize? How does the allegory reflect Plato’s more general philosophy? End
by describing a time in your life when you became enlightened like the figures in the allegory.
Option 4: Religious Culture
One of the great conflicts of our time is the struggle of “east” vs. “west.” This “Clash of Civilizations”
involves questions of history, geography, religion, natural resources, culture, jihad, freedom, equality,
gender roles, politics, power, and the list goes on… Much of the conflict has played out in the Middle
East where for centuries eastern and western cultures have struggled for dominance. Yet while this
conflict can be characterized in broad terms—east vs west; Muslim vs. Christian; Arab vs.
American/European; Theocracy vs. Democracy; etc.—individual theaters have their own unique story
For your paper, choose one of the places of conflict in the Middle East. Your choice might be (not
limited to) Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, or Iran. Briefly describe the conflict and
identify key factors in the conflict. Consider the basic tenets of the Muslim and Christian (and Jewish,
if you choose to discuss Israel or Palestine) religions and cultures. Discuss what role religion plays in
the conflict, or how the beliefs, practices, and traditions of these religions may contribute to the
conflict today. You will most likely need outside sources. Be sure to select sources that are reliable and
accurate and to document your sources properly.
Option 5: Be Your Own Dante
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Dante described himself as a pilgrim traveling through Inferno, Purgatory,
and Paradise. In our lesson materials class, we focused on his journey through Inferno. He assigned a
sin to each layer of hell and described how sinners were punished in each level using symbolic
This option asks you to modernize Dante’s Inferno by describing your own journey through inferno.
Create your own levels of hell (9 total). Describe the sin or error that is punished in each level. Also
describe the punishment carried out for that sin, keeping in mind symbolic retribution. Give an
example of somebody (from history, your personal life, or modern-day culture) that you would find in
For example: One of my levels of hell (or Inferno!) would be for people who don’t clean up after their
dogs. At the beginning of each day in hell, they would be presented with a brand new pair of shoes.
They would then spend the day trudging through endless amounts of dog poop, with the smell
becoming increasingly bad and the mess smearing all over their new shoes. When they finally reached
Hes us Christ ,
the Buddha , Confucius , Socrates )
Option 1: What Would Achilles or Odysseus say?
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Option 1: What Would Achilles or Odysseus say?