Colgate University

First-Year Course Offerings — Fall 2022

CLAS 226   From Cyrus the Great to Alexander the Great: The Persian Empire and the Greeks
DistributionHuman Thought and Expression
Core AreaNone

When the Achaemenid Persian king Darius attacked Greek lands in 490 BCE, the empire over which he ruled was the largest the world had ever seen: it stretched from the Danube River to the Indus, from the Red to Aral Seas. In its territorial extent, it would be matched only by the Roman Empire at its height, some 600 years later. To the Greeks, who managed to repel Darius's invasion as well as that of his son, Xerxes, the Persians were both fearsome and fascinating, the "other" against whom they fought but also defined themselves as Greeks, and the possessors of untold riches, unseen wonders, and unbelievable marvels. Students explore interactions between the Greeks and Persians from the foundation of the Achaemenid Empire in the middle of the sixth century BCE to its collapse in the wake of Alexander the Great's conquests. Students gain familiarity not only with a general narrative of Greco-Persian history but also with the various materials (archaeological, epigraphical, and literary) from which such a narrative is built. Through close examination of diverse sources (including Persian royal inscriptions, Greek historiography and tragedy, the Hebrew Bible, and Ferdowsi's Shahhameh, as well as more recent treatments in art, literature, and film), students work to understand how contact between these two distinct yet complementary cultures in antiquity has shaped discourse about the opposition between East and West up to the present day.