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COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Western Civilization I"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Fabrizio Conti
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 6:00-7:15 PM
OFFICE HOURS: By appointment

This survey course explores the foundations of Western societies and cultures and the transformations they underwent from prehistory through the Renaissance. Emphasis is placed on the ways in which diverse ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern peoples interacted to lay the groundwork for Western civilization, the ways in which political structures and cultures changed over the time period covered, and the development of Western religions and cultures. In addition, through the examination and discussion of a range of primary source materials, the course serves as an introduction to the practice of history, i.e., how historians examine the past and draw conclusions about it.

This course introduces students to the civilizations that helped shape our world as well as to the historian’s craft. This course surveys Western civilizations and cultures from pre-history, through Near Eastern, Greek and Roman eras, to Medieval Europe, the Renaissance and Reformation. Special attention is given to the following topics: cities and urban landscapes; economic and social developments; empires, warfare, and imperial ambitions; heroes, myths, religious systems; literary and artistic forms of creativity.


The aim of this course is not only to guide students through the discovery of the main events and developments in Western societies between the pre-historical age and the age of the Renaissance and Reformation, but also and especially to give students the opportunity to build their own ideas of the multifaceted ways in which cultures, societies and mentalities developed and interacted through time. Students will develop basic analytical and critical reading and communication skills, with the ability to frame historical questions and research, take a stance, and craft a written argument, also by working with primary sources in English. 

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Western Civilization: Beyond Boundaries (Cengage Advantage Books) Vol. 1Thomas F.X. Noble et Al. Wadsworth Publishing (7th Edition) 978-1133610137  

PaperYou will be given a list of topics, among which you will pick the one you prefer and develop it in about 2000 words. You can also propose a different topic of your choice worthy of investigation. The relevant sources and the questions which serve as guidelines for the analysis will be posted on MyJCU. The written assignment should be submitted to me electronically by 5pm of the due date at the latest. No late papers will be accepted. 25%
Midterm ExaminationThis will be an in-class written exam composed of short answer and essay questions. Your grade on this exam will depend upon the analytical strength and persuasiveness of your arguments as well as the factual accuracy of your answers. More information about these exams will be provided as their dates near.30%
Final ExamThis will be an in-class written exam composed of short answer and essay questions. Your grade on this exam will depend upon the analytical strength and persuasiveness of your arguments as well as the factual accuracy of your answers. More information about these exams will be provided as their dates near.35%
Attendance and ParticipationIt is mandatory that: 1. you are in class, 2. have done the readings, 3. express your views and questions orally in class and are able to make connections with the topics that have been already covered. You will get points for participation for being active in class, rather than for being (always) right. Persistent absence or having failed to do the readings will affect your final grade.10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


Attendance is mandatory, and a maximum of two unexcused absences from class will be accepted. Students may use laptops, but they are not allowed to surf the web during class. Mobile phones should be kept turned off  during class.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.




Week 1

2 M History as Our Story: Introduction to the Course

-          March Bloch, The Historian's Craft, pp. 17-24 (Moodle)

-          Ernst H. Gombrich, A Little History of the World, Ch. 1 "Once Upon a Time", pp. 1-4 (Moodle)

4 W Pre-History Roots

-         Western Civilization, Ch. 1: "The Ancestors of the West: Origins", pp. 2-9 ("The Emergence of Civilization" excluded)

-         David Christian, Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, Ch. 7 - "Humans: What Makes Us Different?", pp. 182-189 (Moodle)



Week 2

9 M Mesopotamia: The Cradle of Western Civilization

-        Western Civilization, Ch. 1: "Mesopotamia", pp. 9-16

-        The Code of Hammurabi, “Laws on the Household”: http://www.thenagain.info/Classes/Sources/Hammurabi-Household.html

-        The Assyrian Epic of the Creation: http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/rp/rp201/rp20131.htm

11 W Egypt: The Land of Pharaohs

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 1: "Egypt", pp. 16-25

-          The Hymn to the Nile: https://arcjohn.wordpress.com/89-2/

-          The Book of the Dead, “Plate II”: http://www.sacred-texts.com/egy/ebod/ebod14.htm


Week 3

16 M Phoenicians, Canaanites, Assirians, Neo-Babylonians, Persians

-           Western Civilization, Ch. 2: "The Ship, the Sword, and the Book", pp. 28-39

-           The Phoenician's Route (click on and read all items in "On the Route"): http://fenici.net/en/

18 W Persian Culture, Israel, and Monotheism

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 2, pp. 39-50

-          Herodotus, Histories, Book 1, "On the Customs of the Persians", pars. 131-139 only: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/hh/hh1130.htm

-          1 Kings 21 "Naboth's Vineyard": https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Kings+21&version=NIV


Week 4

23 M The Greek Civilization 

-          Western Civilization: Ch. 3: “The Greeks in the Polis”, pp. 53-73 ("Classical Greece" excluded)

-          Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, I,1: “The State of Greece”: http://classics.mit.edu/Thucydides/pelopwar.1.first.html

-          Pericles’ funeral Oration, Excerpts from Thucydides: http://mccandlessa.people.cofc.edu/Thucydides.htm#Pericles' Funeral Oration


25 W  The Golden Age of Greece

-          Western Civilization, Ch.3: “Classical Greece”, pp. 73-88

-          Aristotle, Politics, Book 1, Parts I to V: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.1.one.html

Week 5

30 M Herodotus: the Father of History?

-     Optional:   https://www.reed.edu/reed_magazine/september2011/articles/features/classiclecture/classiclecture.html

-     The Persian Wars: excerpts from Herodotus' Histories (Moodle)


2 W The Hellenistic World

-        Western Civilization, Ch. 4: “Alexander the Great”, pp. 90-115

-        Arrian of Nicomedia, The Anabasis of Alexander, Book 3, Ch. 1: "Conquest of Egypt-Foundation of Alexandria":



Week 6

7 M Rome: Foundation Myths and Monarchy

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 5: "Rome: From Republic to Empire", pp. 118-123 ("The Early and Middle Republic" excluded)

-          Titus Livius, History of Rome, Book 1, Chapters 4-7, 9, 16: 


9 W Rome: From Monarchy to Republic

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 5: "Rome: From Republic to Empire", pp. 123-129 ("The Early and Middle Republic Abroad"

-          Titus Livius, History of Rome, Book 1, Chapters 57-60: 


Week 7

14 M The Expansion of the Roman Republic

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 5: “The Early and Middle Republic Abroad”, pp. 129-148

-          Titus Livius, History of Rome, Book 2, Chapters 39-41: 

-          Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War, Book 7, Chapters 66-67, 75-87:

16 W Mid-Term Exam

Week 8

21 M The Roman Empire

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 6: "Imperial Rome", pp. 150-165

-          Tacitus, The Histories, Book V: http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/histories.5.v.html

-          Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian, selected pp. (Moodle)


23 W Rome: From Pagan to Christian Empire

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 6: "Imperial Rome", pp. 166-175; Ch. 7: "The World of Late Antiquity", pp. 177-189 ("The Rise of
           Christian Monasticism" excluded)

-          Documents on the persecution of the Christians: http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/xtians.html

-          Constantine’s vision of the cross: Eusebius, Life of Constantine:   http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iv.vi.i.xxviii.html


Week 9

28 M  The Fall of Rome and the Late Antique Period

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 7: from "The Rise of Christian Monasticism", pp. 189-207

-          Bryan Ward Perkins, "Did Rome Ever Fall?", in Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization, pp. 1-10 (Moodle)

-          Jordanes, The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Chapters XXIV, XXV, XXVI: 



30 W The Early Medieval World: Byzantium, the Islamic Civilization, and the Franks

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 8: "Early Medieval Civilizations", pp. 209-225 ("The Carolingian Dynasty" excluded)

-          The Qu’ran, excerpts: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/koran-sel.asp

-          Corpus Iuris Civilis, excerpts: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/corpus1.asp



Week 10

4 M Charlemagne and Carolingian Europe

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 8: from "The Carolingian Dynasty", pp. 225-238

-          Einhard, Life of Charlemagne, excerpts: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/einhard1.asp


6 W Feudal Europe

-         Western Civilization, Ch. 9: "The Expansion of Europe", pp. 240-264

-         Fulbert of Chartres, On Feudal Obligationshttps://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/fulbert1.asp

-         Gregory VII, the Dictatus Papae (1075): https://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/344dict.html


Week 11

11 M  The Crusades 

-      Western Civilization, Ch. 9: from "The Crusades", pp. 264-270

-      Pope Urban II, Speech at Clermont (1095): https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2a.html

-      Soloman bar Samson, The Crusaders in Mainz: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1096jews-mainz.asp

13 W Social Orders and Cultural Models 

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 10: "Medieval Civilization at Its Height", pp. 273-300

-          Adalbero of Laon, "On the Three Orders of Medieval Society" (Moodle)

-          The Fourth Lateran Council (1215), canons: 1, 2, 3, 13, 14, 21, 22, 67, 68, 69: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/lateran4.asp

Week 12

18 M The "Black Death" and The Later Middle Ages

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 11: "Crisis and Recovery", pp. 303-327

 -         Boccaccio on the Black Death: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/boccacio2.asp


20 W The Humanist "Revolution" 

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 11: from "The Consolidation of Political Power", pp. 327-337; Ch. 12: "The Renaissance", pp. 340-357

-          Vergerius, The New Education: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/vergerius.html


Week 13

25 M  The Fall of Rome Seen From the Renaissance

-        Santo Mazzarino, The End of The Ancient World, "The End of Rome as Interpreted by Humanism", pp. 77-91 (Moodle)


27 W Paper Due

The Renaissance and Its Contradictions: Witchcraft, Geographical Explorations, and Scientific Progress

-         Western Civilization, Ch. 12: "The Spread of the Renaissance", pp. 359-372; Ch. 13: "European Overseas Expansion", pp. 374-401

-         Cristopher Columbus, Journal of the First Voyage, paragraphs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 50-54: http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/journal/



Week 14

2 M Reform Movements 

-          Western Civilization, Ch. 14: from "The Reformation Movements", pp. 405-417 ("The English Reformation" excluded); pp. 425-431 

-          Martin Luther, Address to the Christian Nobilityhttps://history.hanover.edu/texts/luthad.html

-          Paolo Giustiniani and Pietro Querini, Booklet to Pope Leo X on the reform of the Church, excerpts (Moodle)


4 W The Western Civilization: Greek, Roman, Christian, and Humanist Views 

-       History: An Introduction to Theory, Method, and Practice, ed. by P. Claus and J. Marriott, pp. 118-129, 145-150 (Moodle)


Final Exam