Western Civilization I: Reader Response



In the course of our class, we have ventured from one old land to the other.



Our study of the ancient and Greco-Roman world has come to a close, and now we will be moving on to the Medieval times. Before doing so, lets

return to some of the major issues and factors taking place during Greco-Roman times, which went into the development of the West.


Write a 1000 word response essay to one of the following topics.


1. Christianity's theological content and universalizing mission helped it spread among the diverse peoples of the Roman Empire and even beyond. Yet, this could not have happened without some very unlikely conversions. St. Paul, Constantine and St. Augustine were all persecutors of the early Christians, and then somehow they all, in different centuries, became vicars of the religion in the Roman world. Research and relate the conversion stories of the three, compare them and make an opinion, based on modern research, on what to make of it.


2. The "Fall of the Roman Empire" is a matter of some debate. When did the empire really fall, if at all? Research into the differing sides of the issue, and take a side on if it 'fell' at all. Some scholars maintain, in the old fashioned way as exemplified by Gibbon over two hundred years ago, that it fell in 476 when the Ostrogoths deposed the emperor Romulus Augustulus. Others say that it went on until 1543, when Byzantium, the Eastern Roman half, finally fell to the Muslim Turks. Still others say that since Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne "Holy Roman Emperor" in 800, the Western empire 'continued' into the middle ages. Indeed, the German speaking territories were confederated in this same 'Holy Roman Empire' all throughout the early modern period... others say that the Roman Empire never 'fell' at all, but just 'transitioned' or 'morphed' into the feudal middle ages. Take your side and explain why.


3. History and literature were written and read during the Roman period, and literary crticism helps us understand the life and culture of a people as reflected in their literature. Research Latin (Roman) literature and compile a summary of the famous works of one sort or another (histories, prose, commentaries, poetry), and discuss how each selection had an effect upon society.


4. Israel is a major issue in the relations between the West and other civilizations today. After researching the Israeli history starting with the covenant between God and Abraham, through the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, to the exile by the Romans for 1,878 years (during which time Arab Muslims moved into the region and inhabited it)- present both sides of the story, the Jewish and the Muslim side, as to their major claim to the holy land.


5. Innovations drive the development of civilization. Examine the importance of innovations like concrete, the arch, aqueducts, public bath-houses, or others, and discuss the cultural consequences of each. In addition, look at the Ptolemaic 'geocentric' theory of the universe and compare it with our knowledge today. Where did Ptolemy go wrong?


6. The Bible contains many types of books in it. Examine the 'point' of the books of the New Testament individually by researching what is written there: historical, stories, songs, others. How are the books grouped and what is a reader to learn from them?




EUH 1000 Main














Why did the ancient Mesopotamians and ancient Egyptians (not to

mention the ancient inhabitants of neighboring lands) develop such

complex religious traditions- what were some of these, and do their

myths hold a value for us, apart from the day-to-day affairs of the

original society?


Law is a keystone aspect of the West. Early law codes, such as the

Code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments, enshrined certain

principles deemed necessary for society then. Have we deviated from

these basic principles- or improved upon them? Use some examples from

the ancient laws to illustrate your points.


Geography is always a key factor in the development of civilizations

and patterns of life. What were the various geographic factors that

people had to contend with in the ancient world? How did ancient

peoples use them (or be inhibited by them) in the making of ancient

civilizations? To what extent have we overcome or changed these


Due Sept 2.