Course syllabus


ANCHIST 202/302

Greece and Persia



This course explores the relationship between the Persian Empire and the Greek cities from the sixth to the fourth century BCE.  The Persians emerged as a major force in the mid-sixth century rapidly overthrowing the Medes of the upper Tigris valley and establishing their own world empire, first through Asia Minor and subsequently incorporating Babylonia, Afghanistan and Egypt. At the western periphery of Persian power some Greeks found themselves a part of this new empire, while others remained independent. 

The story of this relationship, encompassing cultural exchange, revolts and internecine wars that culminated with the Macedonian hegemony over both peoples in the latter half of the fourth century is complex and central to understanding the history of the ancient world and, indeed, the development of the modern world.  Herein lie the origins of the cultural assumptions that divide east from west, Europe from Asia, and ultimately the strongly held stereotypes concerning the peoples and cultures of the two continents and thus the world we live in today.


Course Outcomes

Students will learn to interpret ancient evidence and evaluate the value of modern scholarship and its analysis. They will conduct independent research for the essay using primary evidence and secondary sources. They will learn to analyze and reflect upon ancient texts in the tests and examinations through direct engagement with the ancient sources and understand how to overcome biased and partisan source material for a clearer understanding of the past.


Course Co-Ordinator

Lecturer: Professor Matthew Trundle

Office Location: Room 812 in ARTS 1 (Humanities)

Office Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday (or by appointment)


Telephone: (09) 9237427


Course Delivery

Three classes each week. The course is divided into six fortnightly segments of six classes.  Each segment includes five lectures and concludes with a sixth class employed as an in-class discussion of the themes of that specific segment and analysis of relevant primary evidence.  The use of primary evidence both written and archaeological will play a central role in the examination-assessment and essay research in the course. The course will be well supported on-line through CANVAS.  Lecture notes and guided readings for in-class discussions will appear before and after lectures alongside more general studies, maps and recommended readings.

Course Logistics

Meeting Times and Places

Tuesday, Wednesday, 1-2 p.m. in PLT2 (303-G02)

Thursday 1-2 p.m. in SLT 1 (303-G01) 


AncHist202: One in-class test on Thursday 29 March (20%), one essay due on Friday 18 May (30%) and one TWO hour final examination (50%) set in the examination period.

AncHist302: One in-class test on Thursday 29 March (20%), one essay due on Friday 18 May (40%) and one TWO hour final examination (40%) set in the examination period.


Essay Topics

AncHist202 (30%):  Choose one of the following three topics and write a detailed and analytical essay (1500-2000 words) using evidence drawn as much as possible from the ancient sources to make your argument.


  1. Was the Persian Empire stable and successful in the fifth and early fourth centuries BCE? What factors determined its stability and success or lack thereof.


  1. To what extent did the geography of the eastern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, the Iranian plateau and the regions of modern Afghanistan and the Indus valley shape the limits and nature of the Persian Empire?


  1. Did the Greeks really hate the Persians in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE?


AncHist302 (40%): Choose one of the following three topics and write a detailed and analytical essay (2000-2500 words) using evidence drawn from the ancient sources as much as possible to make your argument.


  1. Was the Persian Empire an Empire?


  1. The Persians have been described as a tolerant imperial people. How true is this statement in reality?


  1. Focus on one aspect of Persian relations with the Greek cities (for example, war, diplomacy, cultural exchange, immigration-emigration, economics) and demonstrate why this was the most important and defining legacy of the one people on the other.


Recommended Texts

There is no set text for this course. The discussion classes will be supported by specially crafted readings that will appear in CANVAS.  There are a number of texts that I would highly recommend and these include the following. The ancient texts are all available in translation and on-line.


Ancient Texts (modern Penguin titles listed here where applicable)

Herodotus, The Histories

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Xenophon, A History of My Times, The Persian Expedition

Xenophon, Cyropaedia

Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander

Plutarch’s Lives of Artaxerxes, Themistocles, Aristides, Alcibiades, Lysander and Alexander (Penguin Titles: The Rise and Fall of Athens and The Age of Alexander)

Diodorus Siculus Books 11-17


General Modern Texts

The Cambridge Ancient Histories Series

Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire (Eisenbrauns 2002)

Amélie Kuhrt, The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period (London 2007)

Peter Rhodes, A History of the Classical Greek World (London 2006)

A. Dandamaev, A Political History of the Persian Empire (New York 1989)

M. Cook, The Persian Empire (New York 1983)

C. Miller, Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BC: A Study in Cultural Receptivity, (Cambridge 1997)


Lecture and Discussion Outline

Section I: Contexts

Tuesday 27 February: Introduction to the Course

Wednesday 28 February: Themes, Geography and Legacies

Thursday 1 March: Traditions: The Greeks

Tuesday 6 March: Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Medes

Wednesday 7 March: The Rise of the Persians, Cyrus the Great 560-529 BCE

Thursday 8 March: Discussion Class: Cyrus and Our Sources


Section II: The Rise of the Persian Empire

Tuesday 13 March: Cyrus Conquers an Empire

Wednesday 14 March: Cambyses, Egypt and the Accession of Darius 529-521 BCE

Thursday 15 March: Darius Creates an Empire 521-486 BCE

Tuesday 20 March: Persia and the Greeks 559-500 BCE

Wednesday 21 March: No Class

Thursday 22 March: No Class


Section III: The Greek Wars

Tuesday 27 March: The Ionian Revolt 500-494 BCE

Wednesday 28 March: The Origins of the Mainland Greek Wars: 559-481 BCE

Thursday 29 March: In-class Test (20%)


Mid-Semester / Easter Break (Friday 30th March – Sunday 15 April)


Tuesday 17 April: Marathon and Its Aftermath

Wednesday 18 April: The Great Persian War 1: 480 BCE 

Thursday 19 April: The Great Persian War 2: 479 BCE 


Section IV: The Athenian Blip


Tuesday 24 April: The Delian League 478-404 BCE

Wednesday 25 April: ANZAC DAY (No Class)

Thursday 26 April: The Reign of Xerxes 486-465 BCE

Tuesday 1 May: Artaxerxes I, Darius II and The Greeks to 413 BCE 

Wednesday 2 May: Persia Triumphant 413-404 BCE

Thursday 3 May: Writing the Essay (Discussion Class)


Section V: The King, Satraps and Mercenaries

Tuesday 8 May: The Revolt of Cyrus the Younger 404-398 BCE 

Wednesday 9 May: Persia, Sparta and the Corinthian War 398-387 BCE 

Thursday 10 May: Persians, Greeks and Egyptians 387-362 BCE 

Tuesday 15 May: The Persian Empire in the Fourth Century BCE 

Wednesday 16 May: Persians, Greeks and Egyptians (again) 362-340 BCE 

Thursday 17 May: The Legacy of the Persian Empire (Note: Essay Due Friday 18 May)


Section VI: The Macedonians

Tuesday 22 May: Macedonian Contexts to 336 BCE

Wednesday 23 May: Alexander, King of the Macedonians 336-331 BCE

Thursday 24 May: Alexander, Great King 331-323 BCE

Tuesday 29 May: Alexander’s Empire – Homonoia?

Wednesday 30 May: Envoi, Legacies, Summary and Course Review

Thursday 31 May: Discussion Class: Persia and the Greeks and the Exam

Course summary:

Date Details