Course Exam—CLAS 309 (Ancient Greece)

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CLAS 309 is a three-credit senior level humanities course “that surveys the political, military, social, and cultural history of one of the most influential civilizations of the ancient world.  This chronological survey briefly examines the mysterious Bronze Age civilizations and their fall, and the achievements of the Archaic Age.  The core units of the course focus on classical Greek civilization.  The final units survey the Hellenistic period that came after.  Modern western thought, art, and culture finds its roots in ancient Greece.  From across the centuries, the ancient Greeks speak to us through translated sources and images of their art.  Students will study a topic in greater depth through a research project.” The course has no pre-requisites and is cross listed under three different disciplines with HUMN 309 and HIST 309.  The course is also available for challenge.

Who Should Take This Course and Why

For this course, we had the opportunity to interview James Ellis, currently a full-time, second-year student studying French in the Bachelor of Arts program.  James loves learning about other cultures and their origins, and so history has been a field that he enjoyed studying alongside languages.  James feels that, “the Ancient Greeks left an incredible impact that is still felt today and CLAS 309 provides an excellent introduction to this culture and to Classical studies.”

When we asked James what the course was about, he stated, “CLAS 309 covers the entire history of Ancient Greece from the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures of the Bronze Age all the way through to the dawning of Roman rule in the 1st century BC.  The modules cover a broad range of topics including the development of Sparta and Athens, wars like the Peloponnesian War, the evolution of democracy, and the Hellenistic age of Alexander the Great.  It also covers important cultural topics like philosophy, theatre, and literature.  The detailed textbook is central to the course and is complemented by an in-depth study guide and well-chosen historic primary sources, including readings from Homer, Herodotus, and Thucydides.”

James also recommended this course “as it covers enough topics to gain a good understanding of the Ancient Greeks while providing a good amount of detail.  This course also covers the early period of Roman rule in the Aegean region and therefore pairs very well with Athabasca’s CLAS 312 course on Ancient Rome.  While CLAS 309 is excellent for history lovers, I also think it would be great for students in many other fields, including politics, geography, international relations, philosophy, and art.”

Course, Assignments and Final Exam Details

The course is composed of 14 chronological units that will require students to read from the textbook and primary sources provided.  Each unit also includes a detailed study guide with supporting information, a pronunciation guide, key terms, and study questions.  In terms of the work that will be required to be submitted, there are three assignments, three skills modules, three multiple choice quizzes, and a final exam.  The assignments are essentially one large research project on a chosen topic with the first two assignments consisting of an annotated bibliography and an essay/article review, and the final assignment being the paper itself.

The skills modules are comparatively small compared to the overall course but do go over imperative topics such as how to write a paper and how to properly do citation formatting.  There will be three multiple choice quizzes that later test student’s knowledge of the skill modules.

The final exam is three hours long and consists of four essay questions; two questions based on the first half of the course and two questions based on the second half of the course.  Students can select from seven questions for each half of the exam.  Questions are focused on core themes and concepts like democracy, culture, or wars.  The exam questions are general enough that students do not need to worry about each small detail that was taught through the course.  However, James did mention that remembering the details correctly, such as appropriate names, dates, and events will earn students a better grade.

How to Be Successful in the Course

Professor Marc Cels’ Advice for the Course

Associate Professor Marc Cels coordinates courses on early European and global history.  He completed the BA History (Honours) at the University of Calgary and the MA and PhD in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.  His research specialty is the history of religion and emotion in medieval Europe.  He has been with AU since 2008.

You can find out more about Dr. Cels at his AU Website

“The history and culture [of ancient Greece] always fascinates students.” Suggests Dr. Cels.  “Many students are familiar with aspects of Greek myth, art, or philosophy from other courses or even popular culture.  The ancient Greeks influenced European and Islamic civilizations and, by extension, modern global culture.  The course assigns samples of writings by ancient Greeks so students can hear their voices.  These clues from the past are often strange and challenging, but always interesting.  They can’t be skipped.  The note exercises in the course prepare students for the final exam.  Such assignments help students to be critical and attentive readers.

The course has a research project, with assignments that break it down into three steps.  While there are modules to bring students up to speed on the standards for researching and writing in History, the course expects that students have completed their first year of university studies and have some experience with essay assignments.

Students have the support of an individualized study tutor, who is more than a marker.  The tutor provides constructive feedback on each step of the research project and can provide extra assistance on completing the course and prepping for the final exam, if a student requests it.  That help is especially beneficial for students from outside of History or the Arts program.  Indeed, many students enjoy this sort of course as their senior Humanities Area elective.”

Student Tips

For the course we also interviewed James Ellis When we asked James for tips on the course, he stated, “Earning a high grade in CLAS 309 takes a lot of work as this is a vast topic and students are tested not just on Ancient Greece but also on a wide range of academic skills including research and paper writing.  It’s much harder to remember historical information without context so I found it useful to put events on a timeline to establish connections; this really helps in the research paper and the exam when you are writing about large topics as you can then discuss how things relate to each other in more detail and with greater accuracy.”

When we asked James about his experienced with the Course Tutor, he mentioned, “My course tutor was excellent and provided useful feedback on the three assignments.  I only had a few minor course issues and she quickly responded with helpful advice.  In addition, her feedback on assignments was well explained and allowed me to clearly identify where I needed to focus in the subsequent projects.  The quiz feedback is automated and all answers and corrections are visible afterwards.”

Special thanks to Professor Marc Cels and James Ellis for all their contributions to this article!


If you have any further questions regarding the course, please do not hesitate to contact the Course Professor at  Happy studying!