Undergraduate Course Code: POL485H1F L0101
Topics in Political Thought II
Comparative Topics in Jewish and Non-Jewish Political Theory I
The theme of our two course sequence this year will be despotism and the conditions of successful resistance to it or accommodation of it. We will explore these issues through an exercise in comparative political theory, through a careful reading of Herodotus’ Histories and the Book of Esther, one Hellenic work and one Hebraic one. In both cases the despotic power to be feared is Persia, and the settings of the two dramas are supposed to be roughly contemporaneous. In both cases we will consider the role of piety in supporting both despotism and resistance to it (a subject in which Herodotus takes no less interest than the author of Esther). As the Greek work is in this case much longer than the Jewish one, as well as being the older of the two, we will read it first and be spending far more time on it. In POL 485H1 we will read the first five books of Herodotus, the books primarily concerned with the great pre-Hellenic civilizations of West Asia and the Mediterranean, including the Persians themselves, the Egyptians, most ancient of peoples, the wild freedom loving Scythians and Libyans, and the luxurious Lydians. This course is both complete in itself and the first half of a sequence including POL 485H1S/2027H1S
Herodotus , Histories, tr. David Grene (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987)
Format and Requirements
We will meet weekly for 3 ½ hours. A shorter essay, a longer essay, and a take-home exam.