Nipissing University

HISTORY 2055-- Ancient Civilizations (2000-1)

First Paper

This paper will be due on November 20.   It is worth 20% of your course grade.

The paper should be 8-10 pages in length (assuming double-spaced printing).   It must be properly footnoted and have a bibliography.   For other requirements, see the handout Policies Regarding Essays.

I have suggested below a number of topics for which Gavin Lewis’s Close-ups of the Past , Vol. 1 provides some orientation.   You are free to take the suggested topics and modify them.   Think of them as suggestions, from which you will distill your own topic, which you will define on the first page of your own paper.

If none of these topics suit you, I am willing to discuss with you a topic of your own devising.    You will need my approval to do such a topic.    If you have an idea, please talk to me as soon as possible.    I will expect you to do some library research before I give final approval to proceed.

Note:   I warn other classes that there is not much historical material on the Internet  that goes beyond bare introductions.   The situation is a bit better for ancient history than for most other fields, but even so, your research time will probably be better served in the library.    The library collection includes, you should note, a number of online or digitized journals that can be searched conveniently.


1. Compare the development of wheat/barley agriculture in the Middle East and Mesopotamia to developments in another region with an independent agricultural origin:   North China, Mexico, or (if possible) Southeast Asia.

2. Discuss the development of Mesopotamian agriculture in terms of human problems and opportunities (or challenges and resources).

3.  Identify and discuss the key technologies behind the success Mesopotamian agriculture

4. We often think of urbanization and agriculture as being quite different  kinds of economic and social life.   Discuss the interrelationship of agriculture and urbanization in Mesopotamia.

5. Describe the relationship between religion and other aspects of life in ancient Mesopotamia.


1.   Compare religious and political institutions of Uruk in the third millenium B.C. and Athens in the 5th century B.C.

2.   Why did contemporary opponents criticize the democratic regime of Athens (called in some books “the democracy”)?   (Gavin Lewis gives you a good start on this one, but you can and must go deeper into the question.)

3.    Consider the design of Athens’ democratic regime, and discuss the problems it was meant to solve and the values it was meant to promote.

4.   What was the role of “aristocrats” in Athenian life during the 5th century?    Note that the 5th century was a period of numerous changes.


1.   Compare the societies of 5th century Athens and Ptolemaic Egypt.

2.   Discuss the influence of Ancient Egypt on modern culture (since 1800).