Nipissing University

HISTORY 2055-- Ancient Civilizations (2005-6)


Second Paper


An analysis of an ancient text

This paper will be due on February 15. It is worth 25% 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.

Like the first, this assignment requires you to read challenging texts, think deeply, formulate a clear analysis, and write well. Students who try to breeze through their books and write something at the last minute will not produce adequate work.

You have the choice of four texts, which are available in the Campus Shop. They are:

Apuleius, The Golden Ass

Aristophanes, The Birds and Other Plays

Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars

Xenophon, The Persian Expedition

Your assignment is to describe for your reader the most important features of your chosen text and then explain what it tells us about the ancient society that produced the work. Your paper should be structured as a formal essay with a clear and identifiable thesis.

These are classic texts, which have inspired and puzzled people over the centuries. Scholars have disagreed violently over their meaning. It is unlikely you will come up with the one true interpretation of any of these works. What you can do, however, is to find one aspect of your text that you think is valuable and enlightening, and construct a convincing, documented argument for your point of view.

Here are some possible approaches:

What the text tells us about the author

What the text tells us about the author’s audience

What the text says about the structure of society as a whole

In fact it will be difficult to do a successful treatment of any specific thesis – for instance, what your book tells us about religion, or family life, or sex, or politics, or daily life – without thinking about these three general points, and saying something about them.

You are free and encouraged to read other books and academic articles that analyze or react to your text. However, don’t rely on other people’s summaries, and be sure you cite all quotations and borrowed insights properly.