Disasters in the Ancient World
Disasters occupy a powerful place in our imagination. Stories of floods, plagues, earthquakes and storms excite and horrify us, and communities mobilize their resources quickly in response to these events. In the ancient Mediterranean world, disasters could take on potent meaning, indicating the anger or disfavor of the gods, acting as warnings against certain courses of action, or confirmations of individuals' fears or suspicions about the world in which they lived. In this course, we explore the evidence for some disasters in the ancient Mediterranean world, the ways in which contemporaries reacted to those disasters and interpreted their causes. This project is, of necessity, multidisciplinary, involving textual, archaeological, geological, and comparative materials and drawing on methodologies from history, political and archaeological science, and the emerging field of disaster studies. In the process, we will gain an appreciation of the social structures of communities in the period, the thought-world in which they operated, and the challenges and opportunities that attend a project of this sort. No prior knowledge of Ancient History is required, although it would be useful to have taken an introductory survey course. Texts will be discussed in translation.
This course fulfills Social Science Approaches to Environmental Inquiry or Arts & Humanities Approaches to Environmental Inquiry elective.