Time to Revise!

This wooden writing tablet features six lines from the Iliad (1.468-73), describing a feast. Copying, memorizing, reciting, and debating the meaning of Homer’s poems was a standard element of education in the ancient Mediterranean. The pupil who wrote out these lines for a school exercise, and carried the tablet around by its small iron handle, probably lived during the 5th century CE, when the Iliad was already more than a thousand years old. The dry Egyptian desert preserved the wood for 1400 years, until it was found by someone (we don’t know who) who sold it to an antiquities dealer in Cairo, who sold it to a British scholar, who donated it to the British Museum in 1906. (Today, the Egyptian government would not allow an object like this to be exported.) This ancient writing tablet vividly illustrates one way texts become “canonical”: Homer’s poems were both the building block and hallmark of formal education for millennia, a tradition that has been carried on in Colgate’s Core curriculum. Photo: E. Marlowe personal collection.

Core 151 Legacies of the Ancient World is one element of Colgate University’s Core Curriculum, which includes the four Core Component Courses (Legacies of the Ancient World, Challenges of Modernity, Communities and Identities, and Scientific Perspectives), the Area of Inquiry requirements, and the Global Engagements requirement. Roughly every ten years, the Core Curriculum undergoes a review and revision. The last revision was approved by the faculty in 2009, and the most recent one began in 2019. We hope to roll out a revised curriculum in Fall, 2022.

In this section of Legacies of the Ancient World, our work consists of both reading the required Legacies texts (as well as some additional ones) and critically examining the course as a whole. Does the current Legacies course need to be revised? What are its strengths and shortcomings? We will also consider the proposed new course, Questions of Justice, which, in the current draft of the revision proposal, would replace both Legacies of the Ancient World and Challenges of Modernity. Does the theme of justice work? Does it inspire you? Does it address some of the criticisms that the current courses have received?

On this website, students will share their thoughts on these topics and others related to the Core Revision and the Legacies of the Ancient World course.

Background photo: Michelangelo, The Flood, Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1512. Source: Wikimedia Commons.