What extraordinary advantage did alexander have at his birth
1. Use the Focus Questions to review Plutarch’s biography of Pericles. What do you think are the 6-7 most important developments or moments in Pericles’ life? Be able to describe these in detail.
2. How would you describe Pericles’ character (ethos)? Apply Plutarch’s concept of the soul (psyche) to explain why Pericles’ character developed the way it did.
3. This includes: (a) his physis [individual nature at birth]; (b) the rational parts of his soul [ability to perceive and process information accurately; to see cause and effect; to use deduction and inference]; (c) the non-rational parts [instincts; powerful emotions or passions; the role of -spirit? or ego-centered motivations and decisions]. How is his character the sum total of the moral habits he developed as his physis responds to education and the struggle within the soul among reason, the non-rational parts, and -spirit??
4. What type of leadership did Pericles display as a democratic leader? What vision did he have for Athenians? Know details of this vision from the Funeral Oration in Thucydides. How would you describe his leader – follower dynamics? How does Thucydides describe and evaluate them?
5. Pericles and rhetoric: how is this skill the key to his success? What are 3-4 main points in each of the 3 speeches we find in Thucydides? How does each speech allow us to see his character in action?
6. Pericles’ relationship with Aspasia: What was unusual about this woman? Is the relationship consistent or inconsistent with his character?
7. Pericles’ death: Be able to describe in detail the cause and manner of his death. Was the way he faced death consistent or inconsistent with his character? In relation to his life, was his death: Appropriate? Tragic? Ironic? Absurd?
1. Use the Focus Questions to review Plutarch’s biography. What do you think are the 5-6 key twists-and-turns in Alcibiades’ life?
2. How would you describe his character (ethos)? Use Plutarch’s concept of the soul (psyche) to explain why his character developed the way it did.
3. Which anecdotes best reveal key qualities or dynamics in his character?
4. How was Athens’ invasion of Sicily in 415 BC the most important turning point in his life? From Thucydides, what were 3-4 of Alcibiades’ arguments in favor of the expedition? What kind of leader – follower dynamics led to the decision to invade Sicily?
5. What unexpected events prevented Alcibiades from leading the invasion? How would you interpret the hostility toward him which these events aroused in Athenians?
6. How many times did Alcibiades betray Athens? Explain his reasoning in abandoning Athens, serving Sparta, and conspiring with Persia.
7. Why did he return to Athens as a commander with supreme authority? Why did the Athenians want him back? Why did they reject him again?
8. Alcibiades’ death: Be able to describe in detail the cause and manner of his death. Was the way he faced death consistent or inconsistent with his character? In relation to his life, was his death: Appropriate? Tragic? Ironic? Absurd?
Tides of War
1. When we compare the way Pressfield tells the story of Alcibiades to Thucydides and Plutarch, how do we see -narration alteration? at work? How does Pressfield complicate the way the narration is -focalized? for us? How does he represent events and characters more -realistically? and even -naturalistically?? (Be able to define -realism? and -naturalism? as modes of representation.)
2. Apply this -narration alteration? by comparing Thucydides and Tides of War on episodes like the plague in Athens and the invasion of Syracuse (e.g., the battle of Epipolae).
3. How does Pressfield also use -characterization transformation?? Explain why he invents the fictional Polemides and 3-4 other key fictional characters. How are these characters essential to making the story more meaningful for today’s readers? Why do we see Alcibiades mostly through the eyes of these characters?
4. How do these fictional characters display a -personality viewpoint? that is different from the -character viewpoint? we usually find in ancient history and biography?
5. How are some of these fictional characters (Polemides, Lion, Eunice, Telamon) driven by needs and values that are different from the men and women we find in ancient history and biography? Compared to the ancient characters, do these fictional characters have a similar or different philosophy of life?
6. How does Pressfield’s representation of warfare differ from Thucydides? In addition to the battle of Epipolae, be able to describe 1-2 other battle scenes that depart from the way Thucydides represents war. Which modern wars come to mind when we read Pressfield’s accounts of ancient battles?
7. In the novel how are Alcibiades and Polemides both similar to and different from one another? Is one an alter ego for the other? Does the term -anti-hero? apply to Polemides, or is this misleading?
8. How are both Alcibiades and Polemides enigmatic human beings? What secrets about each man does the reader have to decipher? What do you think is the motivating force behind the successes and failures each man experiences? Does each man possess a -vision? or a -core value? that keeps driving him on?
9. In the novel, is the manner of each man’s death significant? What key role does Polemides play in the death of Alcibiades? In your opinion what is the meaning of Polemides’ death?
1. Why is Socrates’ life not -biography worthy? by Plutarch’s standards? Why do we possess so few hard facts about this man’s life?
2. Compare C.C.W. Taylor’s attempt to organize what we know about Socrates’ life to Diogenes Laertius’ biography. In a haphazard way, what kinds of information about Socrates does Diogenes manage to convey?
3. How did Athenians during Socrates’ lifetime rely on distorted images of him in the form of a stereotype and a caricature?
4. What were Socrates’ core values? His key motivations in life?
5. How would you describe the vocation Socrates chose for himself? What kind of dialogue did he like to have with Athenians? How would you describe what it was like to dialogue with him-and to get -socratized? by him? (Refer to Plato’s dialogue Alcibiades I).
6. Why was Socrates’ trial the most famous episode of his life? What did the Athenians accuse him of? In your opinion, was there any validity to the charges? If not, how can we explain them?
7. What re-staging of Socrates does Plato present in his -Apology of Socrates?? Using the Focus Questions, what were Plato’s motives for writing this? How would you describe Socrates’ self-defense strategy in the speech? What 3-4 objectives do you think he had?
8. How does Socrates argue against the stereotype and the caricature that Athenians had of him? How does he launch into an autobiographical account of his vocation (calling) to practice philosophy? What’s the story about Chaerophon and the Delphic Oracle?
9. How does he portray his so-called -wisdom? as not true wisdom but ironic wisdom? How does he suggest that his vocation was nevertheless a -heroic? effort like those of Hercules and Achilles?
10. How does Socrates respond to an imaginary citizen’s attempt to shame him for practicing philosophy by claiming that his calling was the greatest thing ever to happen to Athens?
11. Explain the image he comes up with to explain how he -cared for the souls? of Athenians: the gadfly.
12. How does he explain the moral authority that guides him as a -sort of divine and daimonic thing . . . a sort of voice? (p. 47)? What do you understand this to be?
13. Why do you think a slight majority of jurors voted -guilty??
14. In the penalty phase of the trial, what do you think Socrates’ motives were? What suggestions did he make to the jurors for a penalty? Was he being sincere, humorous, or antagonistic?
15. How did he face the prospect of death? What attitude toward death did he -model? for the jurors? How did he predict how distraught and sorry the Athenians would be for condemning him?
16. Does Xenophon’s account of the trial support Plato’s-or does it contradict it in some ways? How is this Socrates not quite so unique or morally autonomous as Plato’s? How do you evaluate Xenophon’s claim that Socrates was old and tired-and just wanted to end his life by antagonizing the jurors to render the death penalty?
17. In the dialogue -Crito? why does Plato invent an imaginary conversation between Socrates and the Laws of Athens themselves? Is this conversation consistent or inconsistent with the moral autonomy Socrates proclaimed in the -Apology??
18. From the -Phaedo,? be able to describe in detail the cause and manner of Socrates’ death. Was the way he faced death consistent or inconsistent with his character? In relation to his life, was his death: appropriate? tragic? ironic? absurd? What do you think is the meaning of his enigmatic last words?
1. What extraordinary advantages did Alexander have at his birth (= his physis)? Know who his father Philip II was–and the great potential of Macedonia as a land and powerful state in the fourth century BCE.
2. What was unusual about Alexander’s mother Olympias? How did his parents’ turbulent marriage impact his upbringing? How was the world of Macedonian dynastic family politics very different from the world of the Greek city-states?
3. Which anecdotes about Alexander’s birth, boyhood and adolescence predict his remarkable but also troubled life?
4. While still a teenager, how did Alexander emerge as a rival to his father? Do you think Alexander and./or Olympias had anything to do with Philip’s assassination in 346 BC?
5. How did Alexander inherit Philip’s great project of invading and conquering the Persian Empire? Why was the Macedonian army a superior fighting force to the Persian army?
6. Be able to describe in a few detailed sentences the key battles at the Granicus River (334 BC in modern Turkey), Issus (333 in Syria) and Gaugamela (331 in Iraq). Pay special attention to Alexander’s strategy and the behavior of King Darius III at Issus and Gaugamela. (Use Arrian as your main source, but compare the accounts in Plutarch.)
7. When Alexander entered Egypt, what mysterious event occurred at the Oracle of Ammon in the oasis of Siwah? What’s your opinion about what really happened?
8. As a King of Persia, what new challenges did Alexander face? How did some peoples of the Persian Empire resist him? How did some of his own Macedonians resist him? Know the key conspiracies of Philotas and the Royal Pages, Alexander’s murder of Cleitus, the fates of Parmenion and Callisthenes.
9. Why did Alexander insist on invading India? How did he defeat King Porus and his elephants? Why did his men mutiny at the Beas River and refuse to advance farther?
10. How did Alexander continue to experience leadership problems when he returned to Persia and then Babylon? Compare the accounts of his death in Plutarch and Arrian. Be able to describe in detail the cause and manner of his death. How are there two different causes of his death? Was the way he faced death consistent or inconsistent with his character? In relation to his life, was his death: appropriate? tragic? ironic? absurd? What do you think is the meaning of his enigmatic last words?