Monday, January 17, 2011


Cleopatra VII was the last of the Ptolemies to rule in Egypt. Her suicide in August of 30 BC ended the Hellenistic era, which had begun with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. At the University there has been a bit of talk about someday bringing to life a Hellenistic history course. An elder colleague had first suggested it several years ago, but then abandoned the project. The Hellenistic, he found, was unwieldy. Now that I'm in a place where I can begin to think about future courses, I think I have a way bring the Hellenistic under control. My plan centers on Cleopatra. Begin the course not with Alexander, but with the last queen of the age he (without perhaps meaning to) founded. I think it would provide a very different tenor to the class, and one that more directly focuses on the social and cultural aspects that so define the Hellenistic. Cleopatra is also one of those historical figures that everyone is sure they know something about, but certainly know less than they think. That makes her a wonderful candidate for those "wow" moments you delight in as an instructor, as students shake off preconceptions and the accumulated debris of History-channel specials, New York Times articles, and Turner Classic Movies. I won't have time to draft a proposal this term, but over the summer I think I'll have a moment or two. Dissertation first. I just want a record that I thought of it now. The historian in me demands good records, after all.

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