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Instructor: Mariska Leunissen. This course meets R 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in CW 213.

Why is it that almost all ancient philosophical texts focus solely on the views of the elite male members of Greek society? What happened to the voices of the women, the foreigners (or ‘barbarians’ as the Greeks referred to them), and the less-than-privileged? In this course, we will study – through the examination of several infamous, ignored, or otherwise uncharted Greek texts of the classical period – the views about gender and race as presented in ancient Greek philosophy, medicine, and science. Our aims are to generate a new understanding of how the male elite used such views to further promote or justify (or perhaps challenge) the existing marginalization and silencing of women, foreigners, and less privileged men and to maintain their own social, political, and intellectual privilege. We will also consider how ancient perspectives about these issues remain current and influential today.

Some of the questions we will address are: What explanations did the ancient Greeks in the classical period provide for the differences between humans and animals, men and women, slaves and free men, barbarians and Greeks? What role did notions such as racial formation/racial origin play in the development of Classical Greek theories of ethnic superiority (e.g., the myth of Athenian autochthony)? How did they see the relationship between biological descent versus cultural or national identity? How did the Greeks of the Classical Period understand sex and gender? In what ways did ‘scientific’ ideas about women and barbarians influence the ethical and political philosophies of the classical period? How were philosophical theories used to promote, challenge, or maintain the existing marginalization of women and barbarians?


Some seats are reserved for PHIL majors and minors. If you are interested in enrolling, but are either (1) not a declared PHIL major or minor, or (2) the class is full, please email Prof. Mariska Leunissen at for assistance!