As an ergon assignment during the game, select one of the prompts below, and write a 600-900 word essay expanding on your character’s identity. You can work with your partner on the research for this assignment, and you should definitely share your work with them. For credit, however, each student must submit their own character research ergon; if you’d both like to receive credit, please select two different prompts, and decide which of you will take the lead in writing each essay.
Your character sheet may include some of this information, from which you can build. But if not, just remember that your character experience and opinion needs to be as authentically Athenian as possible. Your role sheet may also suggest readings that will help you complete the assignments. If not, make use of the library’s Classics Research Guide, or contact Prof. Farmer or Prof. Shirazi for suggestions. You should expect to need to do some additional reading to complete this assignment.
You can work with your partner on the research for this assignment, and you should definitely share your work with them. For credit, however, each student must submit their own character research ergon; if you’d both like to receive credit, please select two different prompts, and decide which of you will take the lead in writing each essay.
Remember: don’t show these notes to any of your classmates except your partner. These are your character’s real, unfiltered opinions and memories.
Prompt 1: Self, Occupation, Oikos, and Childhood
For this essay (600-900 words), consider each of the following aspects of your character’s identity. As you are researching your character, you may find the following books helpful:
- Wages, welfare costs, and inflation in classical Athens / William T. Loomis [excellent source for occupations]
- Jones, Nicholas F, Rural Athens under the democracy;
- The law in classical Athens / Douglas M. MacDowell;
- Daily life of the ancient Greeks / Robert Garland
- Daily life in Greece at the time of Pericles. Translated from the French by Peter Green
- Household interests : property, marriage strategies, and family dynamics in ancient Athens / Cheryl Anne Cox
What do you look like? Are you average height? an Achilles among men? more on the stocky side? Any distinguishing features? Are you so handsome that Alcibiades was once jealous of your looks?
An occupation (if one was not given). Some of you will have this already as part of your original role assignment, but those were general occupations. Add some detail now. Are you successful, struggling? Do you have slaves, business partners? Did you inherit your occupation? Do you like it?
Tell me some more about your oikos, i.e. your family, in the Greek sense of the word. Do you have a wife? children? siblings? are your parents alive? if not, how did they die?). What are their names? (Here’s an excellent primer on Athenian names.)
It has become increasingly common, since about 1750, to think of our family as a nuclear family: husband, wife, and their children. Prior to that time, the institution denoted by the word “family” included not only grandparents, godparents, and unmarried aunts, but also servants and even permanent hangers-on. Similarly, the Greek word oikos included extended family, both those who lived at your house and those who didn’t live with you but considered your house the focus of their larger family’s public face and religious cult. It also included enslaved persons. The life of an enslaved person in ancient Greece was hard and there were laws and customs that described the enslaved as little more than “speaking tools”, but there was also another side to ancient slavery, which is partly hinted at by the fact that the Greek concept of “family” included enslaved members of the household.
Where do you live? In your deme? In Athens? Piraeus? Is there anything distinguishing about your house? What do people think of your family? Reputations in Athenian culture could persist for many generations. What kinds of characteristics are associated with your family? You may wish to create a family tree to help keep everyone straight!
Tell me about a formative experience from childhood or from adulthood.
Prompt 2: Class, Leisure time, and Pericles
For this essay (600-900 words), consider one or more of the following aspects of your character’s social position and politicla views.
- What economic class are you? Athenians were on the honor system (not unlike Fords and Mawrtyrs!) when it came to reporting their tax status for the census, but if they lied and underrepresented their holdings, they could be sued. So think of me as the taxman and tell me your tax bracket.
- With the details from Prompt 1 in mind, what do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies? What kind of people are your friends?
- What do you think of Pericles? I’m not looking for description of your character’s thinking about the man and his politics, but rather a response in your character’s voice. Write a single paragraph, impassioned or coolly detached, full of personal information or couched in universal claims, whatever you think best fits your character’s style. Don’t tell me what your character thinks; show me how your character talks.
- In the same spirit, tell me what Athens means to you. Think about how your character would respond to such an open-ended question: not all Athenians were poets and philosophers… but some of you are!
Prompt 3: What did you do during the War, Athenian… and what did the War do to you?
For this essay (600-900 words), consider your character’s experience during the past 30 years of war with Sparta.
What was your character’s experience in and of the war? A few of you are would be ineligible for military service, but every other person among you will have served in some capacity. Did you see combat? Did you take a life? Did you lose friends? Were you wounded? Did you acquit yourself like an Athenian man or like a coward? Did you come away from the war with any new perspectives on life, on Athens?