The Game

During the second half of the semester (starting Monday, Oct. 31st), our class will take the form of a “Reacting to the Past” simulation: each student will be assigned to the identity of a historical Athenian person (along with another student as a partner); our class time will become “meetings of the Athenian Assembly,” during which you will debate laws, deliver speeches, and pursue the goals of your character and faction as you navigate the crises faced by Athens at the end of the 5th century BCE.

Your Role

Each of you will be assigned, along with a partner, to a specific “role,” a character based on a historical Athenian person. Your role comes with a role sheet that describes your character’s background and upbringing as well as their specific goals during the game. Most characters will also be assigned to a faction; your role sheet will tell you about your faction, and list the objectives you share with other members of your faction. A few characters are instead “indeterminates” who aren’t assigned to a faction at the start of the game; you’ll be given your own individual objectives, as well as suggestions for which factions might be able to help you achieve those goals, and some advice about navigating the game without a faction.

Be careful who you share this information with! Even within your faction, different characters may have different goals; many characters also bring secrets into the game. Keep your role sheet to yourself (and your partner), and only share information about your character at the proper moment. You can also discuss your role sheet freely with Prof. Shirazi, Prof. Farmer, or Alice.

Note that your role sheet will mention a number of “writing assignments” – you do not have to do these! Instead, think of them as further guidance for how you should approach the game, and consider using them as inspiration for your erga assignments during the game.

How to React to the Past

First, read this guide to our game, which includes a basic introduction to the setting and its factions, as well as a brief guide to playing the game. Next, read this description of the basic rules and procedures of the game, which also contains some suggestions for further reading.

Every day of class, there will be a broad topic for the class to focus on. Individual characters will propose laws for the Assembly to debate and vote on, by sending them to that day’s President of the Assembly (a position assigned by lot during the setup phase of the game). Laws that are passed will go into effect immediately. Your role sheet provides guidance about what your character and faction should try to accomplish on each day of class.

Outside of class, you will spend your time researching historical details and ideas related to your character, and probably meeting with other members of the class. You’ll work closely with your partner, and will decide how you’ll want to divide the labor of performing your character equitably. You are also welcome, as always, to meet with Prof. Farmer, Prof. Shirazi, or Alice to strategize about the game or get help with your research.

Grading and Assignments

As in the first half of the course, your grade for this unit will be based on several factors: class contribution; online forum participation; and erga assignments. Each of these will work slightly differently than before, however.


As before, every two weeks we’ll send you a survey about your contributions to the course. During the game, however, our contribution questions will be slightly different. We’ll ask whether you attended class each day, and then focus on the following types of contributions:

  • Delivering a prepared speech during class
  • Delivering informal remarks or questions in response to another character’s speech
  • Proposing a law or participating in a trial
  • Meeting with other “characters” outside of class to scheme and plot
  • Conducting extra research to further your knowledge about your character or the events of the game

Online Forum

As before, each week of class we’ll post a forum discussion prompt, which you will be asked to respond to before the start of class on Wednesday. For the most part, these prompts will encourage you to connect what you learned in the first half of the course to the events of the game. Please note that you will be participating in the online forum out of character: you might focus on ideas that are important your character, but you’re writing as yourself, a student in this class.


During this half of the course, there will again be three submission windows during which you can submit assignments for credit towards your total erga. The submissions windows are:

  • 10/27-11/9
  • 11/10-11/23
  • 11/24-12/7

These erga, however, must be drawn from the following list of assignments focused on the game:

  • Character Research: select one of the prompts under these instructions, and write a brief 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.
  • Panathenaic Festival: follow these instructions for arranging or participating in an event during the Panathenaic Festival, which will take place from Nov. 9th to Nov. 23rd. Then, write a brief reflection about the experience. Both you and your partner can complete this assignment, but you should each submit your own reflection.
  • Formal Speech: follow these instructions for completing a formal speech during the game. You’ll need to submit notes to us in advance about your plans for the speech, incorporate our feedback into the speech you deliver, and then write up and submit a prose version of your speech. You can complete this ergon with your partner; if you do so, make sure you are thoughtful and explicit about how you are dividing this labor equitably, and include a note with your final speech about who did what.

Ordinarily, you must select a different ergon each time you submit one for credit. If you’d like to submit different versions of the same ergon topic, or to craft your own ergon (perhaps based on the list of open erga), you must receive our permission in advance.


During this simulation, you may confront difficult topics, develop antagonistic relationships with other characters, and hear other characters (or even yourself!) making arguments that you do not agree with or even find offensive. In addition to the community guidelines we established at the beginning of the semester, therefore, we want to offer a few additional reminders and safety tools:

  • Nametags: It is very important during the simulation to signal when you are acting in character and when you are being yourself. When you are wearing your nametag (in or out of class), you are in character; when you are not wearing your nametag, you are out of character.
  • Debriefing: After the game has ended, we will have both a discussion forum and a class session devoted to debriefing from the game experience. This will be a chance to celebrate your accomplishments, but also an opportunity to reflect on experiences of discomfort, and to set aside any enmities or negative feelings about other students that developed in character during the game.
  • Flexibility: As always, we want to offer you a flexible set of options for how you engage with this course (through things like the variety of ways to earn contribution credit, the options for different erga assignments, etc.). This continues during the game, and includes things like taking a moment to yourself or stepping outside during class. Please always feel free to get in touch with Prof. Farmer or Prof. Shirazi to share any discomfort you experience around the game.
  • Partners: Having a partner gives you someone to rely on during the game and share your in and out of character experiences with. There may be days of class or particular assignments where one or other other of you takes the lead, and that’s fine. We’ve done our best to pair you with another student who expressed a similar level of comfort with public speaking and a similar set of interests to your own. It’s important, however, to make it clear to each other from the start of the game what your expectations for one another are; if you need guidance navigating those conversations, you can reach out to us or to Alice.