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Classics 239 :  The Forest in Antiquity
Course Catalog No: 24168
308C Doe Library
Greg Woolf

The ancient Mediterranean was surrounded by wildernesses of various kinds, among them mountain, desert, marsh and forest. This course will explore the latter, a territory located above and/or beyond the cultivated landscapes where most of the population lived and labored. We will begin with an orientation on the formation of the forest in the early Holocene, and its reduction in the face of agriculture. But the main focus will be on human experiences of and uses of the forest within the classical period. We will consider the various forest ecologies of the region, including the forested uplands of Italy and the Balkans, the forest of the Atlas and Lebanon mountains, and the forest steppe and woodland Europe. We will making use of Theophrastus, of the Elder Pliny and of various geographical and historical works. We will consider the forest as a domain of wild beasts and wild humans, as a source of fuel and timber and water to be exploited, and we will look at the domestication of the world of trees and forest beasts. We will also consider the forest as a realm of the imagination, represented and put to poetic and metapoetic uses in epic and other genres. Students will read for each class, and make a presentation for credit, and then write a paper on a boreal subject approved by the instructor.