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Humanities: Power and Politics of the Ancient World

Provides resources for Mrs. Kocar's Power and Politics of the Ancient World assignment. If unsure where to start, or need help, please ask a librarian for help.

The Assignment

Power and Politics of the Ancient World

This winter term, you will engage in a research project related to our central theme: citizenship. 

As we discuss political systems of the Mediterranean World, focusing on how societies functioned, popular rights and protections, and resistance to abuses of power, you will explore a political system outside that geographical sphere, examining similar concepts. You will complete a write-up and presentation on the topic, which should include (1) a general overview of the political aspects of the system (dynasty, empire, kingdom), and (2) a particular focus of analysis. What you choose to analyze will depend on the particular character of the political system.

Suggested Civilizations for study include:

  • Africa (North): The Kingdom of Kush
  • Africa (Sub-Saharan): The Mali Empire
  • Americas:The Incan Empire
  • Bactria: Kushan Empire
  • China: The Han Dynasty; The Tang Dynasty
  • India: Mauryan Empire
  • Japan: Feudal Japan
  • Persia: Achaemenid Empire, Sasanian/Sassanid Dynasty 

You may request a civilization that is not on the above list, but you will need to have teacher approval before proceeding.


Timeline: This is meant to be a term-long project. Specific due dates will be announced once the project is underway.

December: in-class research days

January: continue research

Late January to early February: papers due; presentations underway

Late February: comparisons/contrasts with other systems


Component 1: Paper Organization: 

Part 1: Description of Political System (Questions to Consider:)

  • What type of government existed?
  • Who held power? How was this power maintained and passed down?
  • What type of societal hierarchies existed? How were they maintained?
  • What rights, if any, were guaranteed? How so? (e.g. written law code?)
  • What mechanisms for change existed?
  • Were there any particular accomplishments of the government? Were there egregious failures?

Part 2: Your Focus Topic (Suggestions:)

  • To what degree does this society promote any of the following and, if so, for whom? Social justice? Safety and stability? Economic mobility? (etc.) 
  • How and to what degree can citizens voice dissent in this society?
  • Who benefited most and least in this system?
  • Did the people effect change or adaptation of laws, whether by exercising existing mechanisms for change  or by the use of force?
  • How did the particular structure of the government create the conditions for success or failure?

What topic you choose is entirely dependent on your research subject and your interest. Choose ONE topic on which you can delve deeply.


Component 2: Presentation (More details to come as due date gets closer)

  • Approximately 8-10 minutes
  • Include visual aid
  • Speak knowledgeably about your topic
  • Hook your audience with dynamic presentation techniques (eye contact, enthusiasm) and engaging content

Component 3: Compare and Contrast

At the end of the term, you will be asked to draw a meaningful comparison or contrast between the civilization you researched and one that we studied during the term. More information on this will come later.