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ARLT 101g
Midterm Exam Study Sheet
Masters of Power: 10 Ancient Lives
1. Use the Focus Questions to review Plutarch’s biography of Pericles. What do you think
are the 6-7 most important developments or moments in Pericles’ life? Be able to
describe these in detail.
2. How would you describe Pericles’ character (ethos)? Apply Plutarch’s concept of the
soul (psyche) to explain why Pericles’ character developed the way it did.
3. This includes: (a) his physis [individual nature at birth]; (b) the rational parts of his soul
[ability to perceive and process information accurately; to see cause and effect; to use
deduction and inference]; (c) the non-rational parts [instincts; powerful emotions or
passions; the role of ―spirit‖ or ego-centered motivations and decisions]. How is his
character the sum total of the moral habits he developed as his physis responds to
education and the struggle within the soul among reason, the non-rational parts, and
4. What type of leadership did Pericles display as a democratic leader? What vision did he
have for Athenians? Know details of this vision from the Funeral Oration in Thucydides.
How would you describe his leader – follower dynamics? How does Thucydides
describe and evaluate them?
5. Pericles and rhetoric: how is this skill the key to his success? What are 3-4 main points
in each of the 3 speeches we find in Thucydides? How does each speech allow us to see
his character in action?
6. Pericles’ relationship with Aspasia: What was unusual about this woman? Is the
relationship consistent or inconsistent with his character?
7. Pericles’ death: Be able to describe in detail the cause and manner of his death. Was the
way he faced death consistent or inconsistent with his character? In relation to his life,
was his death: Appropriate? Tragic? Ironic? Absurd?
1. Use the Focus Questions to review Plutarch’s biography. What do you think are the 5-6
key twists-and-turns in Alcibiades’ life?
2. How would you describe his character (ethos)? Use Plutarch’s concept of the soul
(psyche) to explain why his character developed the way it did.
3. Which anecdotes best reveal key qualities or dynamics in his character?
4. How was Athens’ invasion of Sicily in 415 BC the most important turning point in his
life? From Thucydides, what were 3-4 of Alcibiades’ arguments in favor of the
expedition? What kind of leader – follower dynamics led to the decision to invade
5. What unexpected events prevented Alcibiades from leading the invasion? How would
you interpret the hostility toward him which these events aroused in Athenians?
6. How many times did Alcibiades betray Athens? Explain his reasoning in abandoning
Athens, serving Sparta, and conspiring with Persia.
7. Why did he return to Athens as a commander with supreme authority? Why did the
Athenians want him back? Why did they reject him again?
8. Alcibiades’ death: Be able to describe in detail the cause and manner of his death. Was
the way he faced death consistent or inconsistent with his character? In relation to his
life, was his death: Appropriate? Tragic? Ironic? Absurd?
Tides of War
1. When we compare the way Pressfield tells the story of Alcibiades to Thucydides and
Plutarch, how do we see ―narration alteration‖ at work? How does Pressfield complicate
the way the narration is ―focalized‖ for us? How does he represent events and characters
more ―realistically‖ and even ―naturalistically‖? (Be able to define ―realism‖ and
―naturalism‖ as modes of representation.)
2. Apply this ―narration alteration‖ by comparing Thucydides and Tides of War on episodes
like the plague in Athens and the invasion of Syracuse (e.g., the battle of Epipolae).
3. How does Pressfield also use ―characterization transformation‖? Explain why he invents
the fictional Polemides and 3-4 other key fictional characters. How are these characters
essential to making the story more meaningful for today’s readers? Why do we see
Alcibiades mostly through the eyes of these characters?
4. How do these fictional characters display a ―personality viewpoint‖ that is different from
the ―character viewpoint‖ we usually find in ancient history and biography?
5. How are some of these fictional characters (Polemides, Lion, Eunice, Telamon) driven by
needs and values that are different from the men and women we find in ancient history
and biography? Compared to the ancient characters, do these fictional characters have a
similar or different philosophy of life?
6. How does Pressfield’s representation of warfare differ from Thucydides? In addition to
the battle of Epipolae, be able to describe 1-2 other battle scenes that depart from the way
Thucydides represents war. Which modern wars come to mind when we read
Pressfield’s accounts of ancient battles?
7. In the novel how are Alcibiades and Polemides both similar to and different from one
another? Is one an alter ego for the other? Does the term ―anti-hero‖ apply to Polemides,
or is this misleading?
8. How are both Alcibiades and Polemides enigmatic human beings? What secrets about
each man does the reader have to decipher? What do you think is the motivating force
behind the successes and failures each man experiences? Does each man possess a
―vision‖ or a ―core value‖ that keeps driving him on?
9. In the novel, is the manner of each man’s death significant? What key role does
Polemides play in the death of Alcibiades? In your opinion what is the meaning of
Polemides’ death?
1. Why is Socrates’ life not ―biography worthy‖ by Plutarch’s standards? Why do we
possess so few hard facts about this man’s life?
2. Compare C.C.W. Taylor’s attempt to organize what we know about Socrates’ life to
Diogenes Laertius’ biography. In a haphazard way, what kinds of information about
Socrates does Diogenes manage to convey?
3. How did Athenians during Socrates’ lifetime rely on distorted images of him in the form
of a stereotype and a caricature?
4. What were Socrates’ core values? His key motivations in life?
5. How would you describe the vocation Socrates chose for himself? What kind of dialogue
did he like to have with Athenians? How would you describe what it was like to dialogue
with him—and to get ―socratized‖ by him? (Refer to Plato’s dialogue Alcibiades I).
6. Why was Socrates’ trial the most famous episode of his life? What did the Athenians
accuse him of? In your opinion, was there any validity to the charges? If not, how can
we explain them?
7. What re-staging of Socrates does Plato present in his ―Apology of Socrates‖? Using the
Focus Questions, what were Plato’s motives for writing this? How would you describe
Socrates’ self-defense strategy in the speech? What 3-4 objectives do you think he had?
8. How does Socrates argue against the stereotype and the caricature that Athenians had of
him? How does he launch into an autobiographical account of his vocation (calling) to
practice philosophy? What’s the story about Chaerophon and the Delphic Oracle?
9. How does he portray his so-called ―wisdom‖ as not true wisdom but ironic wisdom?
How does he suggest that his vocation was nevertheless a ―heroic‖ effort like those of
Hercules and Achilles?
10. How does Socrates respond to an imaginary citizen’s attempt to shame him for
practicing philosophy by claiming that his calling was the greatest thing ever to happen to
11. Explain the image he comes up with to explain how he ―cared for the souls‖ of
Athenians: the gadfly.
12. How does he explain the moral authority that guides him as a ―sort of divine and
daimonic thing . . . a sort of voice‖ (p. 47)? What do you understand this to be?
13. Why do you think a slight majority of jurors voted ―guilty‖?
14. In the penalty phase of the trial, what do you think Socrates’ motives were? What
suggestions did he make to the jurors for a penalty? Was he being sincere, humorous, or
15. How did he face the prospect of death? What attitude toward death did he ―model‖ for
the jurors? How did he predict how distraught and sorry the Athenians would be for
condemning him?
16. Does Xenophon’s account of the trial support Plato’s—or does it contradict it in some
ways? How is this Socrates not quite so unique or morally autonomous as Plato’s? How
do you evaluate Xenophon’s claim that Socrates was old and tired—and just wanted to
end his life by antagonizing the jurors to render the death penalty?
17. In the dialogue ―Crito‖ why does Plato invent an imaginary conversation between
Socrates and the Laws of Athens themselves? Is this conversation consistent or
inconsistent with the moral autonomy Socrates proclaimed in the ―Apology‖?
18. From the ―Phaedo,‖ be able to describe in detail the cause and manner of Socrates’ death.
Was the way he faced death consistent or inconsistent with his character? In relation to
his life, was his death: appropriate? tragic? ironic? absurd? What do you think is the
meaning of his enigmatic last words?
1. What extraordinary advantages did Alexander have at his birth (= his physis)? Know
who his father Philip II was--and the great potential of Macedonia as a land and powerful
state in the fourth century BCE.
2. What was unusual about Alexander’s mother Olympias? How did his parents’ turbulent
marriage impact his upbringing? How was the world of Macedonian dynastic family
politics very different from the world of the Greek city-states?
3. Which anecdotes about Alexander’s birth, boyhood and adolescence predict his
remarkable but also troubled life?
4. While still a teenager, how did Alexander emerge as a rival to his father? Do you think
Alexander and./or Olympias had anything to do with Philip’s assassination in 346 BC?
5. How did Alexander inherit Philip’s great project of invading and conquering the Persian
Empire? Why was the Macedonian army a superior fighting force to the Persian army?
6. Be able to describe in a few detailed sentences the key battles at the Granicus River (334
BC in modern Turkey), Issus (333 in Syria) and Gaugamela (331 in Iraq). Pay special
attention to Alexander’s strategy and the behavior of King Darius III at Issus and
Gaugamela. (Use Arrian as your main source, but compare the accounts in Plutarch.)
7. When Alexander entered Egypt, what mysterious event occurred at the Oracle of Ammon
in the oasis of Siwah? What’s your opinion about what really happened?
8. As a King of Persia, what new challenges did Alexander face? How did some peoples of
the Persian Empire resist him? How did some of his own Macedonians resist him?
Know the key conspiracies of Philotas and the Royal Pages, Alexander’s murder of
Cleitus, the fates of Parmenion and Callisthenes.
9. Why did Alexander insist on invading India? How did he defeat King Porus and his
elephants? Why did his men mutiny at the Beas River and refuse to advance farther?
10. How did Alexander continue to experience leadership problems when he returned to
Persia and then Babylon? Compare the accounts of his death in Plutarch and Arrian. Be
able to describe in detail the cause and manner of his death. How are there two different
causes of his death? Was the way he faced death consistent or inconsistent with his
character? In relation to his life, was his death: appropriate? tragic? ironic? absurd?
What do you think is the meaning of his enigmatic last words?