Democracy in peril in ancient Athens
Using the Game
Setup: 2-5 Classes
The purpose of the “setup” session is not to “teach” the material but to provide students with an introduction to it--a roadmap they can consult when writing papers and strategizing. There are two obligatory setup sessions. The first introduces students to the historical context: the rise of Athenian democracy, the Peloponnesian war, and the reign of the Thirty Tyrants and the restoration of democracy. The second session provides an introduction to the major texts, especially the “Funeral Oration” by Pericles (Thucydides) and Plato’s Republic, an implicit criticism of democracy. A third session enables members of a faction to meet and to strategize for the first game session (and perhaps take a quiz). Students in history or classics classes who have already learned the historical context can skip the “historical context” session; and students in classics or philosophy who have already studied the Republic can omit the 2nd session. Some students may require extra sessions for further discussion of Plato's Republic or to figure out how Athenian democracy “works”.
Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive. The Threshold of Democracy may pair well with:
Class Size and Scalability
This game is recommended for classes with 11-50 students. Expanded role sheets and an expanded role assignment chart are available for Reacting Consortium Members.
Most students are assigned to one of four factions; and each factional student’s role sheet indicates two recommended writing assignments, one for the first half of the game, another for the second half. The remaining students are listed as “indeterminate,” and their assignments differ: Gorgias the Younger, a teacher of logic, will write a short paper after every session, indicating which speaker exhibited the best grasp of logic. Thucydides, by contrast, writes a “history” of what transpired during the game, to be submitted during the post-mortem. Diognetus may end up writing a scene from a play, while other indeterminates may be exercising substantial creativity in completing their writing assignments.
Reacting Consortium members can access all downloadable materials (including expanded and updated materials) below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading. Basic game materials (Gamebook, Role Sheets, Instructor's Guide, and Handouts) are available to any instructor through the publisher.
Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, role-specific resources or assignments, and their character's secret victory objectives.
.zip file of .pdf files.
.zip file of .pdf and .docx files.
Expanded Role Sheets 29-50. Updated August 2021. .pdf file.
The Instructor's Guide includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.
Expanded 50 Role Assignment Guide. Updated August 2021. .docx file.
Naomi Norman, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Georgia, is Associate Vice President for Instruction of the University of Georgia. Formerly Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Archaeology, she has directed the University of Georgia Excavations at Carthage (Tunisia) project since 1992. She also directs the Reacting to the Past program at the University of Georgia, which has hosted the Reacting Winter Conference since 2015.
Josiah Ober is the Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University and author of many books on Athenian democracy, including, most recently, Demopolis: Democracy before Liberalism in Theory and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2017)
Mark C. Carnes is a professor of history at Barnard College, Columbia University, co-author of six Reacting games, General Editor of the 24-volume American National Biography, and author of many works of history along with Minds on Fire: How Role-Immersion Games Transform College (Harvard University Press, 2014). He is also Executive Director of the Reacting Consortium, Inc.
Reacting and Related Titles