What is the course about?
Theophrastus, the philosopher and scientist who succeeded Aristotle at the Lyceum at Athens. The ‘father of western botany’, Theophrastus was also interested in animal and human behaviour. Theophrastus’ story is fascinating: as a scientist who wrote over two hundred treatises, many based on original research into the natural world of the eastern Mediterranean, his work remains stimulating and often relevant in a world subject to climate change. Theophrastus indicated a new understanding man’s place in the kosmos and the need for biological reasons to turn away from killing animals either for food or sacrifice.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
Following discussion of Theophrastus’ life, including his time with Aristotle in Assos and Lesbos, we enquire into some of his most exotic botanic observations, from silphium to hemlock, from the changing colour of the octopus to the chameleon. We discuss the fascinating text ‘On Weather Signs’. We cover also a selection of his ‘Characters’ which are often fun but still bite hard. Controversial texts referenced in the Wife of Bath and elsewhere in Chaucer, and Theophrastus’ view on the use of animals by humans, are also briefly explored.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Explain who Theophrastus was and why he is important in the history of both science and philosophy;
- Discuss the modernity or otherwise of the scientific method employed by Theophrastus in his ‘Enquiry into Plants’;
- Describe some of the characters you might encounter in Theophrastus’ Athens and what his contemporaries might have felt about them.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
No previous knowledge is required, although there will be recommended reading for each session. Books should be available from a library, although you might wish to buy particular texts if you wish to explore a topic further.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Most sessions involve the tutor presenting prepared talk or lecture, illustrated with slides. There are opportunities throughout for questions and discussion. These are illustrated with slides. As the course progresses you may wish to review an aspect of our course to the group, but this is not a requirement. Detailed notes and bibliographies, with suggested topics for further enquiry, are provided for each session.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You may well wish to buy some books to further your study. Although visits may be recommended, involving travel and entrance fees, these are not part of the course itself.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Any other Ancient Civilisations class. See website for details.