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Review sheets: a measure of the relevance of all topics and readings

This page contains a list of the topics presented in each class, with an indication of their relevance for the midterm and the final exam. This way you can study intelligently and make the best use of the time that you have available for this class. The importance of each topic is marked with 0-3 stars:
(***) = indispensable (60% of exam questions from these topics);
(**) = very important (30% of exam questions from these topics);
(*) = important (10% of exam questions from these topics);
no star = less important (no exam questions or just bonus questions from these topics).
The same system is also applied to the required readings assigned each week. They are listed here at the end of each week.

This page was last updated on May 3, 2006, at 11:53 AM.
All topics from weeks 1-14 are listed and classified here.

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Week 1 (Jan. 23, Jan. 25)

Topics (Jan. 23)
0.1 A general overview of the class; the web site; the syllabus.

Topics (Jan. 25)
(*) 1.1 Different Italians. The South and the North of Italy.
(*) 1.2 The slow process of political unification.
(**) 1.3 Dual identities throughout Italian history. Unifying factors in Italian civilization.
(***) 1.4 "La parola Italia" [The word Italy].
(*) 1.5 Obstacles along the path to Italy’s cultural and political unification: geography and history.
(**) 1.6 Italian proverbs and the strength of local cultures/identities.
(**) 1.7 The Italian national anthem. Giorgio Gaber's song "I don't feel Italian" (2003).

Required readings:
(*) - from the textbook, The Oxford Illustrated History of Italy, ed. By George Holmes, read the Editor's Foreword (pp. v-vii).

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Week 2 (Jan. 30, Feb. 1)

Topics (Jan. 30)
2.0 Announcements. Italian Civ. in the news.
(*) 2.1 Brief history of the Jewish communities in Italy.
2.2 The paper: recommendations and ideas, format, topics, drafts. Plagiarism, with examples.
2.3 The exams. Preparing for the exams.
(**) 2.4 The Italian flag. The emblem of the Italian Republic.
(***) 2.5 National Italian identity and the issue of language. Standard Italian: its components. Standard Italian and literature. Tuscan, Florentine and Italian literature, culture and society. Literary Tuscan and Italian culture/society.
(*) 2.6 Neolatin vernaculars in Italy. Examples of present-day Italian dialects.
(*) 2.7 Body language in Italian society. Excerpts from “Gesture in Italian Speech,” by Laura Raffa. Italian gestures.
(*) 2.8 Bilingualism and diglossia in Italy. Bilingualism in the emigrant Italian communities.
2.9 Foreign languages spoken in Italy.

Topics (Feb. 1)
3.0 Announcements.
(*) 3.1 Statistics and data about modern Italy.
(*) 3.2 OECD: demographics, population (1989-2004). Demographics, by age (1960-1999). Ageing societies (2005, 2020). Foreign population (1989-2002). Population growth rate (1993-2003). Public support per child in the EU.
3.3 Gross Domestic Product (2002). Average economic growth of real GDP (1991-2005).
(*) 3.4 Unemployment rates (1991-2003). Part-time employment (1991-2003).
(*) 3.5 Government deficits (1991-2003).
(*) 3.6 Expenditure on R&D (1995-2000).
3.7 Censis: what Italians worry about(1997-2000).
3.8 Censis: multiculturalism in Italian schools (1998-99).
3.9 This topic was removed from the lesson plan.
(**) 3.10 The Italian census of 2001: demographics, families. Foreign-born residents. Geographic distribution. Distribution by municipality. Internal migration.
(**) 3.11 Chronology of Italian civilization. The Roman/Latin Era (753 BCE-476 CE).
(***) 3.12 The Middle Ages (476-1375). The preservation of medieval culture and the revival of medieval traditions in Tuscany. Neo-guelphism. Maurice Hewlett and the Anglo-American travelers from the early 1900s.

Required readings:
(**) - Maurice Hewlett and Tuscany's hidden treasures.

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Week 3 (Feb. 6, Feb. 8)

Topics (Feb. 6)
4.0 Announcements - Questions and comments.
(*) 4.1 Humanism (1375-1475): culture and the arts. Socio-political trends.
(**) 4.2 Renaissance (1476-1550): political events.
(*) 4.3 Modernity (1551-1861): culture and politics.
(**) 4.4 The last 150 years: unification; the monarchy; the two World Wars; fascism; the Republic.
(**) 4.5 Federalism: the Northern League. The reform of the Constitution: the federal Senate. The Assembly of the Republic.
(*) 4.6 The Savoia: Italy's former royal family.
4.7 The Savoia and Rome's Pantheon.
(***) 4.8 Italy and Europe. The foundation of the European Union. 1973-1995: the European Union grows. 2003-2006: the EU 25. The European Union and the euro.
(**) 4.9 The main institutions of the EU.
(*) 4.10 What kind of federation will the European Union become? Italy's positions.
(*) 4.11 "A union of minorities." A federation of states, not a super-state. "What global language?"

Topics (Feb. 8)
5.0 Announcements.
(**) 5.1 Italy 1000 BCE -- 400 BCE. The Etruscans: geography and basic historical facts. The Etruscans and the Romans.
(***) 5.2 Excerpts from The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria by George Dennis (London, 1848).
5.3 Some texts on Etruscan civilization and today’s Tuscany.
(*) 5.4 The Indo-Europeans arrive in Italy. Indo-European languages: the latest theories.
(**) 5.5 Early Italy: the Greeks.
(***) 5.6 Contributions by the Greeks to Roman civilization. Foundational myths of the Romans: Romulus and Remus, Aeneas.
(*) 5.7 The Griko dialect and the Italian Greeks.
(*) 5.8 The Carthaginians.
5.9 Early Italy: other cultures and peoples.
(**) 5.10 Characteristics of the ancient Romans.

Required readings:
(*) - from the textbook, The Oxford Illustrated History of Italy, read pp. 1-15.

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Week 4 (Feb. 13, Feb. 15)

Topics (Feb. 13)
6.0 Announcements.
(***) 6.1 More on the foundational myths of the Romans.
(**) 6.2 The relevance of Roman civilization. Pompei. "Pompeii's Erotic Frescoes Awake," by Melinda Henneberger (NYT, 2001).
(**) 6.3 What remains of Roman civilization (cultural evidence). The Calendar.
(**) 6.4 Roman law. The idea of a secular state. Written laws, precedents, the discretion of judges. Judges and jurists. Law and society. Public and private law. Justinian.
(**) 6.5 The American Founding Fathers and Rome. The US as the new Rome. Palladio. Jefferson in France. The US Capitol. George Washington as Cincinnatus.
6.6 Neoclassical architecture in the US.
(***) 6.7 "There's Nothing Conservative About the Classics' Revival," by Garry Wills (NYT, 1997). Women studies. Multiculturalizing the canon. Subversive classics. Intentional omissions and the notion of a "classical age." Multiculturalism in the Aeneid. Black Athena. The study of Latin. Classics in translation.
(**) 6.8 The classics in the Italian curriculum.
(*) 6.9 Classical architecture in Italy: barbarians and Barberinis. The vanishing of bronze statues. Marcus Aurelius. Master Gregory visits Rome.

Topics (Feb. 15)
7.0 Announcements.
(**) 7.1 Ancient Rome: the monarchy. Gary Forsythe on the seven kings of Rome. Livy's History of Rome: Book 1, Preface.
(*) 7.2 Niccolò Machiavelli, on the religion of the Romans. Religion as a political tool. Maurizio Viroli, Machiavelli's God (2006).
(**) 7.3 Ancient Rome: the Republic. Livy's History of Rome (Bk. 1, Preface): national character, military expansion.
(**) 7.4 Social classes in Roman society. Patricians and Plebeians.
(***) 7.5 Foreigners and slaves in ancient Rome. Slaves in Roman society: familia urbana. "The Cultural Significance of Roman Manumission." Slaves in the fields: familia rustica. William Fitzgerald, Slavery and the Roman Literary Imagination (2000).
7.6 Meals of the Romans (from C.A.E. Luschnig, "Potes esurire mecum"). Wine, conviviality. The Roman dining room. The table napkins of the clients. Sauces made with fish or wine. Apicius's recipe book.

Required readings:
(***) - read the following excerpts from the Roman historian Livy, recounting the foundational myths of the Romans.

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Week 5 (Feb. 20, Feb. 22)

Topics (Feb. 20)
(*) 8.1 Rome vs. Carthage (270 BCE). The 3 Punic wars. Roman historian Livy on the 2nd Punic war (bk. 21).
(*) 8.2 Contemporary Italian songs on Hannibal.
(**) 8.3 The last 100 years of the Roman Republic. The Roman Empire. Time, history, life. Simple progress vs. constant progress. The cyclical movement of time. Cyclical time in Machiavelli's political theories.
(***) 8.4 The historical novel Pompeii (2003), by Robert Harris. The main characters in the novel. The plot and the organization of the events. Historical elements and the themes associated with them.

Topics (Feb. 22)
9.0 Announcements.
(**) 9.1 James Hay, Popular Film Culture in Fascist Italy (1987). Popularity of Roman civilization in Fascist Italy.
(**) 9.2 Scipione l'africano (dir. Carmine Gallone, 1937). Fascism and the ancient Romans. Scipio and Mussolini. Mussolini and the Greco-Roman heroes.
(*) 9.3 The plot of Scipione l'africano.
(***) 9.4 Italy past and present in the movie Scipione l'Africano.
9.5 Hannibal in popular culture.

Required readings:
(**) - excerpts from James Hay, Popular Film Culture in Fascist Italy (Acrobat file).

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Week 6 (Feb. 27, Mar. 1)

Topics (Feb. 27)
(*) 10.1 Spartacus and the 1951 novel by Howard Fast.
(*) 10.2 The plot of the movie Spartacus.
(***) 10.3 Hollywood and ancient Rome: Spartacus and Italian geography. Spartacus and the Roman empire. Romans in Spartacus. The Roman senators in Spartacus. Sex and decadence in Spartacus. The disconnect between Roman civilization and Italian history. Ethnicity in Spartacus.
(*) 10.4 The plot of the movie Gladiator.
(***) 10.5 Gladiator and the greatness of Rome. Gladiator and Italy. Gladiator and the themes of ambition, progress.

Topics (Mar. 1)
(**) 11.0 Comments on a map of the Roman empire (25 BCE).
11.1 Summary of the excerpts from The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, by Edward N. Luttwak, 1976.
(***) 11.2 From Edward N. Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire. The fundamentals. Superiority of the Romans? Weaponry and leadership. Political goals and the military. Political use of military power. Conserve force, advance slowly. Avoid losses whenever possible. A complex security system, hard to bring down. Deterrence.
(***) 11.3 The siege of Masada, 70-73 CE.
(***) 11.4 Systems of imperial security. Goals and results of the 3 systems.
(*) 11.5 About the Roman infantry. Discipline and propaganda in the Roman army. The organization of the Roman army. Josephus describes the Roman army: the chain of command, the ranks.
11.6 Optional readings on the life of Roman soldiers.
(*) 11.7 Tacitus and the idea of a decadent Roman empire: summary of topics.
(*) 11.8 Publius Cornelius Tacitus: his life and career. The Germania.
(**) 11.9 The rediscovery of Tacitus by humanists.
(**) 11.10 Tacitus and Tacitism during the late Renaissance.
(**) 11.11 Classical historiography. Decadence in the history books of the Romans. Roman historiography and the Senate. Roman historiography and the Emperors.

Required readings:
(**) - Tacitus describes a mutiny of the Roman legions (from the Annals, Book I).

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Week 7 (Mar. 6, Mar. 8)

Topics (Mar. 6)
12.0 Announcements.
12.1 The midterm: sample questions 1-5.
(***) 12.2 The mutiny of the legions: Percennius. Tacitus' agenda. The premise. The instigator. The reaction of the soldiers. The reaction of the commanding officer. The aftermath of the first mutiny. Mutiny spreads to strategic areas of the Empire. The inadequate reaction of the Emperor; a worrysome pattern at the court. The simple strategy of Drusus, the simple minds of the soldiers. Tiberius' letter: political maneuvering, the blame game and other tricks of absolute rulers. The primitive minds of the soldiers, the casual tactics of Drusus. The superstition of the soldiers, judged by the Stoic thinker Tacitus. The massacre that ended the second mutiny, in Germany.
(*) 12.3 The life of Nero: chronology of the main events.
(**) 12.4 How Nero becomes Emperor at the age of 17.
(***) 12.5 The murder of Agrippina. Elements of a literary tragedy inside the narration of the murder of Agrippina.

Topics (Mar. 8)
(***) 13.1 Tacitus: the sin of incest, the art of innuendo. Incest, superstition, verisimile. Agrippina's theatrical death: a tragic fate. After the crime: guilt, panic, hypocrisy, escape. The responsibility and incompetence of the Senate: the opposition has high moral values, lacks a plan. The consequences of sinful behavior.
13.2 Suetonius on the Golden House of Nero.
13.3 The first Roman Emperors.
13.4 More optional readings on Nero and Tacitus.
(*) 13.5 Claudio Monteverdi's opera on Nero, The Coronation of Poppaea. Nero the immoral tyrant, whose behavior affects the moral sanity of single souls. Power and personal whims. The immoral conclusion, the final duet. Ettore Petrolini's Nero (1930): a parody of Mussolini?

Required readings
(***) - Tacitus about Nero and Agrippina, the great fire of Rome and the Christians (from the Annals, Books XII, XIV and XV);
(*) - from the textbook, The Oxford Illustrated History of Italy, read pp. 19-26.

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Week 8 (Mar. 13, Mar. 15)

Topics (Mar. 13)
14.0 Announcements.
(**) 14.1 Recent attempts to explain the fall of the Roman empire.
(***) 14.2 The beginning of the end: Commodus. Septimus Severus (193-211 CE). Trade deficit, the mines, hyperinflation. Diocletian (284-305 CE): his temporary solutions. His political reforms. Living conditions in the rural areas. Reduced mobility, the Empire divided. Constantine (305-337 CE). Constantine's donation. Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). The end. Valerio Massimo Manfredi, The Last Legion (2002).
(*) 14.3 Europe and the Mediterranean after the fall of the Roman empire (circa 500 CE).
(**) 14.4 Final remarks on the fall of the Roman Empire. Aldo Schiavone, The End of the Past: Ancient Rome and the Modern West (Harvard UP, 2000).

Topics (Mar. 15)
15.0 Announcements.
(***) 15.1 Valerio Massimo Manfredi, The Last Legion (2002): the plot, the characters, the themes. Key ideas behind the book.
(*) 15.2 Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) and The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788). Gibbon's 'temporary' conversion to Catholicism. His 1764 visit to Rome and his decision to write about Rome. The goals of his work on Rome, and its success. Key ideas.

Required readings
(*) - Edward Gibbon, General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West (from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [1782], Vol. 3, Chapt. 38);
(*) - from the textbook, The Oxford Illustrated History of Italy, read pp. 27-31.

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Week 9 (Mar. 20, Mar. 22)

Topics (Mar. 20)
(*) 16.1 The life and death of Roman poet Lucretius.
(***) 16.2 Lucretius: On the Nature of Things. Atomism and materialism. Lucretius and Epicurus.
(***) 16.3 Religion as a social practice in ancient Rome. The religion of ancient Romans: sacrificial offerings. Superstition. Ethics, religion and politics.
(**) 16.4 Seneca and the practice of self-examination.
(***) 16.5 Cato the Elder, The Harvest Ritual (circa 160 BCE). The prayer of Scipio Africanus (from Livy, History of Rome). Actual inscriptions from Roman temples. Certificate of sacrifice to the traditional pagan gods (250 CE).

Topics (Mar. 22)
17.0 Announcements.
17.1 Review session, in preparation for the midterm.

Required readings
(**) - St. Augustine, excerpts from The City of God: on the virtues of the ancient Romans, on God and the Roman empire;
(*) - from the textbook, The Oxford Illustrated History of Italy, read pp. 31-38.

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Week 11 (Apr. 3, Apr. 5)

Topics (Apr. 3)
18.0 Announcements.
(**) 18.1 The ancient Romans, polytheism, and the gods of other religions. St. Paul in Athens. The deification of Roman emperors. The early Christians and the meat of the Pagans.
(**) 18.2 The Roman way of life: ancient Romans and other cultures.
(***) 18.3 The ancient Romans, the Jews, and the Christians. Messianism and politics.
(***) 18.4 Tacitus on the Christians in Rome.
(***) 18.5 Pliny's letter to the Emperor Trajan.
(*) 18.6 Alexamenos and his god.
(*) 18.7 Excerpt from "Cocullo Snake charmers, A pagan and Christian tradition" by Elena Foresti. St. Anthony's feast in Capena.
(*) 18.8 Excerpts from Michael Carroll, Madonnas that Maim. Popular Catholicism in Italy, Chapter 4, "The Dark Side of Holiness".
(***) 18.9 St. Augustine (354-430). The Manicheans. St. Ambrose and the allegorical interpretation of the Bible, of faith and life. St. Augustine’s conversion. The frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli in San Gimignano.

Topics (Apr. 5)
19.0 Announcements.
(***) 19.1 St. Augustine on grace and salvation, on the sack of Rome, on God and the Roman Empire.
(**) 19.2 How St. Augustine read the classics.
(**) 19.3 St. Augustine: metaphors that he popularized and that are still popular among Christians.
19.4 The 4 Latin doctors of the Church, in a medieval manuscript: Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory.
(**) 19.5 The Temporal Reward Which God Granted To The Romans (from St. Augustine's The city of God, 5.15).
(**) 19.5 Examples of the extraordinary virtues of the ancient Romans: Mucius.
19.6 Ferdinand Bol, Titus Manlius Torquatus Beheading His Son (1661-63). Rubens, Mucius Scaevola and Porsenna (1620). Giambattista Tiepolo, Mucius Scaevola (1750-53).
(**) 19.7 The virtues of the Romans, from The city of God.
(***) 19.8 Christianity and Roman civilization. St. Augustine and medieval culture.
(***) 19.9 Conclusions.

Required readings
(**) - from the textbook, The Oxford Illustrated History of Italy, read pp. 38-58.

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Week 12 (Apr. 17, Apr. 19)

Topics (Apr. 17)
20.0 Announcements and introduction.
(***) 20.1 The Middle Ages: the definition. Localization and fragmentation. Society and culture.
(***) 20.2 The Middle Ages: the dark age? The originality of medieval culture.
(**) 20.3 The Eastern Roman Empire expands its influence (6th century).
(**) 20.4 Charlemagne (742-814), king of the Franks.
(***) 20.5 Papacy and the Empire.
(***) 20.6 Chivalric literature. The pupi siciliani. The great modern pupari.
(*) 20.7 Italo Calvino, The castle of crossed destinies (1969).
(***) 20.8 Feudalism. The pyramid of power inside Feudalism. The castles. Lord and vassal: mutual rights and obligations.

Topics (Apr. 19)
21.0 Announcements. The midterm.
(***) 21.1 St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1182-1226): his life.
(**) 21.2 Giotto and St. Francis of Assisi.
(***) 21.3 St. Francis of Assisi, The Canticle of the Sun.
(***) 21.4 The Canticle of the Sun: religious sources.
(***) 21.5 St. Francis and Christian religion.
(***) 21.5 On perfect gladness (from the Little Flowers of St. Francis).
(***) 21.6 The theory of the four elements. The theory of the natural place. A model of the universe. Aristotle's first mover.
(**) 21.7 Aristotle in Western culture. Galileo Galilei and the followers of Aristotle.
(**) 21.8 Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).
(**) 21.9 A modern opera on St. Francis of Assisi: excerpts from "The Vision of a Mystic" By Anthony Tommasini, NYT, Sept. 30, 2002.

Required readings
(***) - St. Francis of Assisi, The Canticle of the Sun;
(**) - from the textbook, The Oxford Illustrated History of Italy, read pp. 58-68.

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Week 13 (Apr. 24, Apr. 26)

Topics (Apr. 24)
22.0 Announcements. The midterm: final results. Summary of topics: the Italian Middle Ages and Dante.
(***) 22.1 The medieval City-state (commune, it. comune).
(**) 22.2 Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).
(*) 22.3 Florence, Orsanmichele.
(***) 22.4 Dante Alighieri: his works.
(**) 22.5 The structure of Dante's Inferno (Hell).
(***) 22.6 Inferno, Canto 4.
(***) 22.7 Excerpts from Italian studies in North America. Ed. by Massimo Ciavolella and Amilcare A. Iannucci. Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions, 1994.
(**) 22.8 Dante and the Italian language.
(**) 22.9 Inferno, Canto 5: references to classical civilization.
(***) 22.10 Canto 5: the characters, the sources. The historical evidence.
(***) 22.11 Canto 5: the literary sources (Dante, Boccaccio).
(***) 22.12 Inferno, Canto 5: pity and attraction in Dante. Francesca speaks to Dante using the language of courtesy. Dante's reaction. The opposition between sinful literature and the new enlightening literature of the Comedy.
(**) 22.13 The Dante Club: "All Literary Allusions Abandon, Ye Who Enter Here," By Janet Maslin, NYT Feb. 7, 2003.
(**) 22.14 Roberto Benigni and Dante.

Topics (Apr. 26)
23.0 Announcements. The final exam: topics, format and grading; instructions and rules.
(***) 23.1 The world in the Middle Ages.
(**) 23.2 The house of Dante in Florence.
(***) 23.3 Giovanni Boccaccio's life.
(***) 23.4 The Decameron (1348-51). The structure of the Decameron.
(***) 23.5 Multiple points of view in Ciappelletto's novella (Dec. 1.1).
(**) 23.6 Analysis of the novella.
(***) 23.7 Pierpaolo Pasolini's Decameron (1971).
(***) 23.8 Boccaccio's novella and its protagonist, Ciappelletto.
(***) 23.9 Boccaccio's novella: final notes.

Required readings
(*) - Introduction to Dante's Inferno:;
(**) - Paolo and Francesca (Canto 5): (focus on the episode of the two lovers, vv. 70-142).
(**) - The first novella from Boccaccio's Decameron, the novella of Ciappelletto (link points to an external server, which may be slow at times).

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Week 14 (May 1, May 3)

Topics (May 1)
24.0 Announcements. Concorso d'Eleganza. The submission of the paper. The final exam.
(***) 24.1 Humanism.
(***) 24.2 Italy during the Renaissance.
(*) 24.3 The life of Leonardo, from
(***) 24.4 Leonardo da Vinci: the myth. Vasari's vested interest, Burckhardt's Romantic ideal. Leonardo’s defects and failures. His portrait.
(***) 24.5 Vasari's portrayal of the artist as an intellectual genius. The Renaissance artist as a thinker and a great man, the equal of Dukes and Kings. Leonardo's death in Vasari (1568 version, normalized to fit into the culture of the Counter-Reform).
24.6 The Virgin and St. Ann, 1510.
(***) 24.7 Leonardo's inventions. Excerpts from an interview with Paolo Galluzzi, curator of the exhibition "Innovative Engineers of Renaissance" (2001).
(**) 24.8 Final remarks on Leonardo and Vasari.
24.9 Appendix: Leonardo's inventions in the context of late-Medieval and Renaissance technology: please download this collection of images in Acrobat format (2.1 MB), not in Powerpoint format (36 MB!).

Topics (May 3)
25.0 Announcements.
(*) 25.1 The life of Machiavelli (1469-1527).
25.2 Machiavelli: other works.
(*) 25.3 His letter to Francesco Vettori, Dec. 10, 1513.
25.4 The prince, dedication.
(*) 25.5 Traditional historiography.
25.6 Renaissance culture.
25.6 Vasari's Life of Leonardo.
25.7 Machiavelli's experience.
25.8 Human nature.
(**) 25.9 Chap. 7, New principalities acquired with help of others. The first conclusion, with a positive judgment of Borgia's actions. The second and final set of statements, with a different assessment of Borgia's actions (multiple points of views).
26.1 References to Leonardo and to Italian civilization in Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code (2003).

Required readings
(*) - from the textbook, The Oxford Illustrated History of Italy, read pp. 76-85;
(**) - Read Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists: Leonardo Da Vinci (1550);
(***) - Read Chapter VII from Machiavelli's The Prince;
(*) - Read Chapter VIII from The Prince;
(**) - Read Chapter XVII from The Prince;
(**) - Read Chapter XXV from The Prince.

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