Chapter study guides introduction and humanities primer

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Instructor: John Hardin


  • Which two authors do Matthews and Platt quote at the beginning of the introduction and what do you understand these statements to say about the study of the past?

  • What kind of world do Matthews and Platt suggest we will live in if we do not study the past; what problems might develop?

  • How do Matthews and Platt define a historical period?

  • How do Matthews and Platt define a cultural style?

  • What three broad historical periods do Matthews and Platt discuss in the introduction?

  • At the conclusion of the introduction, what do Matthews and Platt say is “the purpose of all education”?

  • In “A Humanities Primer”, what do Matthews and Platt say will happen if we never go beyond the “first careless rapture” we experience with a work of art?

  • What do Matthews and Platt say must happen for us to understand a work of art?

  • What is formalism?

  • What is contextualism?

  • What three different forms of art do Matthews and Platt briefly analyze in the “Humanities Primer”? Give the title and artist of a work of each artform included in the discussion.

  • What are some suggestions that Matthews and Platt make for what makes a work “great”?

Prehistory and Early Cultures

  • How is the terms “culture” defined in the textbook? How is the term “civilization” defined in the textbook?

  • By what means do the authors suggest that culture is primarily passed on? By what means do the authors suggest that civilization is primarily passed on?

  • What two accounts of the creation of the earth do Matthews and Platt combine in a metaphor to help us better understand the evolution of our planet and humanity’s place on it?

  • What term is used to designate humans’ earliest cultural period and what does this term mean?

  • What are the three cultural periods that the prehistoric era is typically divided into?

  • Briefly describe how our Stone Age ancestors lived.

  • What types of evidence have been discovered to give us insight into prehistoric human life?

  • What artifacts mark human beings’ breakthrough to symbolic thought?

  • What theory regarding the purpose of prehistoric paintings is briefly discussed in this chapter?

  • Briefly describe the physical form and the possible meaning and purpose of the Figurine from Willendorf (The “Venus” of Willendorf)..

  • Which revolution that permanently altered the course of the human experience took place at the dawn of the Neolithic period?

  • Prehistoric periods – and some historic periods – are often defined by technologies used during them. What two different materials that were used to create tools define the cultural periods that are discussed in chapter one?

Ancient Mesopotamia

  • What great rivers did Ancient Mesopotamia develop around?

  • What contemporary country encompasses much of the terrain of ancient Mesopotamia?

  • Which three major civilizations successively developed in ancient Mesopotamia?

  • Who was Sumer’s most successful and inspirational king and in what text are this king’s heroic adventures immortalized?

  • Who was the first and greatest of the Akkadian kings?

  • Who was the most successful leader of the Babylonians?

  • How did the geography of Mesopotamia affect the development of these cultures?

  • Of all the technologies that were developed by and influenced Mesopotamian culture, one of the most significant was writing. Why is writing an incredibly important part of human civilization?

  • Name and briefly describe the three stages Sumerian writing evolved through.

  • Briefly describe and define three important characteristics of Mesopotamian religion.

  • Of the influential themes expressed in The Epic of Gilgamesh, which do you think is most important today? Briefly explain the reasoning for your choice.

  • What is the most important set of ancient Mesopotamian laws? What significant concepts and attitudes do we inherit from ancient Mesopotamian law?

  • What is depicted in the relief sculpture at the top of the stele of The Code of Hammurabi?

  • What purposes did art serve in ancient Mesopotamia?

  • What is a ziggurat?

Ancient Egypt

  • What great river was central to ancient Egyptian civilization and how did it influence Egyptian cultural attitudes?

  • Which great Egyptian king unified upper and lower Egypt?

  • What did the pharaoh represent in ancient Egypt?

  • Which female pharaoh is briefly discussed in this chapter and what great architectural work symbolizes her reign?

  • What religious/political system did ancient Egyptians follow?

  • Briefly describe the revolutionary changes that occurred under the reign of Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) during the Amarna period.

  • What are hieroglyphics?

  • Under whose reign was the Great Pyramid at Giza built and what purpose did it serve?

  • What primary purpose did art, particularly sculpture, serve in Ancient Egypt?

  • What characteristics are associated with the Classical style of Egyptian sculpture? Name a work that is used in illustrate these traits.

  • Briefly describe how human figures were traditionally depicted in ancient Egyptian painting.

Heirs to the Mesopotamian and Egyptian Empires

(some material only in sixth edition)

  • What made the Hittites such a successful warrior people?

  • What are “the most lasting works” of the Hittites?

  • Briefly describe Assyrian culture.

  • What did the Assyrian Human-Headed Winged Bull symbolize and what purpose did it serve?

  • What modern nation is situated on what was the heart of the Persian Empire?

  • Which great Persian leaders are discussed in this section?

  • What do the authors consider to be “the most original and enduring of Persia’s legacies”?

Introduction to Chapter Two

  • What ties most citizens of contemporary western culture to ancient Greece (rather than ancient Mesopotamia or ancient Egypt)?

  • In which fields did the ancient Greeks lay the foundations for western civilizations?

Minoan Civilization

  • Where did Minoan civilization develop?

  • Briefly describe Minoan civilization and culture.

  • What is the most important archeological discovery from Minoan civilization?

  • Define frieze and fresco.

  • Briefly describe Minoan religious beliefs.

  • How did the Minoan civilization likely come to an end?

Mycenaean Civilization

  • How did the ancient Greeks learn of the Mycenaeans’ history and culture?

  • Where was Mycenaean civilization located?

  • Briefly describe Mycenaean civilization and culture.

  • What is the best-known Mycenaean ruin?

  • What is depicted on the bronze sword blade illustrated in figure 2.5?

  • Briefly describe Mycenaean religious beliefs.

  • What likely led to the downfall of the Mycenaeans?

  • What significant role did the Greek poet Homer play in ancient Greek culture?

Ancient Greek Culture and History

Archaic Age

  • Define polis (plural = poleis) and briefly describe the role of the polis in Archaic Greece.

  • Briefly describe the purpose and function of the acropolis and the agora.

  • What responsibility/duty was central to the life of a Greek citizen?

  • Briefly describe life in ancient Sparta and ancient Athens, two of the major cities in ancient Greece.

  • Who was Cleisthenes and how did he shape the development of Greek culture, particularly its political structure?

Hellenic Age

  • Which major events mark the beginning and the end of the Hellenic Age of Greece?

  • What did the Greeks highly regard and seek to achieve in their daily lives, a trait that is reflected in many Greek dramas?

  • The Hellenic Age is divided into four phases; name and briefly describe each of them.

  • Who was Pericles and why is he significant to the evolution of ancient Greece, particularly Athens?

  • Which “Great” king/emperor is discussed in this chapter and what was his great dream?

Hellenistic Age

  • What major events mark the beginning and end of the Hellenistic Age of Greece?

  • How did Hellenistic Greece differ from Hellenic Greece in terms of its political structure?

Ancient Greek Literature and Theatre
Chapter 2

  • What historical event serves as the backdrop for the Homeric epics the Iliad and the Odyssey?

  • Matthews and Platt claim that Homer’s poetry is comparable to a “modern combination” of what three powerful forces?

  • How did Homer’s poems serve an ethical function for ancient Greeks?

  • Who was the greatest writer of solo lyrics in ancient Greece and what was the central theme in many of her poems (including “He Seems to Be a God”)?

Chapter 3

  • Define the term “Classical.” Why is this term used to describe the main contributions of the ancient Greeks, particularly architecture and sculpture?

  • How was theatre related to religion in ancient Greece?

  • Why did the actors in ancient dramas wear masks?

  • Which ancient Greek philosopher is considered the first literary critic and what did this philosopher believe was the primary purpose of tragedy?

  • Which three Greek dramatists are discussed in chapter three? Name each of them and one of each of their tragedies.

  • What subjects were often the focus of Greek comedies?

  • Which playwright of Old Comedies and which of his plays is discussed in chapter three?

Chapter 4

  • How did the dramatic arts, particularly comedy, change in the Hellenistic age?

  • What is a “pastoral” poem and which leading pastoral poet is discussed?

Ancient Greek Thought
Chapter 2

  • What purposes did natural philosophy serve in ancient Greece?

  • Name the three Archaic philosophers discussed in chapter two and an idea that each one is associated with.

Chapter 3

  • Who was Herodotus and what significant contribution did he make to ancient Greek culture?

  • Who was Thucydides and what significant contribution did he make to ancient Greek culture?

  • What was the central emphasis in Pre-Socratic schools of thought?

  • Who were the Sophists and what did they focus on teaching?

  • Who do Matthews and Platt consider to be “the thinker who launched a new era of philosophy” and what is the central focus in his school of thought?

  • Describe the Socratic method of teaching.

  • How did the Athenians reward Socrates’ efforts?

  • Who was Socrates’ most famous student and what topics are emphasized in his school of thought?

  • Who do Matthews and Platt consider “the most comprehensive mind of the ancient world” and what is emphasized in his school of thought?

Chapter 4

  • Name and briefly describe the focus in each of the Hellenistic schools of philosophy discussed in chapter four.

Ancient Greek Religion and Architecture
Chapter 2

  • What role did religion play in the public affairs of ancient Greece?

  • What two major groups of deities did ancient Greeks revere?

  • Which literary works outline the Greek pantheon?

  • What type of building was the greatest architectural achievement of the ancient Greeks?

  • What purpose did the temple serve in ancient Greece?

  • What architectural system did Greek buildings generally follow?

  • What are the three traditional Greek orders (you’ll need to read all three sections on Greek architecture and synthesize the information)?

Chapter 3

  • What is considered to be the oldest and most famous sanctuary in ancient Greece?

  • How did the religious attitudes and traditions of the Greeks change in the Hellenic age?

  • How were ancient Greek architects able to achieve a great sense of balance and beauty in their buildings?

  • Which architects designed the Parthenon and to which god/goddess is this temple dedicated?

  • Other than the Parthenon, which major buildings are located at the Acropolis in Athens?

Chapter 4

  • How did the religious attitudes and traditions of the Greeks change in the Hellenistic age?

  • How did the purpose of the temple and the altar change in the Hellenistic age?

  • Why was the Corinthian order widely used in Hellenistic architecture? Name an example discussed in chapter four.

  • How does the Altar of Pergamum reflect the influence of temple designs?

Ancient Greek Sculpture
Chapter 2

  • Define “kouros” and “kore”, briefly describe their common features, and briefly explain the purpose that these sculptures served in the Archaic age.

  • How did ancient Greek sculpture differ from that of ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt?

Chapter 3

  • Briefly describe the Severe style and identify a sculpture that reflects this style.

  • Briefly describe the High Classical style and identify a sculpture that reflects this style.

  • Briefly describe the Fourth Century style and identify a sculpture that reflects this style.

  • Define the term “contrapposto” and briefly describe what this allows sculptors to do.

Chapter 4

  • How did the Hellenistic style of sculpture differ from the Hellenic styles?

  • Identify and briefly describe the work considered to be “the sublime masterpiece of Rhodian and Hellenistic art.”

Ancient Roman Culture and History

  • In what year was the city of Rome founded (chapter 5) and in what year did the Western Empire of Rome fall (chapter 7)?

  • Describe the traits of the ideal Roman citizen.

  • What cultural traditions shaped ancient Roman culture (consider the influence of the Etruscans and the Greeks)?

  • The Romans coined the term “humanities” to refer to …?

  • Which cultural traditions of ancient Rome have an influence on contemporary American culture?

  • What are the three phases of the political evolution of ancient Rome? Is there any similarity to the political evolution of the United States; if so, how so?

  • As Rome sought to conquer the Italian peninsula and eventually establish the largest empire in the West, how did they treat the various people that they defeated?

  • Why and when was Julius Caesar assassinated? How is this event a critical moment in ancient Roman history?

  • What is the Pax Romana and whose ascent to power marks its beginning?

  • What major crises did Rome face in the Late Age of the Empire and what solutions were proposed (chapter 5 and 7)?

  • What significance did Diocletian play in the politics of ancient Rome?

  • Which great Roman leader was Diocletian’s successor?

Ancient Roman Thought

  • Roman religion is described as “syncretic.” What does this mean?

  • Identify the three authors of “the Golden Age” of Roman literature that are discussed in chapter five and name one of each of their works.

  • What significance did the Aeneid play in ancient Roman culture?

  • What role did philosophy play in ancient Rome and which schools had the greatest impact?

  • What are some of the basic ideals of Roman law? Do these have any influence on contemporary American society; if so, how so?

Ancient Roman Architecture

  • In what area of the arts did the Romans make their greatest contribution?

  • What was the primary purpose of sculpture and architecture in ancient Rome?

  • What is considered the Romans’ most significant architectural innovation?

  • Which temple is recognized as one of the supreme achievements of Roman architecture?

  • What was the purpose of the Roman forum?

  • What purpose did monuments like the Arch of Titus and Trajan’s Column serve?

  • What does the Colosseum (the Flavian Ampitheatre) tell us about ancient Roman culture?

Ancient Roman Visual Arts and Music

  • What are the three phases of ancient Roman sculpture? Name an example of each phrase.

  • What is a mosaic?


  • How were Judaic beliefs passed on to Christians and Muslims?

  • Which Hebrew patriarch led his people to settle in Canaan?

  • What is a covenant?

  • Who led the Hebrews in their exodus from Egypt?

  • How do The Ten Commandments differ from other ancient codes of law?

  • What is the sacred name of the God of the Hebrews?

  • Which three major kings ruled over ancient Israel and under whose reign was the First Temple completed?

  • How did the Babylonian Captivity significantly influence the history and culture of the Jews?

  • What action did King Antiochus IV commit that caused the Maccabean clan to revolt?

  • What is the Western Wall/the Wailing Wall?

  • How is the Hebrew Bible organized – what are its majors sections?

  • How did the Hebrew Bible shape the beliefs, values, and worldview of the Jews?

  • Why is there no official Jewish religious painting or sculpture?

Chapter 6

  • What does the Greek term “Christ” mean?

  • How did the Roman authorities and leaders of the Jewish establishment view Jesus?

  • What miracle do Christians believe is the sign that Jesus is the Christ, as stressed in the writings of Paul?

  • Who are considered to be the authors of the four Gospels, when were these books written, and what primary purpose do they serve?

  • Besides the Gospels, what are the three other sections of the Christian New Testament? Briefly describe the significance of each set of writings.

  • What language was this canon of Christian writings originally composed in?

  • Who was largely responsible for carry Jesus’ message to non-Jewish (gentile) people in the first century A.D.?

  • How were the Christians typically treated in ancient Rome in the first three centuries (or so) A.D.?

  • Where is much Early Christian art, particularly paintings, to be found? Why is it located here?

  • How was Jesus often depicted in Early Christian art?

Chapter 7

  • Who was responsible for the Great Persecution and what was the result?

  • What is the significance of the Edict of Milan and which Roman emperor is responsible for it?

  • In what century did Christianity become the official religion of Rome and which Roman emperor made Christianity the official state religion?

  • Name the three “Fathers of the Early Christian Church” discussed in this chapter and cite a significant contribution that each made to the Christian faith.

  • Briefly describe the basilica plan and name each of the basic sections of this architectural design. Name an example of such a building discussed in this chapter.

  • Besides the basilica plan, which other major plan did Early Christian architecture follow? Name an example of such a building discussed in this chapter.

  • What is depicted in the mosaic above the entryway in the tomb of Galla Placidia?


  • What city served as the capital of Byzantium and where was it situated geographically?

  • What resources allowed the Byzantine Empire to survive while the Western Empire of Rome fell?

  • Which language became the official language of the church, state, and scholarship in the Byzantine Empire?

  • Who was Justinian?

  • What is an iconoclast?

  • What primary purpose did architecture serve in Byzantine culture? Briefly describe the Byzantine style of architecture.

  • What is a pendentive?

  • What magnificent church in Constantinople is illustrated and discussed in this chapter?

  • What was the significance of the city of Ravenna?

  • Which set of mosaics is discussed in this chapter and where are they housed?

  • How is Christ typically depicted in Byzantine art?

  • When did the Byzantine Empire fall?


  • Define the terms Islam and Muslim.

  • Which commercial city in southern Arabia was central to the development of Islam?

  • Who is the founder of Islam?

  • What challenges did Muhammad and his followers present to the leaders of the city of Mecca?

  • What is the Hegira and why is it significant to the history of Islam?

  • What is the Kaaba?

  • What are the two central beliefs of the Islamic faith?

  • What is the sacred text of Islam? What other texts are also studied?

  • What are the Five Pillars of the Islamic faith?

  • A term that is often misunderstood and misused is jihad. How is this term properly defined?

  • What contributions did Islamic scholars make in the Muslim “Golden Age”? Identify each of the individual scholars discussed in this chapter and a significant contribution that each made.

  • Define the terms arabesque, mosque, minaret and minbar.

  • What is the Dome of the Rock and where is it located?

Chapter 7

  • What was the primary source for a sense of safety and security for the majority of people living in Medieval Europe? (Hint: by the High Middle Ages, it became the dominant institution of the medieval world.)

  • Who was Charlemagne and how did he significantly contribute to the culture of the Early Middle Ages?

  • Who was Pope Gregory the Great and how did he significantly contribute to the culture of the Early Middle Ages?

  • Who was St. Benedict and what role did he play in the development of the Medieval Church?

  • What do Matthews and Platt consider to be one of the most important achievements of Charlemagne's palace school? Briefly explain why this achievement was incredibly important.

  • How does the story of Beowulf reflect the warrior culture of the Early Middle Ages?

Chapter 9

  • What is feudalism and how did it influence the development of medieval culture?

  • What is the chivalric code?

  • What form of rule was the political outgrowth of medieval feudalism?

  • What seven sacraments were officially proclaimed by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215?

  • The curriculum at cathedral schools, and later at the medieval university, consisted of which seven subjects?

  • What is scholasticism?

  • Who was Averroes?

  • Who was Thomas Aquinas and what role did he play in the debate between the philosophers and theologians at the University of Paris?

  • What is a chanson de geste? Name an example discussed in the assigned readings.

  • What well-known and popular legendary king became the subject of many medieval romances, particular those written by de Troyes?

  • Who was Dante Alighieri and what epic contribution did he make to medieval culture?

  • What was the primary purpose of the arts in the High Middle Ages?

  • Briefly describe the Romanesque style of architecture and identify a building (discussed in the readings) that reflects this style.

  • What purpose did Romanesque churches serve in the practices of the pilgrimage?

  • What is a tympanum?

  • Where did the term “Gothic”, at least as it applies to medieval art, originate?

  • Where did the Early Gothic style originate?

  • A well-known statement by the Abbot Suger is included in chapter ten – what does he believe provides a great resource for humans to “come to understand God”?

  • Briefly describe the Gothic style of architecture.

  • Identify a building (discussed in the readings) that reflects the Early Gothic style.

  • Identify a building (discussed in the readings) that reflects the High Gothic style.

  • A particular type of sculpted figure often adorns the exterior of Gothic cathedrals; what are these figures, and what practical and symbolic functions do they serve?

  • Which cathedral is home to the finest stained glass from the High Gothic era?

Chapter 10

  • What major disasters did Europe face in the Late Middle Ages? What were these interpreted to mean/symbolize?

  • Which great Florentine poet is discussed in this chapter?

  • Which great English author’s work, which focuses on a pilgrimage, is discussed in this chapter?

  • What was the chief aesthetic goal of Late Gothic architects?

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