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Primary Source Essay:

In this assignment you will write an essay that includes analysis of a primary source or sources. Primary sources are documents or other artifacts that provide first-hand accounts of the time period that you are studying. Primary sources are created by participants in or witnesses to events at the time or close to the time that they occurred. Primary sources include laws, treaties, speeches, diaries, memoirs, letters, reports, government or other records, creative works, and for later periods, photographs, films etc.

Select ONE of the assignments below and write an essay answering the posted questions. Integrate what you have learned about the era from your text with your analysis of the primary source reading. Although you will be presented with several questions, integrate your responses into a unified whole.

An excellent primary source essay will do the following:

  • Explore relevant sections of the primary source(s) assigned.
  • Use and incorporate ideas, issues, or explanations from the primary source(s) assigned.
  • Specifically answer the question or questions asked. Do what the question requires (compare, evaluate etc.).
  • Briefly identify people, events, or terms mentioned.
  • Demonstrate a good knowledge of the historical context of the primary source(s) that can be found from the Spielvogel text.
  • Support all general statements with specific evidence (examples, events, quotations).
  • Organize ideas into a logical sequence.
  • Use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Formatting directions:

  • Do not include a cover page.
  • Put your name at the top of your essay.
  • Double-space and use a standard (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri) twelve point font.
  • Indent the first line of every paragraph. Include a Works Cited Page as part of the document if appropriate.
  • Spell check your essay before you submit it.
  • Submit by clicking “Primary Source Essay One” above.

 Assignment Selections:

A. READ the following selection about the battle of Thermopylae from Herodotus’ The Histories:


Using the Spielvogel textbook and The Histories write an essay of 4-5 pages answering the following questions:

  • Who is Herodotus and what is his significance?
  • What incidents in the primary source portray Xerxes as superstitious and tyrannical?
  • What do the events of the battle tell you about Spartan culture?
  • What values of Greek society does Herodotus’ narrative seem to promote?
  • Evaluate the significance of the Persian invasions on Greek political and intellectual development. What impact did they have on the development of the Athenian and Spartan states?


B. Or READ “Pericles’ Funeral Oration” from the The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. You may use any book source for this that you choose, but it is available at:


Also Read The Melian Debate at:


(You must read and analyze BOTH primary sources.)

Using the Spielvogel textbook and both primary sources write an essay of 4-5 pages answering the following questions:

  • What was the role of Athens in the culture and political life Greece in the fifth century B.C.E.?
  • Compare and contrast the depiction of Athenian democracy by Pericles with how a modern historian would evaluate Athenian democracy.
  • Contrast the Athenian statements to the Melians with the sentiments expressed by Pericles in his funeral oration. Does Athens seem to live up to beliefs that Pericles expresses in his funeral oration?


  • How do these readings help you to evaluate Athenian values and limitations?

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