Write an essay in which you contrast three different reflections on violence and war from our sources.

1. Many of the early societies that we have considered were forged by warriors, men who displayed martial valor and who used violence to achieve their ends. Our ancient texts describe many instances in which war was pursued for different reasons, but the documents are not neutral about the cost of this recourse to violence. Write an essay in which you contrast three different reflections on violence and war from our sources. These could be descriptions of warriors as heroes, or religious reflections on the need to lessen the recourse to violence.

2. The sources that we have read have offered many descriptions of kingship or other forms of political rule. Frequently, ancient rulers left accounts of their deeds and contemporary (or later) historians wrote descriptions of their policies and actions. What themes seem to be common to our ancient forms of rulership? Write an essay in which you compare three different ancient rulers based on the sources that we have. What are the main similarities between them and what are the main differences?

(important!!!!) Here is the TA’s suggestion:

From our Teaching Assistant:

The first thing I’d like to talk about is comparisons. Many of the questions you’ll be answering this semester will ask you to make comparisons and there are a few important things to keep in mind when writing a comparative assignment. First, just because an assignment is comparative doesn’t mean you don’t need an argument. Simply stating that three things are different is not sufficient in these assignments. For example, Greek beliefs were obviously different from Israelite Judaism, which in turn was obviously different from Vedic Brahmanism. This is true by definition, because if they weren’t different, they’d all be the same religion. Your job is to explain to the reader why these differences matter. Why did these differences arise? What effects did they have on adherents of these systems of belief? Answer these questions with a well-supported argument and you’re on your way to a good comparative assignment.

Secondly, think about the structure of your comparison and make sure you’re comparing like to like. That is, if you’re comparing Judaism to Hinduism, there are any number of potential things you could compare: style of ritual dress, artistic representations of deities, number of gods, etc. etc. Select only a few things to compare. For example, you might have compared Greek to Vedic Brahman sacrifices and discussed how the two reveal different ideas about the hierarchical ordering of the world.

Finally, consider arranging your comparisons thematically. If you’re comparing three aspects of three different belief systems’ rituals, rather than having a paragraph on each religion, have a paragraph on each aspect you’re comparing, with evidence drawn from multiple religions. This accomplishes two things. Firstly, it builds the comparison into the structure of your assignment, thus ensuring you don’t relegate the comparison (one of the main points of the assignment) to a final paragraph. Secondly, it helps you avoid the temptation to spend time on unnecessary introductory information, e.g. “Vedic culture was found in what is now modern-day India.”

Also, a common comment I’ve made on many assignments has to do with summary versus analysis. This guide here does a better job explaining the distinction between the two than I can and has concrete suggestions for how to tell if you’re summarizing too much. If that’s a comment I’ve given you on one of your assignments, I strongly urge you to take a look at the guide before writing your next assignment.