The Ephebe’s Journey Workshop

The Ephebe’s Journey Workshop

Becoming a Citizen and Leader in Ancient Greece and Modern America

August 1-2, 2014

Sounion - Photo by Bobby Lanar, 2013

This two-day workshop will introduce students with an interest in civic participation and leadership to aspects of democracy, one of the ancient world’s most lasting legacies. Working with Professors Norman Sandridge (Howard University) and Kenny Morrell (Rhodes College), the participants will focus on the type of democracy that the Athenians developed and practiced during the fifth and fourth centuries BCE.

No prior knowledge of the ancient world is required. Preparation will involve reading Philoctetes, a play by Sophocles, which Athenians experienced during the Festival of Dionysus in 409 BCE. Philoctetes depicts the coming-of-age story of Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, who wrestles with ethical and political questions about how best to serve his community’s cause in the Trojan War. The play has seen new attention in recent years because it treats such civic questions as, what is a young person’s role in a political community? how does one prepare for such a role? how do democracies use and misuse information? and how do we reconcile the needs of the community with self-interest? A translation of Sophocles’ Philoctetes available online at

The workshop will conclude with a discussion about the importance of the humanities especially within the context of national conversations about leadership and citizenship. Space is limited; college students and recent graduates who are working at policy institutions and congressional offices for the summer in Washington, DC, will have priority.



The deadline to submit applications was July 11, 2014. Applications are now closed

To apply for this workshop, please fill out the Ephebe’s Journey Registration Questionnaire. If you have any questions about the workshop or the application, please contact us.

Schedule of Sessions

Friday, August 1




5:00-6:00 p.m. Reception Common Room/Courtyard
6:00-9:00 p.m. First Session House A

  • Viewing of The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt (2009)
    • Discussion of the process of Queen Victoria’s leadership transformation.

Saturday, August 2




8:00-9:00 a.m. Breakfast Downstairs dining room
9:00-10:30 a.m. First Session House A
  The leadership transformation as experienced Today 

  • Discussion of the participant survey.
  • Identifying the common moments, roles, experiences, and settings for the contemporary leadership transformation.

Guest Lecture

Thomas Henderson on the Athenian Ephebate

10:30-11:00 a.m. Coffee Break House A
11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Second Session House A
  Discussion of Philoctetes, lines 1-921 (1-675 in the original Greek). 

  • The relationship between Athenian drama and democracy.
  • The backstory of the Philoctetes.
  • The role of the “anti-mentor” or “temptor figure” in the transformative process.
  • Rhetoric and democracy.
  • The Sophistic Movement (“corrupting the youth”).
  • Discovering one’s true nature (from one’s lineage). The role of space in transformative process (the island of Lemnos).
12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Lunch and CHS tour Downstairs dining room
2:00-3:30 p.m. Third Session House A
  The Conclusion of the Philoctetes, lines 922-1881 

  • The Philoctetes today: post-traumatic stress disorder (Paul Giamatti reading of Philoctetes’ agony).
  • The role of pity and empathy in the leadership transformation.
  • Emotional intelligence as a leadership trait.
  • The role of self-identity in decision-making.
  • The plurality of voices in Greek tragedy as a tool for democracy.
3:30-4:00 p.m. Coffee Break House A
4:00-5:30 p.m. Fourth Session House A
  Next steps in the Ephebe’s Journey: What does it mean to have a voice in the national conversation about the role of the humanities in citizenship? How is the CHS participating in this conversation? Open-source publications, Sunoikisis, hybrid-online education, HeroesX. Taking the Ephebic Oath.