• This course is offered during the 2023 Term 2 (May-June) period as an in-person course at the EarthDiverse Centre in Hamilton, New Zealand, live-streamed via Zoom if you live elsewhere, and as video recordings of the live sessions if you cannot attend the regularly scheduled class.

Date & Time:

  • Our 2023 Term 2 Understanding the Classical World course meets on Wednesdays from 11:00am-1:00pm beginning on 3 May 2023 (New Zealand time). The course meets for 8 consecutive weekly sessions. The final session will be held on Wednesday 21 June 2023. If you live outside of New Zealand and wish to Zoom in to our live class sessions, check the nearest local Time Zone equivalent below.

Time Zone equivalents:

for live-streaming Zoom Sessions from New Zealand. If your Time Zone doesn't suit our live-streamed class, you can also access our courses by watching the live-recorded sessions that are posted to the course webpage each week, usually within 1-2 days.

  • Honolulu, Hawai’i: 1:00-3:00pm, Tuesday 2 May 2023

  • US Pacific: 4:00-6:00pm, Tuesday 2 May 2023

  • US Central: 6:00-8:00pm Tuesday 2 May 2023

  • US Eastern: 7:00-9:00pm, Tuesday 2 May 2023

  • London, UK: 12:00-2:00am, Wednesday 3 May 2023

  • Bangkok, Thailand: 6:00-8:00am, Wednesday 3 May 2023

  • Singapore: 7:00-9:00am, Wednesday 3 May 2023

  • Sydney Australia: 9:00-11:00am, Wednesday 3 May 2023


  • Much of the cultural tradition in the world of classical Greece and Rome that has come down to us today, informs and shapes a good deal of our contemporary life in ways we are hardly aware of. How we see, what we think, what we believe, value and how we behave, have their roots somewhere deep in the world of the classical tradition. As a result, it has left a lasting and indelible mark on us.

  • This series of 8 lectures will reveal and explore those primal influences, how they manifest themselves and how they get played out in the modern world today. Knowing these things helps not only with our sense of identity, but also provides us with a point of reference against which to measure our values and make critical judgments.

Art and Architecture

Weeks 1-2: Wednesdays 3 & 10 May 2023

Greek art laid the foundation for the history of Western art that found its full flowering during the Renaissance and lasted in various guises for another 500 years. It began with figure painting on amphora vases and reached its apotheosis in the work of sculptors who refined the classical ideal. It experienced a revival during the neo-classical period and was revisited again in the postmodern era. Not only in its style but also in its references to classical mythology do we witness the presence of ancient stories being retold in modern forms, presented for an audience with a contemporary twist. Architecture of the classical period has also had a profound influence upon the shape, forms and styles of buildings down the centuries, that lasted well up to and including the twentieth century. :


Weeks 3-4: Wednesdays 17 & 24 May 2023

From Homer to Aeschylus to Virgil to Horace to Sappho to St John, the world of classical poetry and drama provided models for later writers of Western literature. In modern times such influences are found everywhere. Knowing these references means we increase our understanding and appreciation of contemporary writing that alludes to such material. One of the famous works that exemplifies this stimulus is James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses. T S Eliot’s, The Waste Land, is another. The movie, Brother Where Art Thou, is loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey.


Weeks 5-6: Wednesdays 31 May & 27 June 2023

It has been said that the history of Western philosophy is merely a series of footnotes to the works of Plato. Such a seminal thinker at the beginning of western civilization certainly provided endless later commentaries on the intellectual conundrums that still bedevil us. Rationalism, Empiricism, Stoicism and Epicureanism are just a few of the legacies left us courtesy of classical thought. Contemporary philosophy has recently engaged with and revived the thinking of the Cynics and the ideas of the Sophists in the confrontation with the perennial question of what is truth and if we can ever be sure we possess it.


Weeks 7-8: Wednesdays 14 & 21 June 2023

It astonishes many to know that a good deal of what is found in the Western religious arena goes back much earlier than Christianity. Indeed some of the essential ideas of the Christian faith predate the advent of the cult. It grew up inside the classical world and therefore it should come as no surprise that it would be heavily indebted and coloured by concepts that were first alive in the ancient world of Greece and Rome. Almost every contemporary religious idea had its first outings in the pagan world.

Meet our Instructor:

History, Literature & Philosophy Instructor Peter Dornauf, MA Dip Tchg

Peter Dornauf has taught in secondary schools, Wintec and Waikato University collectively for over 25 years. He is a well know Waikato artist, art critic and a writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. His book “Days of Our Deaths” serves as the basis for one of Peter’s other popular EarthDiverse courses, “A Cultural History of Death.” Peter also teaches our “The Spiritual in Modern Art” course and continues to develop additional EarthDiverse courses for future Terms.


All in-person classes are held at the EarthDiverse Centre located at 401 Anglesea Street, Hamilton Central, Hamilton (located just north of the Hamilton Central Bus Station) (entrance is located on the side of the building, see map below). Those looking for parking for our evening classes can park just in front of the building in any of the available car parks. Daytime parking can be found in our dedicated car parks, or free 2-hour on-street daytime parking can be found just in front of Anglesea Street.


Distance Learning:

This course has distance-learning options for those unable to attend the live class sessions in Hamilton. Students have three options for attending our courses once they have registered:

  • Attend in-person classes in our Hamilton classrooms at the regularly scheduled day and time.

  • Attend our live on-line classroom sessions via Zoom at the regular scheduled day and time.

  • Watch the live-recorded class sessions at your leisure, at a time, day and place more suited to your schedule.

Distance-Learning options:

  • In addition to our in-person classes in Hamilton, our courses offer distance learning options for those unable to attend classes in-person. Live-streamed Hamilton classes are available via free Zoom software for those living outside the Waikato. Live-streaming allows you to participate fully in your own learning, ask questions of the instructor and participate fully in the same way as if you were in the physical classroom.

  • Those unable to attend the scheduled date and time of the actual class sessions, or those who need to miss a class or two due to previous engagements or unexpected illness, can watch any or all of the live-recorded video sessions on their computers, laptops, tablets or mobile devices and study at their own pace and in their own time.

  • Detailed instructions on how to access our distance learning components will be sent after completing your registration. There are no additional fees for this service. However, distance learners will need access to a desktop or laptop computer with a good quality web-camera (tablet devices and mobile phones can also access our live-streamed classes), a built-in microphone (most modern laptops have built-in microphones) or a headset with a microphone. You will also need to download and install the free Zoom software on your computer or device. Those accessing the video recordings will be able to do so with a simple web browser on any device.

Pricing options:

All prices in New Zealand dollars and includes GST. Unwaged includes students, seniors and retirees.


  • Any Term can be taken independently of the others, and there are no prerequisites for any of the Term courses.

  • This class has no assignments, required readings, quizzes, tests or exams.

  • All classes encourage questions and group discussion.

  • PDF copies of each class presentation are posted weekly to the course webpage usually 1-2 days after each class so that you are free to focus on class content rather than taking notes. You are most welcome to come, sit back, relax, take part in and enjoy the discussions!

  • Course fees include a short tea/coffee/snack break in the middle of each session.

  • There are no refunds for missed classes.

  • Guests of registered participants are welcome to attend a single class at no charge.

  • Certificates of Completion for any particular Term Course or Series are available for Professional Development purposes upon request at the end of each Term or Series.


  • There are no prerequisites for this course.