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Athens Besieged: Debating Surrender Microgame

by Naomi Norman and Mark C. Carnes

This game is being revised with the help of Experiential Simulations as a prototype for electronically deliverable Reacting games.

Athens Besieged is set within the Long Walls of Athens during the winter of 405-404 BCE. In the Fall of 405 Sparta destroyed the Athenian fleet at Aegospotami (near the straits leading to the Black Sea). The Spartan fleet then blockaded Piraeus harbor, and Spartan soldiers, augmented by their allies from Thebes and Corinth, camped outside the walls of Athens and lay siege to the city. By December, when the game begins, the city had exhausted its food supply.

The main location of the microgame is the Pnyx, where the Athenian Assembly must determine whether to surrender and relinquish its democracy. At the end of each month (10 minutes in class time), some Athenians die of starvation and disease; these players, on leaving the room, are assigned new roles as commanders of the Spartan and allied armies, as either of the two Spartan kings, as the Delphic Oracle, or in one or two other complicating roles. These “reincarnated” players now are thrust into a new debate: whether, after surrender, the Athenian men should be executed and the women and children enslaved, or whether the city should be preserved as a vassal state within a new Spartan empire. The Spartan kings, being advised by various generals in their war council, and by the Delphic Oracle, determine the outcome of the game—and the fate of Athens.





Microgame (what's that mean?


Reacting Consortium members can access all downloadable materials (including expanded and updated materials) below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.



Naomi Norman

Naomi Norman

Reacting and Related Titles

  • The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE
  • Beware the Ides of March: Rome in 44 BCE
  • The Getty Kouros: Authenticity, Forgery and the Law
Mark C. Carnes

Mark C. Carnes

Reacting and Related Titles

  • Minds on Fire: How Role-Immersion Games Transform College
  • The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE
  • Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791
  • Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945
  • Confucianism and the Succession Crisis of the Wanli Emperor, 1587
  • The Trial of Galileo: Aristotelianism, the "New Cosmology," and the Catholic Church, 1616-1633
  • The Trial of Anne Hutchinson: Liberty, Law, and Intolerance in Puritan New England
  • Revolution Now! The Paris Commune, 1871
  • Hobbes v. Wallis: Infinitesimals and Euclidean Geometry in the Royal Society, 1663


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


Athens 403 BCE
The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE

Crisis of Catiline
The Crisis of Catiline: Rome, 63 BCE

Altar of Victory
Christians, Pagans, and the Altar of Victory


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