History is the groundwork for classics. Understanding a work in its context is vitally important for understanding the work itself, because all of that work is situated within a culture that may only be gleaned from such study of the archaeological and textual evidence that remains.
I took a really fabulous Greek History class back in my sophomore year. Unfortunately, I did not give the class my full attention. That year was trouble in general and I was not on my game. As a consequence, writing both my qualifying paper and my thesis, had to do a lot of extra research to raise my knowledge on the eras and authors I was studying to a decent level.
For about two years I have been entertaining the idea of reviewing my Greek History intensively. A conversation with Cerinthus provided the impetus to make me start immediately. Before he goes to Italy, the school running his semester abroad provides an optional trip through Greece and Italy, based on a series of sites and texts. Each student does a presentation on one of the sites and texts, and Cerinthus picked to do Rome, which was paired with the latter half of the Aeneid. He and I were discussing the relationship between the Aeneid and Augustus. I realized that from my Roman History class and my reading of Virgil in second year Latin I could provide him with ample information about the period, I could not put a solid date on anything I was talking about. This in turn reminded me that my Greek historical knowledge was in even shabbier condition than that. So I decided to attempt to fill in the gaps in my history background, starting with the Greeks and moving to the Romans.
I took the syllabus from the Greek History class that I took. Although the pride of my wonderful professors teaching was the primary sources, but I'm going to start by reading through the secondary sources in order. I am sure that she would be unhappy with me for this. However, I have to finish up the last of the Plato dialogues I have not yet read (although I read 18 of the dialogues last summer).
This morning, I started reading Oswyn Murray's Early Greece, it being the first on the list. My professor assigned the first two chapters, "Myth, History, and Archaeology" and "Sources" in order to provide a basis for further study. Wish me luck.