The Civilisations of Greece and Rome - CLAS3530

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2022 to 2023.


The history will centre on Athens in the 5th century B.C. We begin with Solon's reforms, then after considering the period of the Persian invasions we study the developed democracy with its empire under Pericles and its destruction in the Peloponnesian War. After 5 weeks, we move to the literature of the period, more specifically, the development of tragedy and comedy in fifth-century Athens, examining staging and dramatic conventions such as the role of actor, chorus and religious function and plot, especially the handling of mythological themes. We will analyse a selection of major plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes. Within this framework the module explores the role of tragedy and comedy as vehicles for public debate in the democracy, and its treatment of justice, religion, rationalism and patriotic themes.

In the Roman part of the course we shall treat the last century of the republic. Our focus will be on how that republic fell and was replaced by the empire whose founder was Augustus. Among the themes examined will be political violence, the intrusion of the army into political life and the rise of the warlord. In the literature part of the Spring term the module is concerned with the patronage of the arts (poetry, history writing, art and architecture) under Augustus, with the role of the arts as propaganda, and the thesis that writers were recruited to act as spokesmen for the policies and ideals of the principate. The central theme is the creation of enduring images of Rome and Empire, using traditional historical and mythological materials; alongside this the module treats areas of public policy such as moral legislation, festivals, religious reform and the position of women. The module is also concerned with the responses of the writers, whether as supporters of public policy, or as commenting on and reacting against it. Thus, its content is much better understood as a result of the historical development outlined in the first part of term.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 40

Method of assessment

• Essay 1 (1,500 words) – 40%
• Essay 2 (1,500 words) – 40%
• Article Review (1,000 words) – 20%

Indicative reading

Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually

Camps, W, (1979) An Introduction to Virgil's Aeneid. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Easterling, P, (1998) (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hornblower, S, (2005), The Greek World 479-323 BC. London: Routledge.
North, J, (1998) Plutarch, Selected Lives. Ware: Wordsworth Editions.
Northedge, A. (2005) The Good Study Guide. Milton Keynes. The Open University
Scullard, H, (1985) From the Gracchi to Nero. London: Routledge.
Warner, R, (2000) Thucydides The History of the Peloponnesian War. London: Penguin.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
8.1 Explain the development of theatre (tragic and comic) in fifth-century Athens;
8.2 Address questions of staging, dramatic conventions and mythological themes;
8.3 Discuss Greek drama's role as a vehicle for the treatment of major areas of public debate in democratic Athens: justice, war and peace, rationalism;
8.4 Understand the nature of Augustan ideology;
8.5 Understand the social and historical context of the works of Livy, Virgil, Ovid, Propertius and Horace;
8.6 Understand the position of women in the age of Augustus;
8.7 Draw together a wide range of sources for Greek and Roman history (legal, literary, historical, biographical);


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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