Classics and Ancient History postgraduate modules

Indicative module descriptions

Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture

The module surveys the history of archaeological practice as it concerns the post-Roman East, and explores key aspects of the Late Roman and Transitional (‘Dark-Age’) archaeological record, different archaeological strategies, and how archaeological literature can be used to understand some of the major long-term changes that characterise the period AD 300-800. It focuses in particular on interpretative themes such as Christianisation, invasions, demographic changes, the transformation of urban culture, and changes in rural settlement, agriculture and artisanal production.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Egyptian Language

This is a beginners’ course in Middle Egyptian, so you will start from scratch learning to read ancient Egyptian texts and translate sentences written in hieroglyphs into English. Two contact hours per week will enable us to make fast progress so that you are able to translate even unseen texts from the age of the Pharaohs into English by the end of term 2. Concentrating purely on what is called Middle Egyptian, which was the language introduced during the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000 BC), will build a strong basis for any further studies of Egyptian language.

Assessment: Class test or examination 

Empire and Identity

This module is in two parts, both linked by questions of how contact with the Roman empire changed peoples' perceptions of themselves and how this was represented in particular through their material culture. The first part considers the ‘Romanisation’ debate of the last hundred years, from the ‘top-down’ view of Haverfield and his successors, who brought to bear their own experiences of European colonialism and imperialism, through to more recent ‘bottom-up’ analyses employing post-colonial and related analyses, to the current position where the term can be seen as counter-productive.

The second part looks at the construction of ‘barbarian’ identities in the later Roman period (mainly the 4th and 5th centuries). It considers the construction of ‘ethnicity’ in the 20th century, from Kossinna on, and its relationship to material culture (if there is any). The recent discussions of the construction of ‘identity’ rather than just ‘ethnicity’ are considered. Particular use is made of the rich textual and archaeological evidence for the (Visi-)Goths.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay 

Greek/Latin (Beginner)

These modules provide an intensive introduction to Greek or Latin. They aim to provide you with the basic linguistic skills needed to acquire a reading knowledge of Greek or Latin for the purposes of research.

Assessment: Class test or examination 

Greek/Latin (Advanced)

These modules consolidate linguistic skills to enable you to work independently on Greek or Latin texts in the original language, building upon existing knowledge. They develop analytical and critical skills by means of advanced grammar and reading classes focusing in detail on a text or texts. Texts chosen will generally reflect the interests of students in the group.

Assessment: Take-home paper or examination 

Herodotus and Ancient Worlds

This module explores the theory and practice of historiography in the ancient world, with particular emphasis on the role of Greek-speaking peoples and the cultures with which they came into contact. The module is centred on Herodotus' Histories, enabling you to develop strategies for reading and understanding the rhetorics of history, in conjunction with study of the cultural contexts which produce them.

The module investigates the different ways in which texts produce, and are produced by, cultures, and the interfaces between civilisations that generate them. It investigates the connections between theories of history, reception and hermeneutics, and the development of cultural identity and historical consciousness.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay 

Ideas, Ideals and Ideologies

This module explores the ways in which Romans thought about the world around them, their place in it, and ideas and ideals through which they shaped their society. Focussing on the periods of the late Republic and early Empire, this module allows you to engage with a range of different media including literary sources (authors such as Cicero, Sallust, Seneca, and Pliny the Elder), documents, inscriptions (epigraphy), coins (numismatics) and material culture, in order to investigate how the Romans conceptualised their world. You will also learn how to evaluate the ancient evidence within theoretical frameworks, starting with models of Rome’s world view, and then narrowing down the focus to a societal level, and then still further to the level of the individual and their experiences.

This module will cover themes including the relationship between humans and the divine; humans and the physical/natural world; Rome and the provinces; ethics and government; political ideology; and socio-cultural ideals and models of behaviour 

Assessment: 4,000 word essay.

Seminar for Social History

The Seminar for Social History is a new interdisciplinary module which explores a different theme each year across the range of different cultures represented in CAHA. In 2019-20 the seminar will examine ‘Ancient Slaveries’ and explore how we should write the history of these particularly marginalised and oppressed groups in the ancient world. Participants will gain an understanding of the different textures of evidence for slavery which survive from the ancient Near East, Greece, and Rome, and the latest scholarly approaches in these different fields. We will explore the value and limitations of comparative approaches in understanding the nature of different unfree groups and statuses in the ancient world, their significance in defining the position of free citizens in specific societies, and how far we can identify particular cultures or communities as ‘slave societies’.  

Assessment: 4,000 word essay on a topic defined by participants in consultation with the seminar convenors.

Research and Scholarship in Classics and Ancient History

This module ensures that students across the range of sub-disciplines in Classics and Ancient History acquire the necessary generic and specific skills needed for further research. These will include advanced bibliographic skills, familiarity with theoretical and critical approaches and schools of thought, technical skills such as techniques of epigraphy or numismatics where appropriate. Delivery will take place in seminar formats, with sub-disciplines offering different break-out sessions as needed.

Assessment: Two written assignments and a 10-minute presentation

The Economies of the Late Roman, Byzantine and Frankish East

This module introduces the economic history of the post-Roman East (4th-15th cc.). Lectures first review critically a range of approaches to pre-modern economies and explore their value for historical enquiries; then the study of parameters of long- and short-term change (environmental, demographic and technological); key trajectories (e.g., in land-use, artisanal production, trade, redistribution, and monetisation); evolving forms of land tenure and taxation; the state’s involvement in the economy; the roles of the Church and the law; and the impact of the Italian mercantile republics.

In the seminar component you will have the opportunity to consider this predominantly empirical history in the light of the more theoretical approaches, and in the light of the burgeoning archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean, confronting some of the problems of the relationship between theories, texts, and archaeology.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Towns, Tombs, and Temples: the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt

This module offers an introduction to ancient Egyptian history from the Predynastic to the periods of Ptolemaic and Roman rule through the archaeological record. While popular visions of ancient Egypt have traditionally been dominated by elite culture, in this module we will diversify our approach by paying attention to other non-monumental aspects of material culture as well. Each weekly seminar session will focus on one key archaeological site, where we will explore the deep history of the site, the main landmarks and artefacts associated with it, and its wider implications, including an overview of past and current fieldwork. These sites will serve as case studies to illustrate a number current debates in Egyptian archaeology, such as the alleged existence of a middle class, the recurring description of Egypt as a ‘civilisation without cities’, or to what extent non-royal tombs may be seen a reflection of personal identity.

Assessment: Presentation (30%), Book Review (20%) and Portfolio (50%)

Please note that the optional module information listed here is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year and depending on your programme of study. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.