Classical Literature and Civilisation (Q820): Selected Module Descriptions Final Year

Final Year

Compulsory modules 

Dissertation (40 credits)

The dissertation is an extended piece of independent research into an area of the student's own interest resulting in a report of 12,000 words. Students will build skills enabling them to identify and explore the appropriate secondary literature (and primary source material, where appropriate), and to interrogate these sources effectively. Students will receive tuition in collating, ordering and referencing their research. Students will complete a sustained piece of academic research drawing on primary and secondary source materials. This module enables students to develop the analytical elements of research and present their research findings professionally. The main focus of supervision will be on assisting the student to structure their core argument effectively, present convincing analysis of the evidence used to sustain their argument, and to prepare a clear introduction and conclusion to the dissertation.

Seminar III (choice of seminar topics) (20)   

A range of topics (circa 15 each year) will be offered across the disciplinary scope of Department.  The topics will vary according to the current research interests of each member of staff but will normally focus on a well-defined body of primary literary, visual, historical or archaeological data.

Staff will publish a 300 word account of the topic offered and its research potential together with a brief introductory bibliography before course registration each year to enable students to select from themes related to their own period, area or subject interests.

Example optional modules may include: 

Death, burial and society (20)

This module explores the diversity and complexity of mortuary practices and funerary ritual and representation through archaeological evidence. It focuses on current approaches to the analysis of mortuary evidence and interpretative themes such as social reconstruction, identity and personhood, ritual, status, power and cosmology, monumentality, landscapes of death, and the life histories and deaths of individuals. These themes are examined using the wide range of anthropological, sociological and historical perspectives that underpin the inter-disciplinary character of the archaeology of death.

Egyptian Mysteries (20)

If you ever wondered how three of the main cultures of the ancient world Egypt, Greece and Rome were connected with each other through religion and culture, this option course is for you. You will not only learn how the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis was transformed into a Hellenistic goddess that was even welcome in Rome - you will also understand how mystery cults worked, who joined them and how secret rituals were performed at night, in dimly lit temples and what it was that Apuleius described as off-limits when talking to others. As secondary sources in English are limited, you will learn to work closely with primary sources such as archaeological evidence and texts written by ancient authors (English translations provided).

Greek and Roman Wall Painting (20)

Painting and pictorial realism, as we know them, were invented in the fourth century BCE. Their effects have survived in the Hellenistic tomb paintings at Vergina, and elsewhere in Macedonia and Thrace, and their ideas have been described by ancient authors. This course examines the surviving Greek and Roman paintings together with ancient sources in order to shed light on the deployment of the pictorial repertoire of classical antiquity. The lectures will look at Aegean Bronze Age wall-paintings from Crete, the Cyclades and the Greek mainland and the extent to which they were related to later Greek art, the relationship of painting to ceramic art in the archaic and classical periods, the evidence of ancient texts on renowned Greek painters of the classical period, the Hellenistic tomb paintings from Macedonia and Thrace, Greek, Etruscan and Italic tomb paintings in Italy, the appropriation of the Hellenistic repertoire of images in the Roman period as evidenced in wall-paintings and mosaics, and the creation of a new taxonomy of images in the Roman period. 

Greek, Latin or Egyptian Language at appropriate level (20 or 40)

Greek Mythology (20)

The module will cover a range of approximately 20 topics in the field of Greek mythology. The range will deal with the conceptualisation of mythology, its place in ancient society and in particular in different forms of literature, and its relationship to history and geography. In addition major 19th-20th century theories of mythology will be explored and evaluated, including nature-myth, anthropological theories, psychoanalysis and structuralism. 

Hellenistic Poetry (20)

Hellenistic literature is what connects the literary cultures of classical Greece and Rome. In the period between the death of Alexander and the fall of the Ptolemies (Cleopatra), Greek authors reflected a culture undergoing rapid change, and finding new ways of thinking about the individual’s place in the world. They produced whole new kinds of literature (epigram, epyllion) and studied the classics of the past in new ways: the literature of the age of Cicero could never have happened without them. In this module we will read some of the most important Hellenistic writers, including Callimachus and Theocritus, and find out how they changed the idea of ‘literature’ forever.

History and Archaeology of Western Asia (20)

 This module explores the empires of the Near East (Babylonian, Hittite and Assyrian) from the 15th C BC until the emergence and expansion of the Persian empire in the 6th C BC. It applies a broad-spectrum approach to the two heartland areas of the Ancient Near East, Assyria and Babylonia. The political history will be traced, including the diplomatic relationship and military interplay between these two areas. Also playing a key role in the module will be cultural history, including literature, religion and mythology. A strand that will give the module a unique identity will be a new investigation of the king, in both regions, as an individual. 

Late Antiquity (20)

Late Antiquity is a crucial period in the Roman World (roughly the late third to the sixth centuries AD) encompassing the destruction of the Roman Empire in the West and its survival in the East. The module deals with the transformation of the ancient world addressing the social and political history of the period through literature, archaeology and material culture, including analysis of key emperors such as the reformer Diocletian who is alleged to have created a more autocratic imperial model, Constantine, the first Christian emperor, and Julian who abandoned his Christian heritage to return to paganism. The module will cover the relationship between Christianity and paganism including conversion, the creation of new holy space and religious violence; imperial capitals such as Rome and Constantinople; the evolution of the imperial court; Rome and barbarians; the Persian Empire; family and gender structures including eunuchs and the effect of Christianity on these structures.

Palace Societies (20)

The Palace Civilisations of Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece provide the only European examples of Bronze Age urban societies. Their achievements in architecture, administration and technology foreshadow those of Classical Greece by over 1000 years. In turn Crete and mainland Greece were leaders in a pattern of trade and exchange which extended from the Nile valley and the Black Sea to Sicily and Sardinia. Lectures will focus on the historical outline of the period from 1700-1200 BC, and examine a range of aspects of Minoan and Mycenaean civilisation in depth, including architecture, burial practices, linear B archives, mural art, metalworking, and trade.

Roman Religion and its Limits

This module examines the nature and the limits of Roman polytheism. We will explore a colourful range of gods and goddesses all worshipped in the Roman world: from the Egyptian goddess Isis, to Mars Belatucadrus (a local god worshipped at Hadrian’s wall), to the deified Augustus, to the goddess Peace, and even Sterculinius (god of manure).We examine how and why Romans discovered and accepted new gods, as well as rejecting some, and explore what happened as the Roman empire expanded and came into contact with the gods of other peoples. We address issues such as the deification of some emperors and other humans, and the interaction between Roman polytheism and the Jewish and Christian god. 

Sparta (20)

Spartan society is the enigma of the ancient Greek world. The peculiarity of Sparta excited the imagination of contemporaries from other Greek states and has continued to serve as both a positive and a negative social and political model up until the present day. This module will attempt to get behind the so-called ‘Spartan mirage’ through detailed study of the ancient evidence and a wide-ranging examination of its society and institutions. It will consider Sparta’s military ethos, the role of the Spartan education system (agōgē), the relationship between the Spartans and the helots, the roles of women in Spartan society, and the image of Sparta in modern culture. Students will also examine the varied ways in which Sparta has been appropriated by ancient and modern writers, and the impact this has had upon academic study of the Spartans in order to evaluate just how far we can assume an understanding of their unique society.