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Level 4

4AACAL01 Greek & Latin Literature: An Introduction

Credit value: 30 credits

Module convenor/tutor 2019/20: Dr Dan Orrells and Professor William Fitzgerald
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2-hour lecture (weekly); 20 x 1-hour seminar (weekly)
Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 2 x 2,000 word essays (60%, based on the higher of the two marks; failure to submit 2 essays will be penalized by capping essay component of module mark at 40%); 1 x 2-hour examination (40%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Single semester versions, available in Semester 1 or 2
  • 4AACAL1A Greek Literature: An Introduction
  • 4AACAL1B Latin Literature: An Introduction

Single semester versions of this module, split into Greek Literature (semester 1) and Latin Literature (semester 2), are available to Graduate Diploma in Classical Studies and other students from outside the Department.

Undergraduate students in the Department of Classics may also be allowed to take a single semester version to make up their required credits. For example, if they wish to take 15 Credits with another Department in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, or the 15 Credit module 4AACHB01 Receptions of the Past: the Hellenic World from Antiquity to Today (in 2018/19, this module runs in Semester 1).


  • 4AACAL1A & 4AACAL1B: 2 x essay of 2,000 words (100%, based on the higher of the two essay marks; failure to submit 2 essays will be penalized by capping module mark at 40%).
  • Full year Study Abroad students: as for 4AACAL01, above.

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Greek and Latin Literature: An Introduction is a first year module aiming to introduce freshers into the riches of the Greek and Latin literary tradition. It is designed in such a way as to cater primarily for the immediate needs of students coming up to University without any background knowledge of ancient literature and aims to offer a chronologically laid out, broad survey of periods, genres and best known authors of Greek and Roman literature.

Although the broad conceptual categories of “socio-cultural context” and generic expectations define the overall intellectual tone of this module, judiciously chosen extracts from the texts themselves (all in English translation) will be strategically woven into lectures in order to whet the students' appetite to continue with further reading of their own.

Major thematic stops of this module (indicatively) include: early Greek epic and lyric poetry; fifth-century Athenian drama; classical historiography; fourth century oratory; Plato and Aristotle; Hellenistic poetry; imperial Greek literature; the literature of early and late Republican Rome; highlights from Augustan literature; early imperial literature and historiography; the Roman satirical tradition; the literature of the Late Empire.

No previous knowledge of ancient Greek / Latin literature and history is assumed and all texts underpinning the teaching of this module can be studied in English translation.

Suggested introductory reading

If you would like to familiarise yourselves with the broader scope of this module before coming up to university, here is a list of books you may want to browse.  

All of them contain infinitely more information than you will ever need to use in the course of your degree, let alone in one first year module, but a preliminary look at a couple of these items, whichever you can easily lay hands on, will give you a good sense of direction and plenty of food for thought. Enjoy!

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • T. Whitmarsh, Ancient Greek Literature (Cambridge 2004)
  • P. E. Easterling and B. Knox (eds), The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, vol. 1: Greek Literature (Cambridge 1989) - also published in separate paperback period specific volumes
  • M. Hose and D.Schenker (eds), A Companion to Greek Literature (Blackwell, June 2013)
  • S. M. Braund, Latin Literature (N. York and London 2002)
  • G. B. Conte, Latin Literature (Baltimore 1994)
  • E. Fantham, Roman Literary Culture from Cicero to Apuleius (Baltimore and London 1996).
  • E. Kenney and W. Clausen, Cambridge History of Classical Literature, vol. 2: Latin Literature (Cambridge 1982) - also published in separate paperback period specific volumes
  • S. Harrison (ed), A Companion to Latin Literature (Blackwell 2006)
  • R. Rutherford, Classical Literature: A Concise History (Blackwell 2004)
  • O. Taplin (ed.) Literature in the Greek and Roman World (Oxford 2000). NB. This invaluable book has also been published in two separate volumes, one for the Greek and one for the Roman period; these are in paperback, so easier to carry around.

The following two items are very general volumes on the Greek and Roman cultures and the numerous subdisciplines (e.g. epigraphy, numismatics) associated with them. They are invaluable with respect to the breadth of their coverage, but go easy on them!

  • G. Boys-Stones, B. Graziosi, and P. Vasunia (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies (Oxford 2010)
  • A. Barchiesi and W. Scheidel (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies (Oxford 2010)
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