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Papers 5-6: Greek and Latin Literature

If you are in your first year of study and want to find out about the epic modules, this page DOES NOT apply to you. Please look under "Part 1A Courses in Easter Term" instead.


Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce samples of the variety and scope of pagan Greek and Latin literature and their importance to the Western literary tradition.
  2. To place that literature in a historical and cultural context, in accordance with the general aims and scope of the Part I course.
  3. To introduce the variety of critical approaches possible in the study of classical literature and current trends in criticism.
  4. To develop the practice of literary and textual interpretation at the level of detail through ‘close reading’ in Greek and Latin.



The literature papers in Part IB are designed to offer you a wide choice of topics representing texts from across the field of pagan Greek and Latin literature. Within this spread, however, we regard it as very important that during the Part IB years everyone should study authors who have always been regarded as central to any engagement with the literature of Greece and Rome; this is the reason why, in the first year, there is a much more narrowly defined syllabus of Target texts – Homer, tragedy, oratory, Cicero, Virgil, Ovid etc. The topics studied in the second year focus largely on texts in these same areas, but also afford the opportunity to range more widely outside the traditional canon.

In each of Papers 5 and 6 two topics from a choice of four are selected for study and examination. Each topic includes two groups of texts labelled Schedule A and Schedule B. The three sections of Schedule A constitute the ‘core’ texts of that topic, while the texts in a Schedule B offer scope for further exploration. The topics are designed to have a unity either of genre (e.g. Paper 5 Topic 3 ‘The Greek novel’), or of period (Paper 6 Topic 1 ‘Cicero and Caesar’), or of theme (e.g. Paper 5 Topic 4 ‘Persians’).

Non-intensive-language candidates for either Paper 5 or Paper 6 will be required to have read both texts in the Schedule A of a topic studied for examination. Intensive-language candidates for either Paper 5 or 6 have a reduced schedule that is noted in the prescriptions below.


Reading lists

Reading lists for Papers 5–6 lecture courses are distributed by the lecturers themselves and some may be available on the Faculty's Moodle site.

The teaching and examining for Papers 5 and 6 will be organised around the following schedules of texts:


Paper 5. Greek Literature

Compulsory Epic Module

Schedule A: Homer, Iliad 1, 6, 9, 22, 24; Odyssey 6, 8;

IG: Homer, Iliad 1, 6, 24; Odyssey 6, 8;

Schedule B: Remainder of both the Iliad and the Odyssey; Gilgamesh (Penguin 2003); Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days; Epic Fragments (M.L. West, Loeb no. 497); Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite; Homeric Hymn to Apollo; Plato, Ion.


Topic 1 Greek Lyric

Schedule A: Sappho and Alcaeus; Archilochus and Hipponax; Tyrtaeus; Mimnermus; Solon; Theognis; Anacreon; Bacchylides 5 (these texts as in Campbell); Pindar Olympian 1;

IG: Archilochus and Hipponax; Tyrtaeus; Mimnermus; Solon; Theognis; Anacreon; Bacchylides 5 (these texts as in Campbell);

Schedule B: Homer; Odyssey 8; Simonides (Plataea Elegy); Bacchylides 1 and 3; Pindar Olympian 2; Pythian 1; Isthmian 2.


Topic 2 Athens on Stage

Schedule A: Euripides, Ion; Aristophanes, Acharnians.

IG: Aristophanes, Acharnians 1-556, 719-859, 1000-1233; Euripides, Ion 1-451, 510-565, 859-1047, 1370-1622 (with the rest of the plays in English);

Schedule B: Aeschylus Eumenides; Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus; Aristophanes, Wasps and Knights.


Topic 3 The Greek Novel

Schedule A: Achilles Tatius; Leucippe and Clitophon 1; Longus, Daphnis and Chloe 1, 4;

IG: Achilles Tatius; Leucippe and Clitophon 1; Longus, Daphnis and Chloe 1, (4 in English);

Schedule B: remainder of Achilles Tatius; Leucippe and Clitophon (2-8); remainder of Longus, Daphnis and Chloe (2-3); Chariton, Chariton, Callirhoe.


Topic 4 Persians in Greek Literature

Schedule A: Aeschylus, Persians; Herodotus 3.17-88;

IG: Aeschylus, Persians 140-531, 598-622, 681-851, 909-1066 (remainder to be read in English); Herodotus 3.39-88 (17-38 to be read in English).

Schedule B: Herodotus 1, 3.1-16, 3.89-160, Bisitun inscription; Xenophon, Cyropaedia 1-2; Ctesias, Persica (all fragments as in Stronk, Ctesias’ Persian History (2010) or Llewelyn-Jones and Robson, Ctesias’ History of Persia (2010)).


Paper 6. Latin Literature

Compulsory Epic Module

Schedule A: Catullus 64; Virgil, Aeneid 1 and 12; Ovid, Metamorphoses 8;

IL: Catullus 64; Virgil, Aeneid 1; Ovid, Metamorphoses 8 (with Aeneid 12 to be read in English);

Schedule B: Ennius, Annals fragments 1-163 Warmington; Lucan, Civil War 1, Statius, Thebaid 12.


Topic 1 Cicero and Caesar

Schedule A: Caesar, Bellum ciuile 1; Cicero, De amicitia;

IL: Caesar, Bellum ciuile 1.1-33; Cicero, De amicitia 33-104 (the rest of both to be read in English);

Schedule B: Catullus 29, 57, 93, 94, 105; Cicero, Pro Marcello; Cicero, Ad Atticum Book 7, letters 11-27; Cicero, Ad familiares, Book 4 (all); Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus; Suetonius, Diuus Julius.

Topic 2 Seneca in poetry and prose

Schedule A: Seneca Thyestes; Seneca Apocolocyntosis; Seneca De breuitate uitae;

IL: Seneca Thyestes; Seneca Apocolocyntosis 9-15 (1-8 to be read in English); Seneca De breuitate uitae 1-9 (rest to be read in English);

Schedule B: Seneca Medea, De clementia, De ira 1, Epistulae morales 1 (= letters 1-12).


Topic 3 Roman youth

Schedule A: Statius Achilleid; Apuleius Cupid and Psyche (Met. 4.28-6.24);

IL: Statius Achilleid 1 (2 in English); Apuleius Cupid and Psyche (Met. 4.28-5.31; rest to be read in English);

Schedule B: Catullus 61-3; Ovid Metamorphoses 4.55-166, 4.274-388, 9.666-797; Statius Thebaid 9.570-907; Augustine Confessions 2.


Topic 4 Roman comedy

Schedule A: Plautus, Menaechmi; Terence, Eunuchus;

IL: Plautus, Menaechmi; Terence, Eunuchus 46-506, 910-1094 (remainder to be read in English);

Schedule B: Plautus, Miles Gloriosus; Terence, Adelphoi; Menander, Dyskolos; Cicero, Pro Roscio Amerino.


Scope and structure of the examination paper 2016–17

Each of Papers 5 and 6 will consist of six sections (A to F).

Paper 5. Greek literature (also serves as Paper 9A of Part I of the English Tripos and GL 15 of the Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos)

The paper will be of three hours’ duration, with a period of fifteen minutes of reading time before the start. Candidates for the Classical Tripos offering Paper 1 must answer Section A, one question from Section B, and two questions from Section C. Candidates for the Classical Tripos offering Paper 2 must answer Section D, one question from Section E, and two questions from Section F. Sections A and D will each contain a passage for discussion from the Greek Epic module and Sections B and E will contain a choice of essay questions relating to the Greek Epic module. Sections C and F will contain a choice of questions relating to the other four options. Candidates must prepare both the compulsory Greek Epic module and two of the optional modules. All questions carry equal weight.


Paper 6. Latin literature (also serves as Paper 9B of Part I of the English Tripos and GL 16 of the Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos)

The paper will be of three hours’ duration, with a period of fifteen minutes of reading time before the start. Candidates for the Classical Tripos offering Paper 3 must answer Section A, one question from Section B, and two questions from Section C. Candidates for the Classical Tripos offering Paper 4 must answer Section D, one question from Section E, and two questions from Section F. Sections A and D will each contain a passage for discussion from the Roman Epic module and Sections B and E will contain a choice of essay questions relating to the Roman Epic module. Sections C and F will contain a choice of questions relating to the other four options. Candidates must prepare both the compulsory Roman Epic module and two of the optional modules. All questions carry equal weight.


Course descriptions

Papers 5-6: Greek and Latin Literature


(4 L: Easter)

After an introductory lecture devoted to ‘theorizing theory’, we will spend the following three sessions visiting the major ‘sites of meaning’ in literary and cultural studies: the reader, the text, the author and the context. We’ll look at the theoretical inflections these variables have attracted, from antiquity to the present, with some illustrative examples from contemporary classical scholarship. The final lecture will place recent developments in theory in relation to the history of (classical) philology and the modern knowledge industry. The overall aim of these lectures is threefold: (a) to stimulate critical engagement with the basic categories on which we all rely in making sense of texts (and culture more generally); (b) to provide a first mapping of theoretical positions; and (c) to facilitate independent study of a domain of thought and practice that can seem daunting or even off-putting, but is fundamental to everything we do. All are welcome, especially the curious novice. Those wishing to get into the spirit beforehand could do worse than sample Jonathan Culler’s eminently readable Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2011).



(4 L: Easter, weeks 1–2)

These sessions will develop your techniques for discussing passages from classical texts. The structure will be between lectures and classes, with audience participation required as we consider examples drawn from the Part IB set texts. Photocopies supplied.


Paper 5: Greek Literature

TOPIC 1 Greek Lyric

(8 L: Michaelmas, weeks 5-8)

This option aims at introducing students to a wide-ranging selection of Greek Archaic and early Classical lyric poetry (7th-5th cent. BC), focusing on its various genres and contexts of performance. The course will offer close readings of some of the most fascinating poetic texts of classical antiquity: Sappho’s poems on love & poetry, Alcaeus’ political songs of fight and exile, the multifarious elegiac tradition, Anacreon’s odes on eros and wine, Pindar and Bacchylides’ epinicians. Texts will be studied and analysed in detail and interpreted in their literary and historical contexts, with particular attention to diction, style and subject matter. The option will include discussions of the evolution of lyric poetic genres and dictions, the complex relationships between texts and contexts, the socio-cultural background of performance practices and some episodes of their reception.

All A texts, with the exception of Pindar and Bacchylides, are taken from D. A. Campbell, Greek Lyric Poetry, Bristol Classical Press 1992. Read all of the texts from Campbell for each author in the list. For Bacchylides 5 use H. Maehler, Bacchylides, A Selection, Cambridge 2004: 38-46 (text) + 106-129. For Pindar’s Olympian 1, use D. Gerber: Pindar’s Olympian One: a commentary, Toronto, 1982 (Phoenix suppl. volume 15) and S. Instone: Pindar. Selected Odes: Olympian One, Pythian Nine, Nemeans Two & Three, Isthmian One, Warminster, 1996.

A full bibliography will be provided during the lectures.


TOPIC 2 Athens on Stage

(8 L: Michaelmas, weeks 5-8)

Oral performance pervaded all parts of civic life in classical Athens, where speaking well was a necessary skill in the law courts, the assembly and, above all, the theatre. As citizens took to the stage, they found themselves playing out tales from the mythological past alongside absurdist visions of the present, taking on different roles as they exposed the problems and paradoxes of democratic social order. This option explores Athenian drama within the discourses of citizenship, to discuss the role of the theatre as a place for both the state and the individual to look at themselves. We focus on two plays: Euripides’ Ion and Aristophanes’ Acharnians – the story of a raped Athenian princess’s reunion with her son, the only true heir to the Athenian throne, and the story of one citizen’s radical rejection of war with Sparta. By considering these plays’ use of genre, form, religious practice and mythological inheritance we will discuss the politics they espouse: how Athens saw itself in these plays – how much we can trust that image – and what it meant to perform these works in classical Athens.


TOPIC 3 The Greek Novel

(8 L: Lent, weeks 1–4)

The novel was late Greek culture’s most stunning literary innovation. Between the first and the fourth centuries AD, when the Greek-speaking world was subject to the Roman Empire, literary romances were hugely popular amongst the educated elite from Egypt to Greece to Asia Minor. This module explores these sophisticated, risqué and exuberant texts, placing the emphasis both on their literary qualities (including their intertextual engagement with Homer and classical texts) and on their cultural significance: what can these heterosexual romances tell us about the society that produced them, and its attitudes towards identity, politics, sexuality and gender? The rediscovery of these magnificent works in the 16th century had a huge impact on European society, and ultimately gave the modern novel the central cultural role it enjoys today. Goethe called Daphnis and Chloe ‘a masterpiece’, and recommended reading it each year; Ravel composed a ballet version, Chagall painted scenes from it, Yukio Mishima wrote a Japanese novel on the theme. Achilles Tatius’ overt sexuality and literary flamboyance, on the other hand, have always generated controversy. Anyone who wants to understand the origins of the modern novel should consider this option.

Achilles Tatius: use Garnaud's Budé edition or Gaselee’s Loeb for text, but for translation either T. Whitmarsh (Oxford World's Classics) or J.J Winkler in B.P. Reardon ed. Collected Ancient Greek Novels (Berkeley, 1989, repr. 2003). Longus: use John Morgan’s edition, translation and commentary (Aris and Phillips 2004), and/or Phiroze Vasunia’s translation (Penguin, 2011) / Chris Gill’s in Collected Ancient Greek Novels. For general discussions of the novels see Simon Goldhill, Foucault’s Virginity (Cambridge, 1995); Helen Morales, Vision and Narrative in Achilles Tatius’ Leucippe and Clitophon (Cambridge, 2004); T. Whitmarsh (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the Greek and Roman Novel (Cambridge, 2008); T. Whitmarsh, Narrative and Identity in the Ancient Greek Novel (Cambridge, 2011). A full bibliography will be provided in the lectures.

A full bibliography will be provided during the lectures.


TOPIC 4 Persians in Greek Literature

(8 L: Lent, weeks 1-4)

The Greeks’ defence of the peninsula against the two Persian invasions was arguably the most significant event in their ancient history. It was certainly the most mythicized: in art, theatre, history and song, they continually recurred to the idea of the barbarian ‘other’: violent but effeminate, despotic but weak, imperial but incapable of self-control. Yet there was much more to the Greeks’ fascination with Persia than simple rejection: Persia also became a byword for style and class, to the extent that upper-class Athenian women wore jewellery in the Persian style and the city’s architecture could reflect Persian models. This module will set Aeschylus’ great tragedy Persians and Herodotus’ history in the context of Greece’s complex mixture of revulsion and obsession with their Iranian adversaries, with a sideways look at Persia itself.

For the text of Herodotus, use Nigel Wilson’s OCT; for translation use either Tom Holland’s new Penguin, the Loeb, or Robin Waterfield’s OCT. For text and translation of and commentary on Persians use Edith Hall’s edition (Aris and Phillips, 1996).

A full bibliography will be provided during the lectures.


Paper 6: Latin Literature

TOPIC 1 Cicero and Caesar

(8 L: Lent, weeks 1–4)

Cicero and Caesar are the two most emblematic figures of the late Roman Republic. At first sight, they seem polar opposites: here Cicero, the greatest orator Rome produced, the self-proclaimed dux togatus, the author of philosophical treatises, the advocate of Greek culture in a Roman setting, the representative of republican politics; there Caesar, one of the greatest Roman generals, the ruthless power-politician, the gravedigger of the republic, dictator and tyrant. But Cicero, too, hankered after military glory and Caesar was famous for his eloquence. Both, in their different ways, facilitated the rise of autocracy at Rome. And both belong among the most distinctive prose stylists ever to write in Latin. Like complementary twins, they throw light on one another, not least since their paths crossed throughout their careers. The most intense interaction between the arch-republican and the autocrat took place after Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and the period 49–44 BC will be the principal focus of the course. We shall study the first book of Caesar’s Bellum Ciuile as a masterpiece of apologetic self-promotion and Cicero’s treatise on friendship Laelius de Amicitia – set in 129 BC, but written after the Ides of March 44 and designed in part to justify the murder of Caesar by his ‘friends’ as legitimate tyrannicide. The texts in Schedule B provide additional perspectives on the authors and the period under consideration (Catullus, Cornelius Nepos, Suetonius) and include a selection from those of Cicero’s letters that are of particular relevance to the Schedule A texts as well as the first of three speeches (the pro Marcello of 46 BC) that he delivered before Caesar.

Recommended editions: Catullus: Catullus. The Shorter Poems, with an Introduction, Translation and Commentary by J. Godwin, Oxford. Caesar: Julius Caesar: The Civil War Books I & II, edited with an introduction, translation & commentary by J.M. Carter, Warminster 1990. Cicero: Laelius de amicitia: ed. with introduction, translation and notes by J.G.F. Powell, Warminster 1990; Pro Marcello: ed. by A.C. Clark (Oxford 1901) or H.C. Gotoff (Cicero’s Caesarian Speeches: A Stylistic Commentary, Chapel Hill & London 1993); Ad Atticum and Ad familiares: use D.R. Shackleton Bailey’s Loeb edition. Cornelius Nepos: use J.C. Rolfe’s Loeb (1921) and/ or Nicholas Horsfall, Cornelius Nepos, a Selection, Including the Lives of Cato and Atticus (Oxford 1989). Sallust: use L.D. Reynolds’s OCT (1991) or J.C. Rolfe’s Loeb (1921). Suetonius: Divus Iulius, ed. by H.E. Butler and M. Cary (Oxford 1927), reissued with new introduction, bibliography and additional notes by G.B. Townend (Bristol 1982) and/or J.C. Rolfe’s Loeb (1914).

Full bibliography will be distributed in lectures.


TOPIC 2 Seneca in poetry and prose

(8 L: Michaelmas, Weeks 5-8)

Writing (and politicking) under Claudius and Nero, Seneca the Younger is one of few Roman authors to have left a large corpus of both prose and verse literature. This course takes three contrasting samples, showcasing Seneca as tragedian, philosopher and satirist – and meditating, in three very different ways, on the ethics of life under monarchy. Thyestes is a dark and explosive tragedy on Atreus’ terrible revenge; On the brevity of life is a short summons to the truly philosophical life; Apocolocyntosis is a bawdy, outrageous skit on the ‘pumpkinification’ of Claudius. Together they present a remarkable and multi-faceted picture of one of Rome’s most influential authors.

Recommended editions with commentary: Thyestes, ed. R. J. Tarrant (Atlanta, 1985); Apocolocyntosis, ed. P. T. Eden (Cambridge, 1984); De brevitate vitae, ed. G. D. Williams (together with De otio, Cambridge, 2003). Schedule B texts: Medea, ed. and transl. H. Hine (Warminster, 2000), De clementia, ed. and transl. S. Braund (Oxford, 2009); for De ira 1 and Epistulae morales 1 use the Loeb.

Introductory reading: S. Bartsch and A. Schiesaro, eds. Cambridge companion to Seneca (Cambridge, 2015).

A full bibliography will be provided during the lectures.


TOPIC 3 Roman youth

(8 L: Michaelmas, weeks 1–4)

Adolescence, virginity, marriage, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers: youth was a rich and stimulating topic for Roman writers of poetry and prose. This topic focuses on two entertaining works from the principate: Statius’ Achilleid makes mini-epic farce of Achilles’ sojourn in drag on Scyros, while the ‘Cupid & Psyche’ episode of Apuleius’ novel Metamorphoses (a.k.a. The Golden Ass) puts a girl’s growing pains at the heart of Lucius’ comical-philosophical voyage of self-discovery. Schedule B texts extend the range from Catullus and Ovid through to Augustine in the fourth century.

Recommended editions: (1) O. A. W. Dilke, Statius: Achilleid (Cambridge, 1954; reprinted with new introduction by R. Cowan, Bristol, 2005); (2) E. J. Kenney, Apuleius: Cupid & Psyche (Cambridge, 1990).

A full bibliography will be provided in the lectures.


TOPIC 4 Roman comedy

(8 L: Lent, weeks 5-8)

Tricky slaves, seductive courtesans, desperate young lovers, and grumpy old fathers: the comedies of Plautus and Terence are an endlessly charming mix of slapstick and social critique. This topic examines how Roman comedy developed from a unique fusion of Hellenistic drama and native Italic traditions to become the most popular form of entertainment in mid-republican Rome (c.250-100 BC). Through close study of two plays, the Menaechmi and the Eunuchus, we shall consider how Plautus and Terence adapted earlier, Greek material to the demands of a Roman audience. Both playwrights made original contributions to the Roman comic genre. Plautus’ plays are characterized by elaborate physical and verbal humour, while Terence’s work is more restrained, typically exploring issues of gender, social status, rape, and family relationships. This course will examine major differences in the style of these two playwrights and situate their work within a broader social context. We shall conclude by glancing at the afterlife of Roman comedy, especially the influence it had on Cicero and the Roman elegists.

Recommended editions: Plautus: Menaechmi ed. A. Gratwick (Cambridge 1993); Miles Gloriosus in De Melo’s Loeb (2011) or trans. Segal (Oxford 2008); Terence: Eunuchus ed. J. Barsby (Cambridge 1999); Adelphoi ed. Martin (Cambridge 1976) or trans. Brown (Oxford 2010); Menander: Dyskolos, trans. Balme 2008; Cicero: Pro Roscio Amerino, ed. E. Donkin (Bristol Classical Press 1991) or trans in Freese’s Loeb.

A full bibliography will be provided during the lectures.

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