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Group C: Ancient History

Paper C1: Constructing the worlds of Archaic Greece (c. 750–480 B.C.)

Course Director: Prof. R G Osborne

Aims and objectives

  1. To investigate the variety of ways in which contemporary evidence, textual and material, offers particular representations of historical reality.
  2. To investigate the assumptions on which the history of archaic Greece has been constructed out of oral, literary and material evidence by ancient and modern authors alike.
  3. To explore the ways in which different sorts of evidence, literary, epigraphic, and archaeological, can be used in conjunction with one another.
  4. To examine the ways in which the history of a past period is always written in relation to the history of another period or place and in support of a particular construction of ideal societal arrangements.
  5. To engage with problems of historical generalisation across time and space.

 

Scope and structure of the examination paper 2016–17

The three-hour paper will contain twelve to fifteen essay questions concerning various of the topics covered in lectures, classes and supervisions. Candidates are required to answer three questions.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

From 2017-18 this paper will be replaced by ‘Living in Athens’.

 

Course descriptions

CONSTRUCTING THE WORLDS OF ARCHAIC GREECE (c.750–480 B.C.)

PROF. R G OSBORNE
(24 L: Michaelmas)

The period between 750 and 480 BC is the period in which the political, social, economic and cultural patterns of Greek life that would dominate the classical world were established. This makes the period a fascinating one, but raises a serious problem as to how we understand the archaic world itself. How far should we ‘read back’ the patterns that were finally established into the earlier history? The aim of this course is to use archaic Greece as a particularly striking example where we can juxtapose the pictures of the world provided by archaic literature (Homer, Hesiod, the lyric and elegiac poets), archaic epigraphic texts (poetic texts, legal texts, funerary and religious texts), and by the archaeology, and art of the archaic period both to each other and to the pictures provided by later historical texts (above all Herodotus). The pictures given by the different sources variously overlap and conflict, and modern scholarship has adopted various strategies to exploit the overlap and deal with the conflict. By drawing attention to those strategies, which have generally not been advertised, this course aims not only to enrich our knowledge of the archaic Greek world, but to develop a self-consciousness about how history is constructed, and to promote an awareness of the potential wealth of resources from which we can come to understand the ancient past.

Preliminary reading: J.M. Hall A history of the archaic Greek world: ca. 1200–479 BCE (Oxford, 2007); R. Osborne Greece in the Making, 1200–479 B.C. (London, 1996/2009).

 

GREEK AND ROMAN EPIGRAPHY

DR M HIRT
(8 C (1.5 hr each): Michaelmas)

In both the Greek and the Roman worlds communities as well as individuals communicated a great deal of information by inscribing it on stone or other materials. Both the content and the form of the texts that were inscribed provide essential resources for the historian. This course provides an elementary introduction to reading and understanding Greek (weeks 1–4) and Roman (weeks 5–8) inscriptions. Students will be guided in the use of basic epigraphic handbooks and specifically epigraphic scholarly tools, and introduced to the range of types of Greek and Roman inscriptions and to how these change in form and content through time. Examples relevant to the particular interests of students taking the course will be chosen to illustrate the interest and significance of epigraphic material. Those interested should look at J. Bodel Epigraphic Evidence. Ancient History from Inscriptions (Routledge, 2001).

 

COINAGE IN ACTION

MR T R VOLK
(8 C: Lent)

See under ‘General Course’ and ‘Graduate Courses’. Interested students are encouraged to attend the introductory meeting (date to be confirmed).

 

Paper C2: Popular Culture in the Roman Empire

Course Directors: Dr A Hunt and Dr J Toner

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce students to the cultural world of the non-elite in late Republican and imperial Rome.
  2. To explore a wide range of literary, documentary and visual sources relevant to the cultural world of the non-elite in Roman society.
  3. To encourage students to reflect on the particular methodological problems in accessing the culture or experience of those outside the Roman elite.
  4. To reflect more widely on the idea of “popular culture”, and its applicability to antiquity.

 

Scope and Structure of the examination paper 2016–17

The three-hour paper will contain ten to twelve essay questions concerning various topics covered in lectures, classes, and supervisions. There will be two sections: Section A will consist of questions focused on particular texts and/or images; Section B will consist of more general questions. Candidates are required to answer three questions, one from Section A and two from Section B.

From 2017-18 this paper will be replaced by ‘Roman Religion: Identity and Empire’.

 

Course descriptions

POPULAR CULTURE IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE

DR A HUNT,
DR J TONER ET AL
(16L and 4 C (2 hr): Michaelmas)

The aim of this course is to see how far we can approach Roman history “from below”. Can we begin to describe the cultural world of the “ordinary” Roman? What stories did they tell? What made them laugh? What did they fear? How different were their tastes, cultural preferences, even language from those of the elite? Most of the surviving texts in the canon of classical literature pay little more than passing attention to the non-elite, and hardly any were written by those who were not part of a relatively narrow group of the elite or well-connected. But there is nevertheless some material – and more than most people imagine – which may offer us a glimpse of the world and world-view of the ordinary Roman in the street. This includes fables, joke books, oracles, graffiti and visual representations of many kinds. All these will take centre stage in this course.

The course will start by considering what we mean by “ordinary” Romans”. What levels of wealth or poverty do we mean? What living conditions do we imagine? How “multi-cultural” a group were they? And it will go on to explore the character of their culture – from the world of the bar and the (communal) latrine to the impact of the gods or the strong arm of the law. But throughout we shall keep in mind the methodological issues at stake. These popular texts are no more transparent than any others; and some of them may not be as popular as they seem – and, in fact, the very category of “popular literature” or “popular culture” may itself be problematic. Were the cultures of the elite and the non-elite very clearly divided? How much culture was shared?

We shall concentrate on the city of Rome and Italy, but some supplementary material will also be drawn from Roman Egypt, as well as Christian imperial culture. The disjunction between the context of many of the richest sources (e.g. Life of Aesop) and the metropolis itself will be one major theme of discussion.

We shall also explore some of the rich range of comparative historical material on the concept of popular culture.

Preliminary reading: Beard, M., Pompeii: the life of a Roman town, Profile, 2008; Hansen, W. (ed.), Anthology of Ancient Greek Popular Literature, Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana UP, 1998; Horsfall, N., The Culture of the Roman Plebs, Duckworth, 2003; Toner, J., Popular Culture in Ancient Rome, Cambridge: Polity, 2009; Parsons, P. City of the Sharp-nosed Fish, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007.

 

GREEK AND ROMAN EPIGRAPHY

DR M HIRT
(8 C: Michaelmas)

See above under C1.

 

COINAGE IN ACTION

MR T R VOLK
(8 C: Lent)

See under ‘General Course’ and ‘Graduate Courses’. Interested students are encouraged to attend the introductory meeting (date to be confirmed).

 

Paper C3: Writing history in the classical world

Course Directors: Dr J R Patterson and Dr H Willey

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce students to a range of historical writers from the Classical world.
  2. To examine the aims of Classical historians, and how they conceived of, and resolved, the problems associated with writing about the past.
  3. To explore how the writings of Classical historians related to those of their predecessors, and to the concerns of their own times, warfare and politics in particular.
  4. To investigate how Classical historians perceived outsiders.
  5. To consider ways (particularly poetic, epigraphic and visual) other than through literary historiography in which the past was recorded in the Classical world.

 

Scope and structure of the examination paper 2016–17

The three-hour paper will contain about fourteen questions: candidates will be required to answer Question 1 and two others. Question 1 will consist of nine passages from a list of specified ancient texts, each given with a translation. Candidates will be required to comment on any three of these passages. The remainder of the questions on the paper will be essay-questions concerning various of the topics covered in lectures, classes and supervisions.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

 

Course descriptions

WRITING HISTORY IN THE CLASSICAL WORLD

DR J R PATTERSON
DR H WILLEY ET AL
(18 L, 6 C: Lent)

The aim of the course is to explore ancient historiography in a comparative and thematic way, through the study of some central ancient historical writers, and (in particular) what classical historians themselves said about the challenges involved in writing history. The six themes selected relate to the aims, techniques, and content with which classical historians – both Greek and Roman - are concerned. The introductory segment, on ‘Genre(s) of histor(ies)’ reviews the different possible models for history-writing in antiquity, and also serves as an introduction to the key authors being studied in the course; ‘Truth and lies’ looks at techniques of information-gathering, the use of rhetoric to enhance the impact of the text, and historians’ (frequently polemical) engagement with their predecessors; ‘Past and present’ relates the writing of history to configurations of power within which historians were writing; ‘War and peace’ examines the representation of warfare, a fundamental (often defining) theme for ancient writers; ‘Selves and others’ looks at how Greeks and Romans represented those outside the Greco-Roman world, and each other; ‘The ends of history’ explores the aims, moral and commemorative, of history-writing. The course will also engage with the ways, other than through literary historiography, by which a record or narrative of the past was preserved in antiquity; in other words, how individuals and communities shaped and marshalled their past. The course will seek, then, to promote the understanding of these historians within a broader tradition as well as within their immediate intellectual and political context.

Each of these themes will be explored in a sequence of three lectures and a class, during which some of the students taking the course will give presentations, and more general discussion of the theme and particular key passages will take place. Herodotus 4 and 5, Thucydides 2, Polybius 6, Livy 1 and Tacitus Annals 4 are prescribed for study, together with a list of shorter passages of particular historiographical interest, taken from a wider range of authors. We would also strongly recommend that in advance of the lectures, students read (in translation) the whole of at least one of the following: Thucydides; Herodotus; Polybius; Sallust Catiline and Jugurtha; Tacitus Annals.

Introductory bibliography:

C.S. Kraus and A.J. Woodman, Latin historians: Greece and Rome new surveys in the Classics (Oxford, 1997)

J. Marincola, A companion to Greek and Roman historiography (2 vols: Oxford, 2001)

J. Marincola, Greek historians: Greece and Rome new surveys in the Classics (Oxford, 2001)

L. Pitcher, Writing ancient history: an introduction to classical historiography (London, 2009)

 

GREEK AND ROMAN EPIGRAPHY

DR M HIRT
(8 C: Michaelmas)

See above under C1.

 

COINAGE IN ACTION

MR T R VOLK
(8 C: Lent)

See under ‘General Course’ and ‘Graduate Courses’. Interested students are encouraged to attend the introductory meeting (date to be confirmed).

 

Paper C4: The Transformation of the Roman World, AD 284–476

Course Director: Dr C M Kelly

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce students to the outline history of the Roman Empire from the third to the fifth centuries AD and to literature and other sources outside the traditional classical canon.
  2. To think about the nature of late-antique society, and to explore in depth a range of features (particularly the growth of Christianity, the reorganisation of civil and military power, and the changes in local, urban and regional economies) which distinguish the later Roman Empire from the Principate.
  3. To consider in depth the nature of the engagement between Romans and barbarians in the fourth and fifth centuries AD and between pagans and Christians in the same period. To think about the historiographical representations of these relationships; and to seek to understand the nature of transition from the classical to the early medieval world in both the western and eastern Mediterranean.
  4. To explore the utility for the study of ancient history of modern theoretical strategies from other disciplines. To introduce undergraduates to a wide range of (ancient and modern) historical approaches and literary traditions.
  5. To encourage a wide variety of critical responses to the sources; to seek to integrate a wide range of different source material, in particular, studies of specific authors and their surviving works with art historical and archaeological material.

 

Scope and structure of the examination paper 2016–17

The three-hour paper will contain around fifteen essay questions concerning various of the topics covered in lectures, classes and supervisions. Candidates are required to answer three questions.

 

Course descriptions

THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE ROMAN WORLD, AD 284–476

DR C M KELLY ET AL
(16 L and 4 C (2 hrs): Lent)

Ancient history conventionally ends with the conversion of Constantine to Christianity in AD 312. But what happened next? This paper explores the following two centuries, a period all too frequently characterised as one of doom and disintegration, of decline and fall. Ever since Edward Gibbon, the third to the sixth centuries A.D. have had a raw deal. This paper seeks to change all that. It is an often uncomfortable journey through a world of distant ceremonial emperors, wild ascetic holy men, powerful saints, excitable virgins, charismatic heretics, oppressive bureaucrats and violent barbarians. A world in which long cherished "classical values" were upturned, and in which – or so it has been alleged – an empire declined and fell, barbarians triumphed, and a new religion flourished. This paper concentrates on these upheavals (social, religious, moral, economic, cultural, political) which determined the transformation of the classical Mediterranean into the radically different world of late Antiquity – a world more familiar to its conquerors Mohammed and Charlemagne. Through the exploration of a set of broad topics – for example, the growth of bureaucracy, the development of Byzantine courtly monarchy, the displacement of polytheism by Christianity, the rise of Christian heresies, the emergence of new styles of art and literature, the growing prominence of barbarians, the debates surrounding “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” – this paper aims to reveal something of the unexpected endurance and variety of a society which stands between the more familiar worlds of the Roman Principate and early medieval Europe.

In addition to the lectures, there will also be four (2 hr) classes concentrating on ancient historiography.

Suggested preliminary reading: P. Brown, The Making of late Antiquity (1978); A. Cameron, The later Roman Empire: AD 284–430 (1993); P. Brown, Power and Persuasion in late Antiquity: towards a Christian Empire (1992); A. Cameron and P. Garnsey (edd.), Cambridge Ancient History, vol. XIII: The late Empire, AD 337–425 (1998), Parts I, II and V; A. Cameron, B. Ward-Perkins and M. Whitby (edd.), Cambridge Ancient History, vol. XIV: Late Antiquity, Empire and Successors, AD 425–600 (2000), Parts I, IV and V; C.M. Kelly, Ruling the later Roman Empire (2004); P. Rousseau (ed.), A Companion to Late Antiquity (2009) Parts II and V; C. Wickham, Framing the early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400–800 (2005) Part I; G. Clark, Late Antiquity: A Very Short Introduction (2011); S.F. Johnson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook to Late Antiquity (2012) Parts III and IV.

 

COINAGE IN ACTION

MR T R VOLK
(8 C: Lent)

See under ‘General Course’ and ‘Graduate Courses’. Interested students are encouraged to attend the introductory meeting (date to be confirmed).

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