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The Greek literature papers in Part IB are designed to offer you a wide choice of topics representing texts from across the field of ancient Greek literature. Within this spread, however, we regard it as very important that during the Part I 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. 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.

Each paper includes two groups of texts labelled List A (the ‘core’ texts of that topic to be read in the original Greek) and List B (those offering scope for further exploration).

Non-intensive-Greek (Non-IG) candidates (i.e. those offering Paper A1) for any of these papers will be required to have read all texts in the List A of a topic studied for examination. Intensive-Greek (IG) candidates (i.e. those offering Papers A2-3 ) have a reduced list that is noted in the prescriptions below.


Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce samples of the variety and scope of ancient Greek literature and their importance to later literary traditions.
  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.


Scope and structure of the examination papers 2023–24

Each paper, to be assessed as a 2-hour in-person examination, is divided into three Sections (A, B and C). Sections A and B both consist of two questions, each of which must be answered, featuring passages from the List A texts for critical discussion. Each answer is worth 25% of the marks available for the paper. Sections C contains a choice of essay questions, of which candidates should attempt one. This section is worth 50% of the marks available for the paper.

Different prescriptions apply to different groups of candidates:

  • Non-intensive-Greek (Non-IG) candidates (i.e. those offering Paper A1) should attempt Sections A and C of Schedule C papers.
  • Intensive-Greek (IG) candidates (i.e. those offering Papers A2-3) should attempt Sections B and C of Schedule C papers.

Extracts from set texts presented in examinations will follow the prescribed editions listed below.



(8L: Michaelmas)

This module is designed as an introduction to early Greek epic, with a focus on the Iliad. List A readings track the most critical moments in Achilles’ story, but our focus nonetheless always remains on the Iliad as an integral, monumental whole. Extensive readings in translation allow us to study the Greek epic tradition in its full breadth and provide crucial context for understanding the Iliad in all its depth. General introductory lectures will be followed by close readings of List A and B texts.

List A

  • Non-IG: Homer, Iliad 9.182-668; 18.1-467; 22.1-515; 24.1-158, 468-804 + the remainder of the Iliad to be read in translation 
  • IG: Homer, Iliad 9.225-523; 18.1-137; 22.1-366; 24.1-158, 468-776 + the remainder of the Iliad to be read in translation

List B (for ALL candidates)

Homer, Odyssey; Hesiod, Theogony; summaries and fragments of the Trojan Cycle (in M.L. West ed., Greek Epic Fragments from the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC (Cambridge MA, 2003)). 

Introductory readings

Students are advised to read as much as possible of the List A and B texts ahead of time. Introductions to the materials and further bibliography for orientation may be found in: Rutherford, R., Homer2, Cambridge 2013 and Gainsford, P., Early Greek Hexameter Poetry, Cambridge 2016. Both volumes are concise and available online.

Prescribed editions for examination

Homeri Opera, vols. 1 and 2, edited by D. B. Monro and T.W. Allen, Oxford (3rd edn) 1976.

Suggested commentaries

Griffin, J., Homer, Iliad Book 9, Oxford 1995; De Jong, I., Homer, Iliad Book 22, Cambridge 2012; Rutherford, R.B. Homer, Iliad Book 18, Cambridge 2019; Macleod, C.W., Homer, Iliad Book 24, Cambridge 1984. Also: Hainsworth, J. B., The Iliad. A Commentary. Vol. 3: Books 9-12, Cambridge 1993; Edwards, M. W., The Iliad. A Commentary. Vol. 5: Books 17-20, Cambridge 1991; Richardson, N. J., The Iliad. A Commentary. Vol. 6: Books 21-24, Cambridge 1993; Coray, M. Homer’s Iliad. The Basel Commentary. Book XVIII. [transl. B.W. Millis and S. Strack], Boston/Berlin 2018 [accessible online]; Bruger, C. Homer’s Iliad. The Basel Commentary. Book XVIII. [transl. B.W. Millis and S. Strack], Boston/Berlin 2017 [accessible online]; Willcock, M.M., The Iliad of Homer, vol. 1: Books I-XII: Basingstoke 1978; vol. 2: Books XIII-XIV: Basingstoke 1984.



(8L: MIchaelmas)

This course is based around two of the greatest and most famous Athenian plays from the end of the fifth century, Euripides’ Bacchae and Aristophanes’ Frogs (both 405 bc); in both of these plays the god of drama himself, Dionysos, is a central figure, and both reflect, in their own distinctive ways, on the nature of theatre. Not only will this course offer students a chance to study these plays in detail, but questions such as ‘What is Dionysiac about Greek drama?’, and ‘Why does Dionysos get so much stage-time towards the end of the Peloponnesian War?’ will be central to the course.

The B texts are carefully chosen to support the two A texts. Cyclops and Ichneutai, our two major pieces of evidence for satyr-drama, will introduce students to the third and most overtly Dionysiac of the dramatic genres, one defined by its chorus of Dionysos’ satyrs; as the worship of Dionysos is at the heart of the Bacchae, satyr-play, which represents the doings of Dionysos’ satyric followers, is the most obvious comparandum. Cyclops (prob. 408 bc) and Bacchae in particular, which were very likely produced very close in time to each other (and thus to Frogs), share very many Dionysiac themes and are mutually illuminating.

The choice of Persians and Helen invites the students to think about plays which do not feature Dionysos or figures closely associated with him among its personae, but which will help them see what might lie behind the contest of Aeschylus and Euripides in Frogs and understand why Dionysos might initially have been so taken with Euripides. The contrast between our earliest Attic tragedy, one easily represented as martial, patriotic and belonging to the old days (and one explicitly cited in the Frogs) and a very ‘modern’ and ‘late’ escape melodrama, full of typical Euripidean themes such as that of deceptive appearances – and a play of which we know Aristophanes took great notice –, sets out the issues at the core of Frogs in very strong and clear colours. The course will use this opportunity to consider both the history of tragedy in the fifth century and the story which the Athenians themselves told about that history, a story which has much to do with Dionysos, and the music and dance in his honour.

List A

  • Non-IG: Euripides, Bacchae 1-87, 170-369, 434-518, 660-861, 912-91, 1043-1376; Aristophanes, Frogs 1-335, 686-813, 1006-1413, 1466-1533 (with the rest of the plays in English)
  • IG: Euripides, Bacchae 1-87, 170-369, 660-861, 912-991; Aristophanes, Frogs 1-335, 686-813, 1466-1533 (with the rest of the plays in English) 

List of texts B (for ALL candidates)

Aeschylus Persians; Euripides, Cyclops, Helen; Sophocles, Ichneutai.  

List A editions & commentaries (asterisks indicate the prescribed editions for use in examination)

  • Diggle, J. (ed.) (1994) Euripidis fabulae, Tomus III (Oxford)* 
  • Dodds, E.R. (1960) Euripides, Bacchae (Oxford) 
  • Seaford, R.A.S. (1996) Euripides, Bacchae, with an Introduction, translation and commentary (Warminster) [Aris&Phillips] 
  • Wilson, N.G. (2007) Aristophanis fabulaeTomus II (Oxford)* 
  • Dover, K. (1993) Aristophanes, Frogs, edited with introduction and commentary (Oxford) [abriged ed.: Oxford 1997] 
  • Sommerstein, A.H. (1996) Aristophanes, Frogs, edited with translation and notes(Warminster) [Aris&Phillips] 
  • Stanford, W.B. (1958) Aristophanes, Frogs, edited with introduction, revised text, commentary, and index. (London) 

List B editions & commentaries 

  • Burian, P. (2007) Euripides, Helen (Oxford) [Aris&Phillips] 
  • Hall, E. (1996) Aeschylus, Persians (Warminster) [Aris&Phillips] 
  • Hunter, R. and Laemmle, R. (2020) Euripides, Cyclops (Cambridge) 
  • Kovacs, D. (2002) Euripides, Helen, Phoenician Women, Orestes (Cambridge, MA/London) [Loeb] 
  • Lloyd-Jones, H. (2003) Sophocles, Fragments (Cambridge, MA/London) [The Searchers (= Ichneutai) on pp. 140–77][Loeb] 
  • Seaford, R.A.S. (1984) Euripides Cyclops (Oxford) 
  • O’Sullivan, P. and Collard, C. (2013) Euripides, Cyclops and Major Fragments of Greek Satyric Drama (Oxford) [Aris&Phillips] 
  • Sommerstein, A.H. (2008) Aeschylus, Persians, Seven Against Thebes, Suppliants, Prometheus Bound (Cambridge, MA/London) [Loeb]



(8L: Lent)

This paper introduces students to the Greek Novel, a new literary genre that emerged in the period of the Roman Empire. These texts — by turn hyper-sophisticated, raunchy, psychologically insightful, rhetorically overwrought and socially subversive — reached a wide readership in antiquity, and give an unparalleled insight into the mindset of Greek-speakers under the Roman Empire. When they were popularised in the 16th century, ancient novels were hugely influential on modern literature, from Shakespeare and Sydney to the modern novel itself. They are thus, in one sense, the ancestors of the modern novel, and many of the techniques used to analyse modern literature can be brought to bear upon them.

List A

  • Non-IG: Achilles Tatius Books 1–2; pseudo-Lucian, The Ass
  • IG: Achilles Tatius Book 1; pseudo-Lucian, The Ass

List B (for ALL candidates)

Achilles Tatius Books 3–8; Joseph and Aseneth; The Life of Thecla

Introductory readings

  • Cueva, E. and Byrne, S. eds. 2014. A Companion to the Ancient Novel. Oxford.
  • Schmeling, G. ed. 1996. The Novel in the Ancient World. Leiden.
  • Whitmarsh, T. ed. 2008. The Cambridge Companion to the Greek and Roman Novel. Cambridge.
  • Whitmarsh, T. 2018. Dirty Love: The Genealogy of the Ancient Greek Novel. New York.

Prescribed editions and recommended commentaries

Achilles Tatius

  • Text and commentary: Whitmarsh, T. ed. 2020. Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon Books I–II. Cambridge.
  • Translation: Either Whitmarsh, T. 2001. Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon. Oxford. Or Winkler, J. J. in Reardon, B. P. ed. 1989. Collected Ancient Greek Novels. Berkeley.

The Ass

  • Text: Macleod, M. D. 1974. Luciani Opera. Vol. II. Oxford: 276–309.
  • Text and commentary: Nimis, S. and Hayes, E. eds. 2012. Lucian’s The Ass: An Intermediate Greek Reader. Greek Text with Running Vocabulary and Commentary. Oxford. (click ‘free download’)

Joseph and Aseneth

  • Humphrey, E. M. 2000. Joseph and Aseneth. Sheffield.

Paul and Thecla

  • Wilson, R. M. 1998. ‘Anonymous, The Acts of Paul and Thecla’. In Hansen, W. ed. Anthology of Greek Popular Literature. Bloomington.



(8L: Lent)

Herodotus famously says in a programmatic passage of the Histories (3.38): "Pindar, I believe, was right in his poem: custom (nomos) is lord of all." This course is concerned with Greek representations and understanding of cultural difference. How are the customs of other peoples described and translated into intelligible Greek categories? How did the Greeks make sense of others’ gods? What was involved in knowing other peoples, and what was at stake? How does ancient ethnographic knowledge change? Is Greek ethnography always a reassertion of Greek exceptionalism? Such questions will be pursued through a variety of genres and texts across the centuries, from the Odyssey's seminal narrative of distant travel in the Archaic period, through Classical medical investigations of cultural and physical difference exemplified by the Hippocratic Airs, Waters, Places, to the Imperial relation of India's distant customs mediated through Alexander's conquest in Arrian's Indika. At the heart of the course is the guiding thread of Herodotus' Histories. Itself the heir of earlier modes of ethnography, the Histories radically refounded knowledge about cultural variation within the inhabited world (the oikoumenē), and provided an overarching model for a whole tradition of later ethnography. The representation of Egypt's remarkably ancient and irreducible difference in Book II of the Histories and the variegated diversity of the customs of the northern Scythian tribes described in Book IV of the Histories will be the core material of our investigation. Herodotus’ reception will be pursued through Lucian's De Dea Syria, a treatise on the cults of Hierapolis (now Manbij) and a creative example of Imperial ethnography, to his immense and consequential influence on Early Modern European ethnography.

List A

  • Non-IG: Herodotus 1.1-5; 131-140; 2.1-5; 35-58, 73-91; 4.1-16, 25-50, 59-83; Lucian On the Syrian Goddess 1-38.
  • IG: Herodotus 1.1-5; 1.131-140; 2.1-5; 2.35-58; 4.1-16; 4.25-50; Lucian On the Syrian Goddess 1-25.

List B (for ALL candidates)

Odyssey 9; Herodotus 2, 4; Hippocrates, Airs, Waters, Places; Arrian, Indika; Lucian, On the Syrian Goddess.

Introductory readings

  • Asheri, D. (2007) ‘General Introduction’. In D. Asheri, A. Lloyd, A, Corcella, A Commentary on Herodotus Books I-IV. Oxford. 1-56.
  • Vignolo Munson, R. (2013) ‘Introduction’. In R. Vignolo Munson, Herodotus. Volume 1. Herodotus and the Narrative of the Past. Oxford: Oxford Readings in Classical Studies. 1-28.
  • ―(2013) ‘Introduction’. In R. Vignolo Munson, Herodotus. Volume 2. Herodotus and the World. Oxford: Oxford Readings in Classical Studies. 1-17.

Prescribed editions and recommended commentaries

N.G. Wilson, Herodoti Historiae, vol. 1 (Oxford Classical Text), 2015; J.L. Lightfoot, Lucian. On the Syrian Goddess: Edited with Introduction, Translation and Commentary, Oxford, 2003. Commentaries: C. Dewald, R. Vignolo Munson, Herodotus: Histories Book 1, Cambridge, 2022; D. Asheri, A. Lloyd, A. Corcella, Herodotus Books I-IV, Oxford, 2007 (historical commentary); E. Hayes, S. Nimis, Lucian. On the Syrian Goddess: An Intermediate Greek Reader: Greek Text with Running Vocabulary and Commentary, Oxford, 2012 (linguistic aid).


Courses for ALL candidates

If you did not manage to attend this course in your Part IA year, now is the time to go to:


(6 L: Easter)

All scholarly reading and writing about literature is ‘theoretical’, in the sense that it rests upon ideas about what literature is, what it is for, and what it means. The aims of this course are three-fold: firstly, to allow students to understand better what are the hidden assumptions that underpin the way that they have been brought up to read; secondly, to help them understand the range of alternative options available; and thirdly, to give them practical tips to allow them to expand their literary-critical toolkits. The lectures will be accessible — no prior knowledge is assumed — and will benefit any student with any interest in reading ancient literature either as literature or in historical terms. The lectures will cover the more established areas of theory, including narratology, deconstruction and feminism, and also newer fields like ecocriticism and new materialism. A good place for the curious to start is Jonathan Culler’s accessible Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2011).

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