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Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce the linguistic, literary, material, and intellectual culture of Greek and Roman antiquity.
  2. To develop the practice of interpretation across the whole range of classical study through close study of texts and artefacts.
  3. To introduce the variety of critical methodologies possible in the study of classical antiquity and major current trends in scholarship.
  4. To develop a sense of the importance of classical antiquity and its study for the modern world.


Scope and structure of the examination paper 2021–22

This paper will be divided into two sections. Section A will contain about eight questions that will require knowledge of the ‘target texts’. Many of these questions will be ‘literary’, but some will require knowledge of archaeological, historical, or philosophical or philological matters that have been covered in the lectures on the texts and in other lecture courses. The questions will often be general and undergraduates are encouraged to deploy their knowledge of more than one text in answering them. For example, a question on ancient marital and sexual ethics and practices may allow you to deploy information acquired in reading e.g. Lysias 1, Medea, Ars Amatoria 1, Pro Caelio, and Lucretius 4.  Section B will contain about twelve questions that require knowledge of subjects studied in the introductory lectures to Ancient History, Classical Art and Archaeology, Philology and Linguistics, and Ancient Philosophy. Candidates will be required to answer three questions, one from Section (a); one from section (b); and one from either section.


Course descriptions

Greek Literature


(4 L: Michaelmas, weeks 1–4)

This course of lectures is designed to place the Target Texts in context and to serve as a more general introduction to the study of Greek literature. The structure of the lectures will be broadly chronological, but the focus will be on the cultural and social contexts in which literature was produced and on the varieties of critical approach which Greek literature invites. No preliminary reading is necessary, but a first orientation to the whole subject may be found in O. Taplin (ed.), Literature in the Greek & Roman Worlds (Oxford, 2000) or T. Whitmarsh, Ancient Greek Literature (Cambridge, 2004).


Latin Literature


(4 L: Michaelmas, weeks 1–4)

These lectures will set the Part IA Target Texts in the context of half a millennium of Latin literature, and introduce some of the essential approaches taken to literature by modern scholarship. History, culture and genre will all make an appearance, as will texts from the Part IB and Part II schedules and more. For introductory reading, try Susanna Braund’s Latin Literature (2002), or dip into Stephen Harrison’s Blackwell Companion to Latin Literature (2005).


Greek and Roman Philosophy


(8 L: Michaelmas; 8 L: Lent)

This set of lectures provides an introduction to Ancient Greek Philosophy by focusing on Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. In the Michaelmas term we will look mainly at Plato’s presentation of the figure of Socrates, a presentation that is often inseparable from Plato’s own philosophical views. The lectures will consider how to read and interpret Plato’s ‘Socratic conversations’ philosophically and show how they can be a provocation to further philosophical inquiry.  The main texts will be Plato’s ApologyEuthyphro, MenoPhaedo, ProtagorasGorgias, and Symposium. Those attending the course are encouraged to read as much as possible of these in advance. A convenient translation, all in one volume, is John Cooper ed. Plato: the complete works (Hackett: Indianapolis, 1997). In the Lent term we will consider two central texts in greater detail: Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and consider themes such as their accounts of happiness, moral psychology, virtue and ethical expertise. For the Republic, see Cooper's edition (above); for the Nicomachean Ethics, see Sarah Broadie and Christopher Rowe (transl. and comm.), Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford 2002).



(8 L: Lent)

How can we be happy? Should our goal in life be to maximise our pleasures and minimise our pains, or should we focus on our souls and virtue, disregarding anything to do with the body? We shall explore the rival solutions to these problems, as well as some of their implications for social values and inter-personal relationships. We will often find ourselves accessing the thought of the Hellenistic schools indirectly, through the eyes of Roman thinkers such as Cicero and Seneca, and we will be asking what they contributed to the debate. The sourcebook for this course is Long and Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers (2 vols. Cambridge, 1987) – see especially the sections on 'Ethics' under 'Epicureanism' and 'Stoicism'.

See also 'Cicero: Ethics and Politics' under Part 1B, Paper 6, and  'Introduction to Philosophical Method' and 'Early Greek Philosophy and Science' under Part IB, Paper 8.


Ancient History


(8 L: Michaelmas)

Fifth-century Athens is famous for its democracy, its empire, and its cultural achievements in art and literature. But how do these fit together? The course will put Greek and Athenian history from the Persian invasion of Greece in the early fifth century BC to the defeat of Athens in the war with Sparta under the spotlight. Did democracy drive imperialism? Did democracy depend upon the wealth that came from empire? Could tragedy have flourished without democracy? Could it have flourished without empire? Along the way we will explore Athenian identity, the city’s buildings and topography, and its social structure. This will involve the study of a range of types of ancient testimony, including literature of various genres, inscriptions and archaeology.

Introductory Reading: Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War Book 1-2.65, R. Osborne (ed.), Short History of Europe, vol I Classical Greece (2000).



(8 L: Michaelmas)

The story of Rome under the Republic (c. 509-31 BC) and the rule of Augustus, the first emperor (31 BC-AD 14) can be told both as an account of the expansion of Roman power first within and then beyond Italy, and as one of intensifying political competition and eventual crisis within the Roman state, resolved (or expunged) by the establishment of one-man rule. The course will pursue both of these themes, and will explore how they inter-relate. Topics to be covered include motivations for, and mechanisms of Roman imperialism, and its cultural and economic consequences; the institutions of Roman politics and how (or whether) they were subverted in the late Republic; and how far Augustus succeeded in providing a solution to, or exploited, the crisis. These topics will be set against the changing physical environment of the city of Rome (how far is this a marker of political change?) and a wider set of issues that extend beyond the elite (how far is it possible to see any of these changes from 'the bottom up'?). The course will also provide some historical contextualization for the Part IA target texts.

Suggested preliminary reading: M. Beard, SPQR (2015), chaps 1 and 5-9, K. Galinsky (ed), Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus (2005).



(8 L: Lent)

This course aims to introduce students to several key aspects of life in the ancient world, and various possible approaches to their study. It will focus on the rituals, rules, and behaviours associated with the key moments and stages in the life-cycle—that is birth and childhood, marriage and family formation, death and commemoration—in both Classical Greece and late Republican/early Imperial Rome, and as both similar to and distinct from each other. The intention is also to promote a broader understanding of the texture and structure of ancient life, and a familiarity with the range of types of evidence, and methodological approaches, which can be used to gain such an understanding. 

You might like to look in advance at some of the following: J. Evans-Grubbs and T. Parkin (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Childhood and Education in the Classical World (Oxford, 2013); R. Garland, The Greek Way of Death (London, 1985); M. Harlow and R. Laurence (eds), A Cultural History of Childhood and Family in Antiquity (London, 2013); M. Harlow and L. Larsson Lovén (eds), Families in the Roman and Late Antique World (London, 2012); V. Hope, Roman Death (London, 2009); R. Laurence and A. Strömberg (eds), Families in the Greco-Roman World (London 2012); B. Rawson (ed.), A Companion to Families in the Greek and Roman Worlds (Oxford, 2011).


Classical Art and Archaeology


(8 L: Michaelmas; 16 L: Lent)

This course provides an introduction to the scope and potential of the art and archaeology of the Greek and Roman worlds. Lectures in the Michaelmas Term offer an overview of the questions, methods, and themes of classical 'art' and archaeology and introduce the importance and inter-relationship of these strands of knowledge for studying the Greek and Roman worlds. The Lent lectures familiarise students with the range of material culture produced by different peoples across the chronological and geographical span of Classical Antiquity. The focus of these lectures is on key sites, issues and approaches, especially of classical Athens and Augustan Rome.

Suggested readings
(double-starred [**] items are accessible online through iDiscover):
**S. Alcock and R. Osborne, Classical Archaeology, 2nd edn. (Oxford, 2011); A. Schnapp, The Discovery of the Past (1996); **C. Shelmerdine (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age (Cambridge, 2008); **I.S. Lemos and A. Kotsonas (eds.), A Companion to the Archaeology of Early Greece and the Mediterranean (2020); I. Morris (ed.) Classical Greece: Ancient Histories and Modern Archaeologies (Cambridge, 1994); R. Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art (Oxford, 1998); **N.J. Spivey, Greek Sculpture (Cambridge, 2013); A.W. Lawrence (revised by R.A. Tomlinson), Greek Architecture (London, 1983); M. Beard and J. Henderson, Classical Art from Greece to Rome (Oxford, 2001); N.J. Spivey and M.J. Squire, Panorama of the Classical World (2004); E.J. Owens, The City in the Greek and Roman World (London, 1991); T.W. Potter, Roman Italy (London, 1987); **M. Beard, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (London, 2008); J. Elsner, Imperial Rome and Christian triumph: the Art of the Roman Empire A.D.100–450 (Oxford, 1998); P. Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Michigan, 1988); M. Thorpe, Roman Architecture (London, 1995); C. Renfrew and P. Bahn, Archaeology - Theories, Methods and Practice (London, several editions); M.H. Johnson, Archaeological Theory: an Introduction (Chichester, 2010).


Classical and Comparative Philology and Linguistics

The course is designed for those interested in the systematic study of language in general and of the classical languages in particular. It provides an introduction both to the concepts and techniques of modern descriptive and theoretical linguistics and to the ways in which these can be fruitfully applied to the analysis of Greek and Latin. There will be discussion of selected testimonia from ancient authors and analysis of passages and examples taken from mainstream authors on the Part IA literature schedules. An advanced knowledge of Greek and Latin is not presupposed, and indeed, many of those taking the Intensive language courses have found this option a very useful complement to their language learning efforts.

Students may find the following introductory text-books to linguistics helpful as introductory or follow-up reading for many of the concepts introduced throughout the whole first-year course: Larry Trask, Language: The Basics (Routledge 1999 (2nd edn.)), Ralph Fasold and Jeff Connor-Linton (eds), An Introduction to Language and Linguistics (Cambridge, 2006); Victoria Fromkin (ed.), An introduction to Linguistic Theory (Blackwell, 2000); Egbert J. Bakker (ed.), A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language (Blackwell, 2010); James Clackson (ed.), A Companion to the Latin Language (Blackwell, 2011).

Subject to Directors of Studies’ approval, supervisions will be organised centrally to complement the lectures.

Those who plan to offer one or more of the Group E papers (Historical and Comparative Linguistics) in Part II of the Tripos are advised to attend at least some of the lectures for linguistics in Part IA, even if they do not intend to answer linguistics questions in Paper 5 of Part IA, or to take Paper 10 in Part IB.


(11 L, 1 C: Michaelmas)

Ancient Greek and Latin are “dead” languages, meaning that we only have written evidence for these languages. In this course, we are first of all going to explore how we can know what they sounded like. To this end, the concept of “sound” as an element of the language will be explained before discussing the sounds of Greek and Latin individually and as systems. The relationship between speech and writing is then explored: exactly how do the Greek and Latin alphabets work, and how do they come to look like they do? In this part of the course, we will look at the origin, development and spread of the alphabet and discuss how it is used by putting it in a linguistic, historical and cultural context. We will then read a number of primary sources (inscriptions) and literary texts in order to see how all of this works in practice.

Students are strongly encouraged to bring pen and paper to these lectures.

Recommended introductory reading:

John Clark, Colin Yallop and Janet Fletcher, An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology, Blackwell 2006

Roger Lass, Phonology, Cambridge 1984

W. Sidney Allen, Vox Graeca, Cambridge 1987

W. Sidney Allen Vox Latina, Cambridge 1978

Peter Daniels and William Bright, The World's Writing Systems New York 1996

Florian Coulmas, Writing Systems, Cambridge 2003

Andrew Robinson, The Story of Writing, London 1996

James T. Hooker, Ancient writing from cuneiform to the alphabet, London 1990

Alison E. Cooley, The Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy Cambridge 2012

Arthur Geoffrey Woodhead, A Study of Greek Inscriptions, 2nd ed., Cambridge 1981

Lilian H. Jeffery, The Locals Scripts of Archaic Greece, 2nd ed., Oxford 1990



(8 L: Lent)

Greek and Latin are highly inflecting languages with many different categories. In this lecture series we will first of all establish what these mean and then systematically survey their use. We will then explore the relationship between morphology and syntax.

Introductory reading: Peter Matthews, Morphology, 2nd edition, Cambridge 1991; Barry Blake, Case, 2nd edition, Cambridge 2001; Greville Corbett, Number, Cambridge 2000; Greville Corbett, Gender, Cambridge 1991; Bernard Comrie, Tense, Cambridge 1985; Frank R. Palmer, Mood and Modality, 2nd edition, Cambridge 2001; Paul Hopper and Elizabeth Traugott, Grammaticalisation, 2nd edition, Cambridge 2003.



(4 L: Lent)

In these lectures we shall explore the linguistic analysis of passages of text longer than a sentence. Topics will include how sections of text relate to one another; how information is highlighted or introduced; how listeners decode meanings in context;  how conversations work and how speakers do things with words. Examples will be taken from selected passages of the IA Target texts.

Recommended introductory reading:

Egbert J. Bakker, ‘Pragmatics: Speech and Text’, in E.J. Bakker (ed.), A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language (Wiley-Blackwell 2010), 151–167.

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