skip to content

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce the range and variety of Greek and Roman archaeology and art, and the types of evidence available, expanding the knowledge acquired in 1A.
  2. To introduce the general principles of archaeology, as applied to the Greek and Roman worlds.
  3. To explore the ways in which iconography in the ancient world has been studied in modern times, and how this integrates with other archaeological approaches to ancient societies.


Scope and structure of the examination paper 2022–23

The syllabus is based around the following topics: (i) Roman Britain; (ii) Mycenae - City of Legend; (iii) The world of the Greek symposium; (iv) Late Classical and Hellenistic Sculpture (taught in ET22).

Candidates must answer three questions, including Question 1. Question 1 will contain a choice of four pairs of images for comment, one pair corresponding to each of the topics taught in the year (including ET22); candidates must answer on three images, no more than one image per pair. There will also be two essay questions corresponding to each of the topics taught in the year (including ET22). All questions carry equal weight.


Course descriptions


(8 L: Michaelmas)

Understandings of Britain in the Roman period have been rooted in reading textual sources alongside material culture. Various scholars have appreciated the evidence differently, according to the traditions that they themselves operated within. Offered in this course are a number of different lecture themes which will explore certain key case studies and their associated debates.

Introductory bibliography: R. Jackson 2020 The Roman occupation of Britain and its legacy, Bloomsbury; H. Eckardt 2014 Objects and Identities, OUP; D. Mattingly 2006 An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, Penguin; M. Millett, L. Revell and A. Moore (eds) 2016 The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain, OUP.



(8 L: Lent)

Mycenae is one of the most important cities of the ancient world. Following the excavations and dazzling discoveries there of Heinrich Schliemann, Mycenae became one of the most important type-sites for the archaeology of the Bronze Age Aegean, paving the way for the systematic exploration of Greece's rich pre-classical past. Known in Homer as 'rich in gold' and immortalised in ancient Greek literature as the capital of Agamemnon, Mycenae has long been vested in a legendary aura.

This course examines in detail the site's history, art and archaeology from its earliest Neolithic beginnings down to its modern rediscovery. Among the aims of the course is to familiarise students with sources, methods, and tools available to us today that can help us reconstruct and understand the history and significance of a site over time.

As part of the course we will explore the identity and power base of Mycenae's elite, through exploring high status artefacts, monumental architecture, iconography, and evidence for cult activity. The 'shaft graves' as well as Mycenae's palace, administration and industries are discussed, along with the few – yet highly informative – Linear B documents. The modern rediscovery of Mycenae by the western world is set alongside Schliemann's methods and practices and the impact his work had on modern scholarship, especially with regard to understanding Greece's Bronze Age past.

With the Faculty of Classics holding the Mycenae Excavations Archive ( and remarkable collections of Mycenaean potsherds, one of the lectures focuses specifically on objects and archives and how best we can use them for better understanding ancient societies.

Preliminary reading: E. French, Mycenae. Agamemnon's Capital (Stroud, 2002); Gere, C. The Tomb of Agamemnon: Mycenae and the Search for a Hero (London, 2006); Wardle, K.A. and D. Wardle, Cities of Legend. The Mycenaean World (Bristol, 2001 repr.); C. Shelmerdine, The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age (Cambridge, 2008).

There is also a well-illustrated, introductory, online catalogue free to browse and/or download as a .pdf:



(8 L: Lent)

The symposium (literally a ‘drinking together’) was one of the most important cultural institutions of Archaic and Classical Athens. We know about it from a variety of Greek literary texts. But what actually happened at the symposium? What social, political and cultural functions did it fulfil? And how did this topsy-turvy world of the symposium at once subvert and reinforce contemporary ideas and values?

This interdisciplinary course explores the world of the symposium through a range of archaeological materials. The primary focus, though, is on Athenian painted pottery – that is, the imagery that framed the very vessels that symposiasts used. Proceeding thematically, and with an eye to the different ways in which this material has been studied, we will explore how vase-painting actively constructed the symposium within the Greek cultural imaginary. Topics range from depictions of sex and drinking games to cultural ideas about the gods, myth, intoxication and identity politics. Along the way, we will also be looking at domestic archaeology (the space of the andron within the Greek house), as well as its broader material cultural adornment. More generally, we will be asking how classical archaeologists might best approach such materials within the larger project of Greek social, political and cultural history.

Introductory reading: C. Bérard (ed.) (1989) A City of Images: Iconography and Society in Ancient Greece; J. Boardman (2001) The History of Greek Vases: Potters, Painters and Pictures; M. L. Catoni (2010) Bere vino puro: immagini del simposio; H. M. Franks (2018) The World Underfoot: Mosaics and Metaphor in the Greek Symposium; F. Hobden (2013) The Symposion in Ancient Greek Society and Thought; F. Lissarrague (1990) The Aesthetics of the Greek Banquet: Images of Wine and Ritual, trans. A. Szegedy-Maszak; O. Murray (ed.) (1990) Sympotica: A symposium on the symposio; R. T. Neer (2002) Style and Politics in Athenian Vase-Painting: The Craft of Democracy; R. Osborne (2018)The Transformation of Athens: Painted Pottery and the Creation of Classical Greece; T. Rasmussen and N. Spivey (eds.) (1992) Looking at Greek Vases; A. Steiner (2007) Reading Greek Vases; K. Topper (2012) The Imagery of the Athenian Symposium.




(8 L: Easter)

It was only really in the late nineteenth century with the growing popularity of something like the Parthenon sculptures that fifth-century Athenian production began to dictate the pace. In contrast, the sculptures that most influenced Renaissance artists (the Laocoon, Belvedere Torso, Dying Gaul) were ‘Hellenistic’ in style, conceived in a world without democracy. This course puts their bodies under the microscope, asking how they differ from the production of Phidias, Polyclitus and their contemporaries, in bulk, beauty, politics, relationship to text, and relationship to the viewer. It will examine their function in the Greek world and their appeal in Rome. In studying form and function, it will think both about specific issues such as divinity and mortality, gender, and patronage, and about specific places such as Halicarnassus, Pergamum, Delos, and Sperlonga.

Preliminary reading: Picón, Carlos (2016) Pergamum and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World, New Haven and London; Stewart, Andrew (2014) Art in the Hellenistic World, Cambridge; Daehner, Jens, M. (2015) Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, Los Angeles; Pollitt, Jerome J. (1986) Art in the Hellenistic Age, Cambridge; Smith, Bert (1991) Hellenistic Sculpture: a Handbook, London; Burn, Lucilla (2004) Hellenistic Art: From Alexander the Great to Augustus, London.

Latest news

VIEWS PhD Studentship

4 April 2023

The Faculty of Classics is recruiting for a PhD student to join the Visual Interactions in Early Writing Systems (VIEWS) project in October 2023. The student will work on a predetermined topic, namely visual aspects of the linear scripts of the Bronze Age Aegean (Cretan Hieroglyphic, Linear A and Linear B), although there...

Classics Shorts with Mary Beard: videos for schools

19 February 2023

We are thrilled to be launching Classics Shorts : a series of videos for schools introducing the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and exploring themes with continuing resonance for the modern classroom. Each film is accompanied by teaching materials for use in schools. Celebrity guests join Mary Beard and her colleagues to...

New appointment in Classical Archaeology

10 February 2023

The Faculty is delighted to announce that Dr Jane Rempel has been appointed to an Assistant Professorship in Classics from 1 September 2023. She is currently Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at the University of Sheffield.

Regius Professorship of Greek

16 January 2023

The Faculty is delighted to announce that Professor Tim Whitmarsh FBA has been elected Regius Professor of Greek from 1 April 2023. He is currently the A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture in the University. Looking ahead to his new role, Professor Whitmarsh commented: ’I am thrilled and honoured to be taking up this...