skip to primary navigationskip to content
 

Group C: Ancient History

Paper C1: Living in Athens

Course Director: Dr P C Millett

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 2017–18

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.)

In 2018-19 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.

 

Course descriptions

LIVING IN ATHENS

DR P MILLETT
(24 L: Lent)

What was it like to live in Athens, the countryside as well as the city? Was it (as some have argued) a question of public affluence matched by private squalor? How can we know? This course will try to provide some answers, through an exploration of three overlapping categories: peoples, times and places. Apart from the traditional 'legal' categories of citizens, metics and slaves (each encompassing both men and women), we will consider the experience of being young and old, rich and poor. 'Times' encompasses 'times of the year' (military service, festivals), 'of the month' (politics), and of the day (work and play). 'Places' include significant areas within the city, both public (Agora, Areopagus, Pnyx, temples, sanctuaries, gymnasia) and private (notably, housing), and in 'Greater Athens' (country demes, the Piraeus). Along the way will be considered a range of supplementary topics, including: literacy, education, health, wealth, poverty, eating and drinking, and crime. The timescale will be approximately the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Overall, the course will engage with the problems faced by historians in writing the history of society. The process will involve the full range of literary texts (poetry and prose), inscriptions (including graffiti), archaeology, topography, and iconography. Where appropriate will be introduced the comparative testimony of other ancient and not-so-ancient cities and their surroundings.

Preliminary reading: R. Osborne (ed.) The World of Athens 2nd edn. (Cambridge, 2008); R. Osborne (ed.) Classical Greece. Short Oxford History of Europe Vol. 1 (Oxford, 2000); P. Cartledge, P. Millett, and S. von Reden (ed.) KosmosL Essays in Order, Conflict and Community in Classical Athens (Cambridge, 1998).

 

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 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: Roman Religion: Identity and Empire

Course Director: Dr R E Flemming

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 2017–18

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.

In 2018-19 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.

 

Course descriptions

ROMAN RELIGION: IDENTITY AND EMPIRE

DR R FLEMMING
24 L: Michaelmas)

Roman religion was intimately bound up with both Roman identity and Roman power, right from the foundation of the city itself. These relations become more complex as Rome established domination, first over Italy, and then across the whole Mediterranean world. This imperial expansion brought Rome into increasing contact with other peoples’ gods and cult; just as it brought those same people into increasing contact with Rome’s gods and cult. These encounters were unequal and uneven, within an empire building project, but impact and influences flowed both ways, as the religious landscape of the Roman Empire took shape, and continued to develop over the next centuries

This course will explore some of the most important of these religious interactions, following a roughly chronological trajectory from the Republican period through to the early decades of the third century AD. The fundamental connections of religion, power and identity at Rome will be examined, Rome’s ‘openness’ to new gods and rituals scrutinised, and issues of the export or imposition of distinctly Roman forms of religious organisation and practice, not to mention the institution of imperial cult, will be explored; as well as the resilience and adaptability of local religious traditions, from Syria to Britain, North Africa to the Rhine frontier. It was not just emperors, and their families, who were worshipped across the Roman domains, part of the pattern of imperial rule, but unofficial, elective cults like those of Isis and Mithras also spread throughout the empire, and religion might play a role in resistance to Roman rule, as it did in the revolts in Judea, as well as in imperial integration.

All these themes will be investigated, using a diverse set of textual and material evidence, with questions about the rise of Christianity, as a Roman imperial phenomenon, and about the ways that this development impacted on notions of identity, began to drive a wedge between religious and other facets of cultural identity in the Mediterranean world, also addressed.

There will be a mixture of lectures and classes on key themes and topics through the Michaelmas Term. Classes will expand on and develop the topics of the lectures in more detail, looking at the key sources concerned—a range of ancient literary texts, inscriptions, papyri, and archaeological evidence--and the ongoing debates in modern scholarship. A collection of set texts and images will be provided on Moodle, along with reference to a broader assortment of materials; in addition to the general bibliography below, key readings will be listed for each class. In the Easter Term there will be revision classes, focused on gobbets training and other aspects of preparation for the exam.

Preliminary reading: J. Rives, Religion in the Roman Empire (Oxford, 2007); J. Scheid, An Introduction to Roman Religion, trans. J. Lloyd (Edinburgh, 2003); C. Ando, The Matter of the Gods: Religion and the Roman Empire (Berkeley, 2008).

 

GREEK AND ROMAN EPIGRAPHY

DR M HIRT
(8 C: Michaelmas)

See above under C1.

 

COINAGE IN ACTION

MR T 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 Mr M Adamo

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 2017–18

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.)

In 2018-19 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.

Course descriptions

WRITING HISTORY IN THE CLASSICAL WORLD

DR J PATTERSON ET AL

(10 L, 2 C: Michaelmas)
(8 L, 4 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 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: Prof. 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 2017–18

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.

In 2018-19 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.

Course descriptions

THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE ROMAN WORLD, AD 284–476

PROF. C 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 VOLK
(8 C: Lent)

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

RSS Feed Latest news

Faculty Archivist (part-time)

Oct 10, 2017

The Faculty wishes to recruit a part-time Archivist who will be responsible for the management and care of its archive collections

Kenyon Medal awarded to Joyce Reynolds

Sep 28, 2017

The Kenyon Medal in 2017 has been awarded to Joyce Reynolds FBA for her lifetime's contribution to the research and study of Roman epigraphy.

Postgraduate Open Day Saturday 18 November 2017

Sep 22, 2017

Details of the 2017 Faculty of Classics Postgraduate Open Day are now available online:

Major archaeological discovery near Orchomenos in Boeotia, central Greece

Sep 12, 2017

The Times newspaper reports on excavations this summer at Prosilio near Orchomenos in Boeotia, central Greece, conducted by the Ministry of Culture & Sports of Greece/Ephorate of Antiquities of Boeotia and of the British School at Athens/University of Cambridge

View all news