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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 2019–20

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 2020-21 this paper will be replaced by 'Thucydides'.

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.) Kosmos: 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)

Inscriptions provide a wealth of information regarding almost all aspects of the Greek and Roman worlds: institutions, administration, law, religion, society, language, prosopography, etc. The aim of the course is to introduce students to this type of source, its usefulness and limitations, as well as to the scholarly tools used in epigraphy. Through squeezes and images, students will be encouraged to read and interpret interesting texts from different classes of inscriptions.

The course comprises 8 lectures divided between Greek (week 1-4) and Latin epigraphy (week 5-8). It is available to Part II and graduate students. No previous experience in working with inscriptions is required and only basic knowledge of Greek and Latin.

Preliminary reading: J. Bodel, Epigraphic Evidence. Ancient History from Inscriptions (London 2001); J. Davies and J. Wilkes, Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences (Oxford 2012).

 

COINAGE IN ACTION

MR T VOLK
(4 C: Lent)

See under ‘General Course’ and ‘Graduate Courses’. For students who would like to explore numismatic aspects of their Part II papers or thesis there will be a preliminary session in the first week of Lent Term (date to be confirmed) and up to four follow-up classes.

 

Paper C2: Roman Religion: Identity and Empire

Course Director: Dr R E Flemming

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce students to the diverse religious world of the ancient Mediterranean: to Roman religion and the religions encountered by Rome in the Republic and imperial period.
  2. To explore a wide range of literary, documentary and visual sources relevant to the Roman religious world.
  3. To investigate the range of religious interactions occurring in the Roman world, their relationship to Roman imperial expansion and consolidation.
  4. To encourage students to reflect on the particular history of the concept of ‘religious identity’ in antiquity and the wider methodological challenges involved in investigating all issues of identity in the ancient world.
  5. To enable students to engage more critically with notions of religious ‘tolerance’ and ‘persecution’ in the Roman world, and to consider the whole gamut of state approaches and attitudes to the religious activities of its populations more generally.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

 

Scope and Structure of the examination paper 2019–20

The three-hour paper will contain about twelve questions: candidates will be required to answer Question 1 and two others. Question 1 will consist of six passages/images from a list of specified materials studied on the course (all texts given with translation). Candidates will be required to comment on any three of these passages/images. The remainder of the questions on the paper will be essay-questions concerning various of the topics covered in lectures, classes and supervisions.

In 2020-21 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.

Course descriptions

ROMAN RELIGION: IDENTITY AND EMPIRE

DR R FLEMMING
(8 L, 8 x 2 hr C: Michaelmas; 4 C: Easter)

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
(4 C: Lent)

See under ‘General Course’ and ‘Graduate Courses’. For students who would like to explore numismatic aspects of their Part II papers or thesis there will be a preliminary session in the first week of Lent Term (date to be confirmed) and up to four follow-up classes.

 

Paper C3: Slavery in the Greek and Roman worlds

Course Directors: Professor Robin Osborne and Dr John Weisweiler

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce students to the ubiquitous importance of slaves in all aspects of life, political, social, economic and cultural, across Greek and Roman history.
  2. To explore a wide range of literary, documentary and visual sources relevant to slaves in Greek and Roman society.
  3. To encourage students to reflect on the particular methodological problems in accessing the culture or experience of those outside the elite.
  4. To reflect more widely on the range of ways in which human beings were enslaved and the range of justifications given for slavery in antiquity.

 (Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

Scope and structure of the examination paper 2019–20

The three-hour paper will contain twelve or thirteen essay questions concerning various topics covered in lectures, classes, and supervisions. Some of the questions may offer passages or images for comment. Some questions will concern the Greek world, some the Roman world, and some will require comparison between Greek and Roman worlds. Candidates are required to answer three questions, with no restrictions on which three they answer.

In 2020-21 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.

Course descriptions

SLAVERY IN THE GREEK AND ROMAN WORLDS

PROF. R OSBORNE, DR J WEISWEILER,
PROF. M BEARD
(21 L, 2 X 1.5 hr C: Michaelmas)

Nothing signals the gap between the modern world and the world of ancient Greece and Rome more starkly than the more or less universal ancient acceptance of slavery. Slavery was not simply an institution which the ancient world had and the modern does not, it grounded Greek and Roman thought as well as Greek and Roman life in the systematic subjection of a substantial section of the human population. Understanding the effects of slavery is vital for our understanding of all aspects of the Greek and Roman world.

But if slavery is something that unites Greece and Rome in opposition to us, slavery in the ancient world was not a single thing. Slavery profoundly affected social, political, economic and cultural relations, but it did not determine them. Indeed, slavery offers us one of the best lenses through which to do comparative history both within the Greek and Roman worlds and between them. The distinctive choices made in one Greek society or at one time emerge most clearly when compared with each other and with the choices made in one or other part of Roman world at one or another time, and vice versa.

Slavery has attracted continuous scholarly attention for the past two generations, but discussion has been particularly lively in the past decade with the appearance of several works surveying the whole field (Bradley and Cartledge 2011, Hodkinson, Kleijwegt and Vlassopoulos (forthcoming), and Hunt 2018), and with a renewed interest in comparative history. This course builds on this new scholarly energy to look at the root and branch way in which slavery shaped the ancient Greek and Roman world.

After an introductory lecture drawing attention to the peculiar historiography of and particular politics of the study of ancient Greek and Roman slavery in modern times, the lectures will offer both a chronological history of Greek and Roman slavery and a close analysis of how slavery affected economic, political, social and cultural life across the Greek and Roman worlds. The course is as interested in the ways in which slavery affected the way in which people thought about the world as in the grim realities of the slave trade, as interested in the politics of modern representations of ancient slavery, whether in scholarship or on film, as in the impact of slavery on ancient political life.

Preliminary reading: Hunt, P. (2018) Ancient Greek and Roman Slavery, Malden MA; Wiedemann, T. E. J. (1981) Greek and Roman Slavery: A Sourcebook, London.

 

GREEK AND ROMAN EPIGRAPHY

DR M HIRT
(8 C: Michaelmas)

See above under C1.

 

COINAGE IN ACTION

MR T VOLK
(4 C: Lent)

See under ‘General Course’ and ‘Graduate Courses’. For students who would like to explore numismatic aspects of their Part II papers or thesis there will be a preliminary session in the first week of Lent Term (date to be confirmed) and up to four follow-up classes.

 

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

Course Director: Dr J Weisweiler

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce students to the social, economic and cultural history of the Roman Empire and surrounding regions from the late third to the late fifth century AD and to the literature and art produced in this period.
  2. To explore in depth the nature of government in the Late Roman state, the cultural self-understandings of its ruling élites and the structure of the Late Roman economy.
  3. To trace the ways in which Christianity reshaped conceptions of the body and permissible sexual conduct in the late-antique Mediterranean and Near East. To analyse the relationship between state power and religious forms of authority in the Roman Empire, and to trace the radically different ways in which religious difference was managed in Sasanian Iran.
  4. To consider the impact of the dissolution of the Roman Empire on the distribution of power between élites and peasantries in different regions of the Mediterranean World and western Europe. To think about the development of new forms of ethnic self-understanding in post-Roman states.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 2019–20

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 2020-21 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.

Course descriptions

THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE ROMAN WORLD, AD 284–476

DR J WEISWEILER ET AL
(16 L and 4 x 2 hr C: Lent)

This paper traces the history of the Mediterranean and Near East from the accession of Diocletian in 284 to the dissolution of the Roman Empire as a unified political structure in the late fifth and early sixth centuries. Three themes will stand in the centre of our attention.

First, we will explore the structure of the Roman state at the height of its power. In the period from the late third century onwards, the imperial administration became more present in the lives of its subjects than ever before. We will look at the shape of the ideologies on which emperors drew to justify the formation of a more energetic state apparatus. We will trace the relationship between landowning élites, peasants and slaves in this newly strengthened empire. And we will map the ways in which the introduction of a new taxation system recalibrated the relationship between urban and rural economies.

Secondly, we will explore the relationship between state power and religious authority in different late-antique societies. After the conversion of the emperor Constantine, Christianity gradually became the dominant religion in the Mediterranean and Near East. How did this development change Roman conceptions of the body and permissible sexual behaviour? What role did religious institutions and charismatic leaders play in different late-antique societies? How did Roman policies towards minority groups differ from the ways in which religious difference was managed in Sasanian Iran?

Thirdly, we will analyse the impact of the breakup of the Roman Empire. In the late fifth and early sixth centuries, the eastern Mediterranean and Near East entered a prolonged period of stability and economic growth. By contrast, the western half of the empire fragmented into a group of successor states. We will trace the reasons for the weakening of imperial authority, map the ethnic self-understandings developed by the ruling élites of post-imperial polities and explore the economic effects of the end of the empire.

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. Garnsey and C. Humfress, The Evolution of the Late Antique World (2001); C. Kelly, Ruling the Later Roman Empire (2004); C. Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 (2009); P. Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD (2012); K. Harper, From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity (2013); R. Payne, A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity (2015).

 

COINAGE IN ACTION

MR T VOLK
(8 C: Lent)

See under ‘General Course’ and ‘Graduate Courses’. For students who would like to explore numismatic aspects of their Part II papers or thesis there will be a preliminary session in the first week of Lent Term (date to be confirmed) and up to four follow-up classes.

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