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X courses introduce students to the multi-disciplinary approach to Classics. They take themes that need to be explored from a number of disciplinary approaches if they are to be understood at all. Characteristically the sequence of lectures and classes both leads you through the millennium of classical culture and through a wide range of ways of thinking about the classical world. Comparison and contrast between similar, or similar-looking, material from different periods is variously combined with both separate and interrelated consideration of distinct aspects of culture. We aim to bring together and capitalise on the wealth of information and expertise that students have acquired from their previous work in Classics and beyond and are acquiring from their concurrent specialist study for the Tripos; at the same time we introduce a range of subjects which they have not encountered before in any directed or systematic way.

Each week a lecture is given by an invited specialist. Each lecture is followed by a two-hour class, in which the student group is encouraged to articulate, share, and develop their reactions to the themes of the lecture. Fresh material is also introduced in the classes, both so that points may be amplified, refined and explored and so that the students will gain confidence and solidarity, making the course theirs, over the course of the year, and test out for real whether the ideas and theories work, convince, gel ...


Paper X1: Classics Live

Course Director: Dr I Gildenhard

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce students who have acquired a good range of knowledge and depth of understanding in traditional Classics to (a) a range of modern engagement with (aspects of) the ancient world by tracing 'classical presences' across a wide range of contemporary media and materials; and (b) the theoretical and methodological issues raised thereby.
  2. To explore the diverse motivations for the ongoing dialogue with Greco-Roman antiquity in society at large, from critical commentary to identity construction, from creative enterprises to entertainment.
  3. To raise critical questions about the historical factors and forces (and the ideologies) that underwrite the continuing relevance and appeal of ancient Greece and Rome as a point of reference.
  4. To investigate the relationship between such 'creative' engagements with antiquity and classical scholarship/the academic discipline of Classics.
  5. To pull together, thereby, many threads of earlier learning in a demanding interdisciplinary, theoretical framework.


Scope and structure of the examination paper 2023–24

There will be around 16 essay-style questions concerning various topics covered in lectures, classes, and supervisions. Candidates will be required to answer three questions. In some questions, candidates will be invited to refer in their answers to particular texts, pictures, or combinations of texts and pictures if they so choose.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

In 2024-25 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.


Course description


(8 L, 8 (2 hr) C: Lent)

Classics exists at the interface of ‘then’ and ‘now’. Ever since the end of Greco-Roman antiquity, thinkers, artists, authors, and ideologues of various persuasions have reactivated aspects of the ancient world, across a broad spectrum of media and for a wide variety of purposes. This paper seeks out engagements with ancient Greece and Rome outside the domain of disciplinary scholarship and explores classical and classicizing presences in such spheres as political and cultural theory, the verbal and visual arts, popular culture and the creative industries, and political ideologies. The individual case studies are designed to illustrate the ongoing dialogue with Greco-Roman antiquity in society at large, to explore the diverse motivations for this dialogue – from critical commentary to identity construction, from creative enterprises to entertainment –, and to raise questions about the historical factors and forces that underwrite the continuing (if fading?) relevance and appeal of ancient Greece and Rome as a point of reference. While the paper does not focus on the study of the ancient world ‘as such’, the fraught relation between historicizing research and ‘creative’ engagements outside academia falls very much within its remit.

Content note: Some of the lectures (and following seminar discussion) might deal with difficult or sensitive subject matter (such as sexual abuse, self-harm or homophobia); if so, specific content notes and guidance will be provided in advance.

General Reading: Almagor, Eran and Maurice, Lisa (eds.) (2017), The Reception of Ancient Virtues and Vices in Modern Popular Culture: Beauty, Bravery, Blood and Glory, Leiden and Boston; Carlà-Uhink, Filippo (2020), Representations of Classical Greece in Theme Parks, New York; Gloyn, Liz (2019), Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture, New York; Hobden, Fiona (2018), Ancient Greece on British Television, Edinburgh; Lowe, Dunstan and Shahabudin, Kim (eds) (2009), Classics for All: Reworking Antiquity in Mass Culture, Newcastle; Knippschild, Silke and Morcillo, Marta Garcia (eds) (2013), Seduction and Power Antiquity in the Visual and Performing Arts, New York; Rogers, Brett M. and Stevens, Benjamin Eldon (eds) (2018), Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction and Fantasy, New York.


Paper X2: Gods of Greece and Rome

Course Director: Dr R Gagné


Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce the concerns, theories and strategies which animated Greek and Roman constructions of divinity, how gods were conceived as persons, as powers, as collectives, and in relation to other parts of the cosmos.
  2. To introduce students to a wide range of evidence – literary, philosophical, epigraphical, visual, and archaeological – relevant to the study of Greek and Roman polytheism and so to think about the various contexts in which we can see theology in action.
  3. To introduce students to a wide range of methods and theories relevant to the study of Greek and Roman polytheism and to explore the historical and social factors motivating these theories and methodologies.


Scope and structure of the examination paper 2023-24

There will be around sixteen essay-style questions concerning various topics covered in lectures, classes, and supervisions. Candidates will be required to answer three questions. In some questions candidates will be invited to refer in their answers to particular texts, pictures, or combinations of texts and pictures if they so choose.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

In 2024-25 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.


Course description


(8 L; 8 (2hr) C: Lent)

How did the Greeks and Romans understand divinity? Were gods like humans and could humans become (like) gods? In a world full of gods, these questions were ever-present, often pressing, and they are fundamental to our understanding of all aspects of Graeco-Roman society and cultural production. Taking the cultural construction of gods as our focus, this course will involve questions of ethics, aesthetics, ontology and politics. What was at stake in the offerings made at tombs, the hymnic invocation of a god, the worship of an unworked lump of stone, the narration of a farcical story about deities, philosophical attempts to understand the nature of divinity, or the claim of a ruler to govern as a living god? We will approach such questions using tools from a wide range of disciplines (literature, anthropology, history, art and archaeology, linguistics, philosophy) and adopting a broad chronological frame, from the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity.

A sample year of topics covered: (i) The many lives of Zeus: Homer, Hesiod and the Hymns (ii) The many lives of Jupiter: Vergil and Ovid (iii) Whose gods? Theology and cult, past and present (iv) The names of the gods. Etymology, system, competence (v) Bodies of the gods? The many modes of divine figuration (vi) The nature of the gods. Philosophical battles (vii) Gods in place: Artemis Orthia in Sparta (viii) Gods in place: Fortuna Primigenia at Praeneste (ix) Divine interfaces in Anatolia: Hittites, Greeks, Lycians (x) Cybele in Rome (xi) Politics and Epiphany: Dionysos and Bacchus (xii) Networks: Isis in the Roman Mediterranean (xiii) Memories of divine landscape: Pausanias (xiv) Gods of allegory. From the Derveni Papyrus to Isidore of Seville (xv) Gods and demons of "magic". Curses to theurgy (xvi) Jewish and Christian gods. Idolatry and the invention of polytheism.

General reading: Useful introductions to some of the issues covered in this course can be found in: Parker, R. (2011) On Greek Religion, Oxford; Bremmer, J. (2021 (2nd ed.)) Greek Religion, Groningen; Ando, C. (2008) The Matter of the Gods: Religion and the Roman Empire, Berkeley; Feeney, D. (1991) The Gods in Epic: Poets and Critics of the Classical Tradition, Oxford; Rüpke, J. (2014) From Jupiter to Christ. On the History of Religion in the Roman Imperial Period, Oxford; Scheid, J. (2016) The Gods, the State, and the Individual: Reflections on Civic Religion in Rome, Philadelphia.


Paper X3: Christianity, Hellenism, and Empire

Course Directors: Dr L Niccolai, Prof. G van Kooten (Divinity)

Aims and objectives

  1. The principal aim of the paper is to bring students from both Classics and Divinity together to study the phenomenon of the encounter between Christianity and the religions of the Roman Empire from literary, philosophical, historical, and art-historical perspectives.
  2. The paper also aims to open up comparative perspectives by alternating Divinity-based and Classics-based lectures on each topic and support introductions to all relevant themes with source-based discussions during the fortnightly classes.

Learning outcomes

  1. The students will learn to better understand the dynamics between Christianity, Hellenism, and Roman Empire in all their complementary historical, religious, philosophical, and material aspects.
  2. The students will become more familiar with the full range of literary, documentary, visual and archaeological sources relevant to understanding the place of Christianity in the Roman Empire.
  3. The students will reflect on the particular methodological problems involved in studying a phenomenon where the scholarly tradition has been dominated by those to whom what is said matters in religious terms, and where other strands of scholarship are marked by aggressive secularism.


Scope and structure of the examination paper 2023-24

This joint paper with the Faculty of Divinity (Paper C14 in Divinity) is examined by two 5,000 word pre-submitted essays, one for the Classics arch and the other for the Divinity arch of the paper. The essay titles must be approved by both course directors by the fifth Monday of Lent Term. Essays must be submitted on the first Monday (Divinity) and the third Monday (Classics) of Easter term.

During the course, students are expected to receive a total of five hours of supervision. In both Michaelmas and Lent, one hour of supervision will be devoted to a Classics essay-led supervision, and another to a Divinity-led supervision. In Lent, two 30-minute sessions will be dedicated to further supervision of the Classics and of the Divinity essays that will be submitted as coursework. These are meant to build up on and/or combine topics that have already been explored in the previous supervisions.

Essay guidelines: There is a word limit of 5,000 words for this essay, including notes, but excluding bibliography. Students are required to sign a declaration that the coursework essay is their own work, and does not contain material already used to any substantial extent for a comparable purpose. Essays must be word processed (1.5 spacing) unless permission has been obtained from the Faculty Board to present them in handwritten form. The style of presentation, quotation and reference to books, articles and ancient authorities should be consistent and comply with the standards required by a major journal (such as Classical Quarterly).

Students will receive submission instructions, examination guidance and marking guidelines from the Faculty of Divinity and will also find details on Moodle.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

In 2024-25 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.


Course description


(8 L; 4 C: Michaelmas in Classics; Lent in Divinity)


This paper focuses on the ‘manifestation’ of early Christianity in the Roman empire. The earliest Christian texts, the so-called ‘New Testament’ writings, are entirely written in Greek. Indeed, the body of Christian literature surviving from the Roman empire vastly surpasses the size of the classical canon. Yet somehow this body of texts and the culture that generated them is perceived as if belonged to a different world than that was inhabited by their non-Christian contemporaries. In this paper, we will challenge this view by examining the place of Christianity in the Graeco-Roman world in all its historical, religious, and philosophical complexity. How did it fit into a Greek world under Rome? How did Christianity relate to the Roman Empire in which it became more and more disseminated, also adopting the use of Latin? What are the historical connections, and which (joint) discourses and narratives did they engage? Was it, did it remain, or did it become, something alien to the classical world? Or was it always an ‘integral’ part of the Empire? Do we think of the constellation of practices that we call ‘Christianity' as something separate from the society in which it originated, or as a Roman religion? In what ways and to what effects did the complex, multifaceted Roman Empire set and determine the context for Christianity?

This joint paper between Divinity and Classics focuses on the interactions between Christianity, Hellenism, and the Roman Empire by applying a kind of Venn-diagrammatic analysis of their commonalities, intersections, differences, and tensions and the processes that propelled them. It does not necessarily seek to give an explanation for ‘the rise of Christianity’ and for ‘the decline and fall of the Roman empire’, or to settle the clashes of competing historiographies, but first and foremost it takes a phenomenological, comparative approach to the fascinating intersection of Christianity and Empire. It does so through the lens of eight central questions, which will be treated in eight double lectures (16 lectures in total), each pair taking one starting point in Christianity and the other in the Roman Empire and classical culture. Historical, literary, philosophical, and art historical issues are all embraced.

Content note: This paper will discuss themes of religion and ethnicity and may touch on issues of religious conflict and oppression, imperialism, and state repression.


Introductory reading:

C. Ando, The Matter of the Gods: Religion and the Roman Empire, California 2008

M. Beard, J. North, and S. Price, Religions of Rome, Cambridge 1998.

G. Betegh, ‘Greek Philosophy and Religion’, in M.-L. Gill and P. Pellegrin (eds.), A Companion to Ancient Philosophy, Oxford, 2006, 625-39.

George Boys-Stones, ‘Ancient Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction’, in: G. Oppy & N.N. Trakakis (eds), Ancient Philosophy of Religion, Durham 2009, chap. 1.

Mark Edwards, Religions of the Constantinian Empire, Oxford 2015.

K. Harper, From Shame to Sin: The Christian transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity, Harvard 2013.

J. Lieu, Neither Jew nor Greek? Constructing early Christianity, London 2016

B. Nongbri, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept, New Haven 2015.

J. Scheid, An Introduction to Roman Religion, Indiana, 2003

G. Stroumsa, The End of Sacrifice, Chicago 2009

G. van Kooten, ‘Christianity in the Graeco-Roman World: Socio-Political, Philosophical, and Religious Interactions up to the Edict of Milan (CE 313)’, in: D. J. Bingham (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Early Christian Thought, Routledge 2010, ch. 1

P. van Nuffelen, Rethinking the Gods: Philosophical Readings of Religion in the Post-Hellenistic Period, Cambridge 2011

G. Woolf, ‘World Religion and World Empire in the Ancient Mediterranean’, in: H. Cancik and J. Rüpke (eds.), Die Religion des Imperium Romanum: Koine und Konfrontationen (Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 19-35


Latest news

Professorship of Ancient History

8 August 2023

The Board of Electors to the Professorship of Ancient History invite applications for this Professorship from persons whose work falls within the general field of the Professorship to take up appointment on 1 September 2024 or as soon as possible thereafter. Further information is available at:

Professor Caroline Vout's book 'Exposed' named winner of 2023 London Hellenic Prize

12 June 2023

The Faculty is delighted to congratulate Professor Caroline Vout on her book Exposed being named winner of the 2023 London Hellenic Prize. Further details are available here: