Skip to main content

Unit information: Literary Sources for Greek and Roman History in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Literary Sources for Greek and Roman History
Unit code CLAS12320
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. D'Costa
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Greek and Roman literary sources were the major source for ancient history until the study of archaeology, epigraphy and other 'non-literary' sources developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This unit is designed to provide students with knowledge of some of the most important genres of literary sources for the history of the Greco-Roman world, and to introduce students to different ways of analysing these texts as part of their own historical research. We will be looking at a wide range of Greek and Roman writers, from historians and biographers to rhetoricians and philosophers, considering their aims and techniques and exploring the ways in which they may reveal different aspects of the ancient world.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of the unit students will have acquired and developed:

  • knowledge of the major ancient historians and of the genre of history in antiquity;
  • knowledge of a wide range of texts from different genres in antiquity;
  • skills in the analysis of these texts from both literary and historical perspectives;
  • skills in the analysis of how texts are used in present-day writing of ancient history.

Teaching details

Two hours per week: a mixture of lectures and seminar discussions based on particular texts.

Assessment Details

One essay of 2000 words (worth 50%) and one written examination (worth 50%) comprising two passages for comment (from a choice of four) and one essay (from a choice of four).

Reading and References

Herodotus, Histories, trans A. de Sélincourt (Penguin 1954) or A. de Sélincourt with J. Marincola (2003).

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. R. Warner (Penguin 1954, revised in 2000).

Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, trans. M. Grant (Penguin 1956, New edition, 2003).

C. Pelling, Literary Texts and the Greek Historian, 2000

L. Pitcher, Writing Ancient History: An Introduction to Classical Historiography, 2009.