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Classical Civilisation: Literature, Philosophy and Politics

Find out more about the Classical Civilisation: Literature, Philosophy & Politics foundation module on the UPC. Learn about what you will study, teaching methods, assessments and recommended reading.

Key information 

Module Title: Classical Civilisation: Literature, Philosophy & Politics

UPC Pathway: Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate for Humanities (UPCH) - optional module

Module Leader: Dr James R. Cross

Number of students on module in 2021/22 academic year: 22

Module description


The Classic Civilisation: Literature, Philosophy & Politics module introduces you to Ancient Greece and Rome, two fascinating ancient cultures. You’ll become familiar with Greek and Roman studies and how this ancient period in history shaped Europe and the world.

On this module, you’ll interact with a wide range of ancient sources. You’ll engage with written culture (such as poetry and philosophical dialogue) and material culture (such as ancient artefacts and works of art) and improve your skills in analysing sources.

You’ll explore ancient Greek and Roman cultures from a variety of perspectives. You’ll also consider the relationship between the ancient and the modern world.

Topics in recent years include:

  • ancient Greek and Roman epic poetry
  • ancient Greek tragic drama
  • the development of direct democracy in fifth-century Athens
  • the foundations of the Roman Republic
  • notions of love, wisdom and ideal societies in Platonic philosophy.

Authors studied include Cicero, Euripides, Herodotus, Homer, Livy, Plato, Sophocles and Virgil.

How we teach Classical Civilisation: Literature, Philosophy & Politics


You’ll learn through a mixture of lectures, small-group seminars and one-to-one tutorials. Trips and visits (for example, to relevant museum collections and the theatre) are also part of your learning experience. These learning methods will help you to engage quickly and effectively with Greek and Roman studies. They will also improve your critical thinking skills.

You’ll work on an independent research project on a topic of your choice (subject to agreement with the module leader) relating to the ancient world. This project will be supervised by the module leader. Example topics include:

  • the notion of the soul in ancient Greek philosophy
  • persuasive techniques in Cicero’s legal speeches
  • attitudes towards women in Roman drama.

Intended learning outcomes


By the end of the module, you should be able to:

  • analyse extracts from ancient written sources and ancient material artefacts in detail, in relation to their historical and cultural contexts
  • write clear, well-informed, well-structured and properly referenced essays on topics relating to the ancient world, using independent lines of argument
  • prepare and deliver presentations on independently-researched topics relating to aspects of the ancient world, and take part in academic discussion about them
  • show good general knowledge about the ancient Greco-Roman world, and in-depth knowledge and understanding of selected works by Greek and Roman authors
  • demonstrate the ability to pursue independent learning and critical thinking about Classical Civilisation and related subject areas
  • participate in discussions and debates.

Overview of Summative Assessment


TermAssessmentWeighting
OneTest (2 hours)5%
TwoTest (2 hours)5%
Research Essay (3,000 words)30%
Oral Exam (20 minutes)10%
ThreeFinal Exam (3 hours)50%
  100% Total

Assessment weighting is for the 2021/22 academic year. This may change for 2022/23 entry.

Recommended reading


Recommended reading before the course:

Homer (2003 [1950]), The Iliad. Translated by E. V. Rieu. London: Penguin.

Homer (2003 [1946]), The Odyssey. Translated by E. V. Rieu. London: Penguin.

Virgil (2003 [1990]), The Aeneid. Translated by D. West. London: Penguin.

Additional costs


You’ll have to purchase copies of the set texts for the module. There are normally five set texts. The selection of texts is slightly different each academic year. The total cost for the books, purchased new in paperback, should be no more than £50.


Module selection guide

Please check out our optional module selection guide for information on suitable modules for your future degree plans.