This course provides an overview of the two main classical civilisations that spread in the Ancient Mediterranean, the Greeks and the Romans, the backbones of our Western society. We will mainly rely on literary sources, reading and interpreting written texts (the most genuine evidence that we own from Antiquity), to portray some of the main aspects of the Classical world.
Please note that, though an awareness of the Classical world and languages is preferred, a knowledge of Greek and Latin is NOT required to attend this course. Texts will be provided both in the original language and in English translation and the teaching will be adapted to the students’ level.
The first half of the course aims to cover the following topics:
- Introduction to Greek history, with focus on the time frame between the 6th century B.C. and the beginning of Hellenism (4th B.C.). Readings from Thucydides will be provided.
- Classical Theories on the Origins of the Universe: Hesiod’s Theogony and the origin from Chaos, Pre-Socratics’ theories, Lucretius’ atomistic theory and Ovid’s mythological account.
- Heroes and gods: a comparison between the role and the influence of divine will on heroes’ deeds in the Odyssey and in the Aeneid.
- A traditional Greek genre: the theatre and the birth of tragedy, through Aristotle’s testimony and pottery evidences.
- Living the ancient Romans through Horace and Martial.
- The Metamorphosis in literature and art: reading statues through Ovid’s poem.
- Love poetry: different perspectives of love from Athens to Rome. The case of Sappho and Catullus (other examples might be provided).
- Women lament in ancient Greek Literature.
- The mystery of Pompeii and Herculaneum: history of an eruption.
- ‘All is well that ends well’: Fable in the Ancient World. Introduction on ancient fable: Aesop and Phaedrus in comparison.
The second half of the course aims to cover the following topics:
- Introduction to Roman history: from the myth of the foundation (through Livy’s testimony), to the Republic and the Empire (sample readings from Sallust, Cicero and Tacitus).
- Singing of heroes and arms: Homeric and Vergilian proems.
- Games and Sanctuaries in Ancient Greece: the Olympic Games and the cult of the Athletes.
- A traditional Roman genre: the comedy. Readings from Plautus.
- A journey through time: how did the ancients perceive it? Reading from Greek Lyrics, Horace andSeneca.
- Greek Novel and its reception in the Roman world: reading samples from the Pseudo-Lucian’s The Ass, Apuleius’ Metamorphoses and Petronius’ Satyricon.
- Friendship (amicitia) in classical Rome: selected passages from Cicero’, Seneca’ and Ovid’s works.
- Women’s condition in the Roman World through the time: a general portrait of the Roman woman, inferable from a wide array of literary and iconographical sources.
- Greek sculpture as a reflection of its time: from the Archaic Age to Hellenism.
Recommended pre-summer reading
Beard, M. & Henderson, J., Classics. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
If you are unable to obtain books locally, they may be ordered from Blackwells or www.amazon.co.uk