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Unit information: Ancient Historical Writers in 2020/21

Unit name Ancient Historical Writers
Unit code CLAS10039
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Sandwell
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit will introduce students to some of the main writers of the Greek and Roman world who wrote what we now consider to be works of history and in so doing will reflect on our own methods of historical writing. Our word history comes from the Greek term historia, but what did ancient people think history writing was and how does this compare to what we think we are doing when we write about the history of the ancient world? How far are categories from modern historical theory, such as causation, change and the past, relevant to ancient historical writers? How far did those we now think of as historical writers think they were writing ‘a history’ or have other ways of thinking about the project in which they were engaged, and how does this help us reflect on what we do?

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

  1. identify and provide key information about some of the main ancient historical writers of the Greek and Roman worlds;
  2. identify and explain some of the key features of ancient historical writing;
  3. identify and explain some of the key features of modern historical writing about the ancient world;
  4. reflect on the similarities and differences between ancient and modern historical writing about the ancient in order to have a greater understanding of what it means to be a student of ancient history in a modern university;
  5. demonstrate skills of academic writing at a level appropriate to level C;
  6. demonstrate skills of collaborative working.

Teaching details

This unit will involve a combination of independent investigative activities, long- and short-form lectures, and discussion. Students will be expected to engage with materials and participate on a weekly basis. Feedback will be provided for both formative and summative assessments, and this will be supported by meetings with tutors.

Assessment Details

1,700 word analysis of passage from an ancient historical writer, submitted for peer review, with 300 word reflection on the peer-review process (100%). (ILOs 1-5)

Reading and References

Ronald Mellor, The Roman Historians (London: Taylor & Francis, 1999)

Christopher Pelling, Literary Texts and the Greek Historian (London: Routledge, 2000)

Luke Pitcher, Writing Ancient History: An Introduction (London and New York: I. B. Taurus, 2009)

Christine S. Kraus, David Levene, and W. Li, The Limits of Historiography: Genre and Narrative in Ancient Historical Texts (Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers, 1999)