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Unit information: The Ancient City and Modern Politics in 2018/19

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Unit name The Ancient City and Modern Politics
Unit code CLAS20010
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. O'Gorman
Open unit status Not open




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


How does the state accommodate the conflicting interests of citizens with unequal shares of wealth and influence? Is the power of a single ruler ever justified? When is civil disobedience acceptable? How should one state behave towards another, weaker state? These questions of justice, authority and power are as relevant today as they were for the ancient cities of Athens and Rome. In this unit we will discover how writers and thinkers throughout the ages have looked back to the events of ancient history, and have used them as models for thinking about what is happening in their own time, as well as formulating general principles of politics. The unit will involve close examination of one case study from either Greece or Rome, and will trace the discussion and analysis of this case study by later political writers, and in relation to later political events. Sample case studies include The Melian Dialogue, the secession of the plebs and institution of plebeian tribunes, and the career and assassination of Julius Caesar.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a good knowledge of a range of key sources for this theme in antiquity, and the legacy of ancient ideas in the modern world

2. Analyse and make critical connections between these sources, and to situate them within their wider historical context.

3. Identify, assess and apply a range of different methodological approaches to the material

4. Use the knowledge acquired in lectures and through group discussion and their own researches to construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on different aspects of the subject.

Teaching details

3 hours per week of lectures and group work

Assessment Details

Creative writing exercise 1,500 words (30%) [assessing ILOs 2 and 4]

2-hour exam (70%) [assessing ILOs 1,3]

Reading and References

Joy Connolly. 2014. The Life of Roman Republicanism. Princeton

Dean Hammer. 2008. Roman Political Thought and the Modern Theoretical Imagination. University of Oklahoma

Daniel Kapust. 2011. Republicanism, Rhetoric, and Roman Political Thought. Cambridge University Press

Kostas Vlassopoulos. 2010. Politics: Antiquity and its Legacy. I.B. Tauris