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Unit information: Homeric Society in 2014/15

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Unit name Homeric Society
Unit code CLAS12343
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Momigliano
Open unit status Open




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


The Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, are among the earliest and fundamental texts of Western culture. These texts, in the form in which they have come down to us, are usually dated to the late 8th-early 7th c. BC, but are the products of a long-lived oral tradition and purport to describe events that can be placed in the late 2nd millennium BC, i.e. in the Aegean Late Bronze Age. This unit examines the historical background from which the Homeric epics emerged, tracing some of the main developments that took place in the Greek Late Bronze Age, Early Iron Age (the so-called Greek Dark Ages), and especially in the Greek ‘renaissance’ of the 8th c. BC. The unit focuses on the society and culture of the developing Greek ‘poleis’ (city or citizen-states), including their interactions with other Mediterranean regions. Beside the textual evidence provided by the Iliad and the Odyssey, the unit also examines archaeological and epigraphical evidence that is highly relevant for their historical contextualisation.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will:

1) have developed a detailed knowledge and in-depth understanding of the historical time period in which the Homeric epics emerged. Homeric society and its key features and historical developments.

2) be able to recognise and analyse critically the key features of Homeric society, why they were significant and how they developed over time.

3) Be able to use the knowledge acquired in lectures and through their own researches to construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on different aspects of the subject.

4) have had an opportunity to further develop their skills in oral and written communication, and in an essay and a written exam.

Teaching details

Lectures, seminars and reading classes, grammatical instruction classes

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 2,000 words (worth 50%), and a 90 minute examination (worth 50%). Both elements will assess ILOs (1) (2) (3) and (4). The coursework essay in particular will offer students the opportunity to demonstrate ILO (3)

Reading and References

  • R. Fowler, The Cambridge Companion to Homer (2004).
  • J. Hall, A History of the Archaic Greek World (2007)
  • Homer, The Iliad and the Odyssey (English translation)
  • I. Morris and B. Powell (eds.), A New Companion to Homer, Mnemosyne Supplement 163 (1997) 535-559
  • R. Osborne, Greece in the Making, 1200-479 BC (1996), pp. 70-202.