MA Classics and Ancient History

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Writing and Power in the Ancient Greek World

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE60251
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology & Egyptology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course introduces students to one of the most important sources for understanding Greek history and society: inscribed texts. We will consider both general problems related to the uses of writing in the Greek world (literacy vs orality; the purposes of writing; ancient and modern perceptions of the power – both good and bad – of the written word), and specific historical themes which are illuminated by the use of inscribed evidence.

Students taking this course will also have the opportunity to develop their practical skills in reading and editing inscriptions, as well as the chance to visit and study Greek inscriptions held in collections in the United Kingdom.


No pre-requisites although basic knowledge of Greek will be an advantage. 


  • to explore the uses of writing in the ancient Greek world, and the ways in which those uses vary over time and place.
  • to explore the ways in which ancient Greek inscribed texts contribute to our understanding of various historical and cultural questions.
  • to introduce, and give students the opportunity to develop practical competence in, the specific skills required to engage with inscribed texts from the ancient Greek world.


Knowledge and understanding

  • a broad knowledge of the role of writing and written documents in the ancient Greek world.
  • an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the ways in which inscribed evidence can be used to study specific historical problems.
  • detailed and critical understanding of a specific inscription or set of inscriptions.

Intellectual skills

  • critical analytical skills, particularly in close reading of inscribed Greek texts, and in analysis of scholarship on those texts
  • the ability to construct an argument in written and oral form; to assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence;
  • the ability to conduct independent research, and to present the results in a professional manner with appropriate and detailed reference to sources and modern published scholarship

Practical skills

  • the ability to understand, and be able to practise, the techniques involved in studying inscribed material at first hand (particularly in a museum context).
  • skills in presenting research findings in poster form.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • time-management
  • the ability to work co-operatively in small groups
  • the ability to engage in critical discussion and debate.

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and examine complex information, an ability to synthesise an argument in a cogent form, the ability to retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%


Epigraphical edition - Max. 500 words (excluding Greek text and translation) - 0%

Essay - max 2500 words - 50%

Poster presentation of one inscription or a group of related inscriptions, with supporting historical/contextual analysis. - A1 poster max - 1500 words - 50%


Feedback methods

Feedback Methods

Class discussion of epigraphical edition - formative

Written feedback on essay and poster exercises - summative

Oral feedback on all course contributions - formative

Recommended reading

Attic Inscriptions Online:

Bodel, J., (2000), Using Epigraphical Evidence, London.

Cook, B.F. (1987), Greek Inscriptions, London

Hedrick, C.W. (2006), Ancient History: Monuments and Documents, ch.6 (‘Public Writing’)

McLean, B. (2002), An Introduction to Greek Epigraphy of the Hellenistic and Roman periods from Alexander the Great down to the reign of Constantine (323 B.C.-A.D. 337), Michigan.

Millar, F. (1983), ‘Epigraphy’, in M. Crawford (ed.), Sources for Ancient History, Cambridge.

Rhodes, P. J., (2001a), ‘Public documents in the Greek states: archives and inscriptions. Part I’, G&R 48, 33-44.

Rhodes, P. J., (2001b), ‘Public documents in the Greek states: archives and Inscriptions. Part II’, G&R 48, 136-53.

Woodhead, A.G. (1981), The Study of Greek Inscriptions ed. 2, Cambridge . 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 3
Project supervision 3
Seminars 14
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Peter Liddel Unit coordinator

Additional notes

  • 14 hours of topic-based seminars and field trips
  • 3 hours of coursework support and supervision (timetabled)
  • 3 hours of dedicated Office hour time

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