BA Latin and Linguistics

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Through Cicero's Eyes

Unit code CLAH30031
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics & Ancient History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course will examine life and politics in the Late Roman Republic through the medium of one of the most detailed and valuable extant literary sources, the letters and other writings of M. Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC).

After a general overview of the historical and biographical background, the course will examine the political, cultural and social life of the Late Republic through extensive use of excerpts from Cicero’s writings. His political viewpoint will be set against the wider backdrop of Roman politics. Aspects of his private life as revealed in his correspondence will form the focus of such topics as family relationships, friendship, property-owning and leisure. Other letters, together with extracts from philosophical and religious treatises, will be used to build up a picture of the intellectual life of the Roman Republican elite.


To offer L2 and L3 undergraduate students the opportunity to study, through the letters and other writings of an outstanding contemporary participant and commentator, aspects of Roman politics and society in a crucial period of cultural transition and political upheaval.

At level 2, emphasis will be placed on a core collection of letters and some other texts offering a mainly illustrative dimension to the topics covered.

Non-linguists will read extra complementary texts: Cornelius Nepos Life of Atticus, together with some excerpts from Plutarch's Lif of Ciceroe.

Level 2 linguists will read a selection of level appropriate excerpts from e.g. Life of Atticus in the original Latin.

At level 3, a broader core of texts will be studied, including material on extra topics, such as provincial government. Students will be expected to address more complex or controversial issues surrounding the topics covered.

Linguists will a selection of level appropriate excerpts in Latin.

Non-linguists will read extra texts in translation, including Nepos' Life of Atticus and extracts from other Cicero letters and speeches .


The course examines the developments and changes in social, cultural and political life at Rome as viewed through the medium of the letters, and some other writings, of M.Tullius Cicero. This body of literature forms the most detailed day- to- day contemporary analysis of life for any period in Graeco-Roman antiquity.

The first half of the course studies the events of Cicero’s political career and significance chronologically. The second half takes a more thematic approach, examining such topics as his family, the theory and practice of friendship, elite culture and society, and Cicero’s crucial contribution to the development of Roman literary and intellectual life.

Teaching and learning methods

22 Lectures (1 lecture per week and one reading week); 11 x Seminars (1 fortnightly). Tasks will be set for each seminar; detailed feedback on these and on summatively assessed work will be given to students to aid personal development and exam preparation.

Separate seminar groups for Level 2 and  3 students will include the study of  different texts and topics. At level  2, students will devote some tutorials to the study of Cornelius Nepos’ Life of Atticus.  At level 3, besides reading  additional texts (e.g. extra letters, Nepos’ Life of Atticus, Plutarch Life of Cicero), extra topics, such as. Provincial Government, will be studied in tutorials, in order to widen the scope and depth of study and encourage greater independent learning.

All lectures will be supported  by   PowerPoint. Handouts (including a lecture summary) will be distributed in advance of,  at, or after  the lecture, as appropriate. Each PowerPoint will be uploaded to Blackboard after each lecture, as will electronic copies of handouts. Seminar instructions and, where appropriate, supporting materials, will also be uploaded on a weekly basis.

Some commentaries and translations are available on-line, as are resources. Instruction will be given (in seminars and/or electronically) on using eLearning materials and on-line resources.

Knowledge and understanding

  • To understand the significance of Cicero’s letters and other writings in the interpretation and elucidation of life and politics of the late Republican Rome. They should also be able to criticize and evaluate his role in a crucial period of political, social and cultural development.
  • Level 2 candidates are expected to gain a basic working knowledge of the salient points for each of the topics covered.
  • Level 3 Students will be expected to address more complex or controversial issues surrounding the topics covered

Intellectual skills

  • To demonstrate an enhanced ability: to perform close textual analysis and more broadly based thematic readings; to evaluate critically both primary evidence and secondary literature; to apply a range of interpretative approaches; to envisage a written text as one element of a wider historical picture.
  • Level 2 candidates are expected to gain a basic working knowledge of the salient points for each of the topics covered

Practical skills

  • To demonstrate good oral and written communication skills.
  • To take responsibility for individual learning; to appreciate the views of individuals from different cultures.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • To be able to construct an argument in written and oral form, to pose questions about complex issues, to assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence, to locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources, to conduct bibliographic searches, and to present the results in a professional manner with apropriate reference to sources and modern published scholarship, to use e-resources and gain knowledge of research methods and resources, to manage time and resources, and to engage in critical discussion.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 25%
Report 25%

Feedback methods

  • oral feedback on group presentation
  • written feedback on the essay and commentaries
  • additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

E. Rawson, Cicero: a portrait, second edition (1983). Students are recommended to use this as a course text book.
A. Lintott, Cicero as Evidence: A Historian's Companion (2008)
P. White, Cicero in Letters: Epistolary Relations of the Late Republic (2010)
D. Stockton, Cicero: a political biography (1971)
T. N. Mitchell, Cicero: The Ascending Years (1979), Cicero: the Senior Statesman (1991)
N. Wood, Cicero's Social and Political Thought (1988), esp. chs. 4, 5, 6, 7, 10
J.G.F. Powell, Cicero the Philosopher (1995), Introduction.
T. A. Dorey (ed.) Cicero (1965).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Tutorials 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Mary Beagon Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Pre-requisite units
Non-linguists: none, though CLAH 10022 From  Republic to Empire is strongly recommended.
Linguists: Intensive Latin II (or equivalent). CLAH 10022 From Republic to Empire is strongly recommended.

Anti-requisite: this course cannot be combined with CLAH 30030 Through Cicero's Eyes.

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