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BA Latin and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
The Conquering Hero: The Life, Times and Legacy of Alexander The Great

Unit code CAHE20042
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Classics & Ancient History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course looks the life and lasting legacy of Alexander the Great. It begins with Alexander’s father Philip and the troubled relations he had with his son.  From there it goes on to study Alexander’s rise to power in Macedon and his conquest of the Persian Empire; examining his army, strategy, and tactics - and those of his opponents. We will also look at what motivated Alexander throughout his short life and at the nature of the empire that he constructed. Finally course deals with Alexander’s legacy to both the ancient and more modern world, examining the societies that emerged on his death and his reputation in both the classical and non-classical worlds from the Hellenistic period to the present day.


This course aims to:

  • introduce the politics of 4th century Macedon;
  • develop a critical approach to the ancient and modern historiography of the period;
  • develop a critical approach to the material evidence of the period;
  • develop a critical approach towards inter-cultural exchange in the ancient world;
  • introduce basic military concepts both from antiquity and their application in later periods.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • demonstrate a broad and detailed knowledge of Alexander's campaigns;
  • demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of political structures of 4th century Macedonia and the contemporary Persian Empire;
  • demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the military structures of the above;
  • be aware of the variety and quality of sources, literary, epigraphic, and archaeological available for the period.


This course is text driven. It looks at the history of Alexander chronologically through the medium of our ancient historical narratives whose conflicts with one another and relationship with archaeological evidence form the core of the course. Arrian's Anabasis will be the main text used throughout the course. The course will also involve a critical and analytic examination of military theory and an examination of inter-cultural exchange and identity in the period studied.


Lectures                                                                                               Seminars


1             Our sources and their                     problems             Ancient views of Macedon          

2              Macedonia – a marginal state


3              Philip II and his New Model         Army     The        Theban connection       

4              A Youth of Trouble


5              The Persian Empire and the Greek Crusade          East                        versus West     

6              The First Round: Granicus


7              Strategic Slips and Tactical Brilliance: Issus            Alexander as general

8              Sieges and Slaughter – Tyre and Gaza


9              Becoming A God – Alexander and             Egypt     The Oracle at Siwa

10           A Builder of Cities


11           The Knock-out blow:       Gaugamela         The Death of Persepolis

12           A New Empire


13           The Call of                                           Samarkand         Alexa

Teaching and learning methods

  • 2 x 1 hour lectures per week;
  • 1 x 1 hour seminar per week;
  • 1 dedicated consultation hour per week ;
  • Blackboard: course material, handouts and other supporting materials.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • give an account of the functioning of the political systems of the states involved in the course;
  • give an account of Alexander's campaigns and battles;
  • be aware of the various cruces presented by our evidence for Alexander;
  • give an account of the functioning of armies in this period;
  • give an account of military theory relevant to Alexander's campaigns.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • evaluate the historical value of different primary texts;
  • evaluate the historical value of archaeological material;
  • evaluate secondary scholarship and its use of primary material;
  • apply both primary and secondary material to problems and use it to build coherent arguments of their own;
  • express complex arguments in both  written and oral forms.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources;
  • articulate complex arguments both in written and oral form;
  • exercise critical judgement when confronted with contradictory evidence.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • assimilate and synthesise large quantities of evidence;
  • conduct effective bibliographic searches;
  • interrogate e-resources effectively;
  • engage in critical discussion.

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and rank a large amount of sometimes contradictory information, an ability to see both sides of an argument, the 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. The group presentation will encourage an ability in team working and also an ability to speak in public and debate with an audience.

Assessment methods


Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Group presentation contribution

500 words


Essay 1

2000 words



2 hours



Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on formative and summative assessment (see above); all summative coursework feedback is designed to contribute formatively towards improvement in subsequent assignments. Students are encouraged to seek formative feedback ahead of the first assignment of the unit by discussing work plans and approaches during seminars (where appropriate) and in consultation hours.
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment).

Recommended reading

  • B Radice (ed) Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander (Penguin, 1971)
  • W Heckel (ed) Quintus Curtius, The History of Alexander (Penguin, 1984)
  • R Stoneman, The Greek Alexander Romance (Penguin, 1991)
  • P Green,  Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography (U California Press, 2013)
  • R Lane Fox, Alexandder the Great (Allen Lane, 1973)
  • A B Bosworth, Conquest and Empire:the reign of Alexander the Great (Cambridge UP, 1993)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Tutorials 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 154

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Fear Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Please see a full describtion of this course unit on MyManchester.

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