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BA Latin and French

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Egypt in the Graeco-Roman Worl

Unit code CAHE31401
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics & Ancient History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Egypt is the best-documented region of the Graeco-Roman world. The quality and quantity of evidence related to and coming from this area allow historians to study Egyptian society and even people’s lives to a scale that it is impossible to be achieved for other regions of the ancient world. This course offers an introduction to the history and culture of Egypt in the Hellenistic and Roman period, with a focus on the imperial phase when the region became a province of the Roman Empire. Through a close study of Greek, Latin and Egyptian papyri in English translation, together with literary and archaeological evidence where appropriate, students will be guided to an in-depth study of key-themes and topics in the history of the region and more broadly the Mediterranean world, such as literacy and education in a multicultural society, ethnicity and power, demography and social structures, imperial administration, religions and magic. 


  • to be introduced to the history and culture of Egypt in the Hellenistic and Roman period
  • to be introduced to the study of written evidence from Egypt in English translation
  • to learn how to analyse papyri in translation as a source for ancient history
  • to locate papyrus evidence from Egypt into the wider historical background
  • to learn how to use papyri for research and integrate them with other types of ancient sources


Topics covered in weekly lectures and seminars may include the following: A multicultural society: identity and ethnicity through papyri; Letters writing: materials and contents; Family relationships through papyrus evidence; Literacy and the School; Libraries and Books; Performing magic and rituals in Roman Egypt; Roman bureaucracy at work: census returns, petitions and other documents from Roman Egypt.

Teaching and learning methods

Blackboard; training sessions at the Manchester Museum and at the John Rylands Library.

Knowledge and understanding

  • to understand how papyrus and other Egyptian evidence is related with the study of classical civilization and ancient history
  • to understand how ancient writings were produced and used in the classical world
  • to be able to classify ancient writings according to their aims, contents and material aspect

Intellectual skills

  • To construct an argument in written and oral form
  • To assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence, and to engage critically and analytically with this evidence
  • To conduct independent research
  • To present the results in a professional manner with appropriate and detailed reference to sources and modern published scholarship

Practical skills

  • To engage with collections of ancient writings and other material evidence
  • To manage time
  • To engage in critical discussion and debate

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • To be able to communicate ideas in appropriate written and oral form
  • To work in groups
  • To analyse data and be able to interpret them

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 collaborate with experts in different fields, the retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion.

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

essay 1


1,000 words


essay 2


2,000 words




2.5 hours



Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback


Oral feedback



Recommended reading

  • R.S. Bagnall, Reading Papyri, Writing Ancient History, London & New York: Routledge 1995
  • A. Bowman, Egypt after the Pharaohs: 332 BC – AD 642 from Alexander to the Arab Conquest, Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press 1986
  • P. Parsons, City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek Papyri Beneath the Egyptian Sand Reveal a Long-Lost World, London: Phoenix 2007.
  • J. Rowlandson (ed.), Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998
  • E.G. Turner, Greek Papyri: an Introduction, Princeton: Princeton University Press 1968

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Additional notes

A full description of this course unit can be found on MyManchester.

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