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BA Classics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Survive and Thrive: Parties, Politics and Poetry in Horace

Unit code CAHE20251
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics, Ancient History & Egyptology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course explores Horace’s iambic Epodes, the lyric Odes 1-4, and finally the Carmen Saeculare commissioned by Augustus in 17 B.C for a new state festival. The poet Horace served with Brutus’ republican army on the losing side at Philippi (42 B.C.) and many of his wartime Epodes articulate the persona of a despairing witness of continuing civil wars. His subsequent collection of Odes can be read as the work of a republican survivor who now seeks happiness, success and the good life in a new post-war world. These lyric poems cover a huge range of topics, including grief and the burdens of painful memories – all the things one might associate with survivor poetry – but also love, the weather, parties and the passing of time. Horace recalls and reworks a 600 year old tradition for his contemporary world, and we shall read some of his Greek lyric predecessors such as Sappho, Alcaeus and Pindar to see this process in action. They Finally, we will read his Carmen Saeculare, the first Latin hymn for which we have evidence of performance. It is a song of hope and confidence, celebrating the blessings of the new Golden Age in the new regime.

Topics will include: friendship and the community of republican survivors; wartime poetry before Actium; patronage and praise; the poetic persona; philosophical lyric; the lyric lover; performance, ‘occasion’ and ritual; mental health; songs and singers; parties and the relaxed lyric life.



  • To engage in a thorough and careful reading of a selection of Horace’s Epodes, Odes 1-3, and Carmen Saeculare to lead to knowledge of, and critical thought about, Horace’s lyric and iambic poetry.
  • To explore the intertextual background to the set text, particularly Horace’s engagement with other Augustan poets (Roman Love Elegy) and earlier proponents of lyric poetry (Catullus; in addition to a familiarity with Greek lyric) and the iambic tradition.
  • To analyse generic and thematic features of the set texts, especially engaging with the issue of lyric performance in the Odes.
  • To gain a thorough understanding of the works’ engagement with the socio-political and philosophical context.

Knowledge and understanding

  • thorough knowledge of a selection of Horace’s Epodes, Odes 1-3, and the Carmen Saeculare
  • understanding of key generic and literary issues, and also of the socio-cultural background necessary to engage with the set texts. 
  • Non-linguists will, additionally, be expected to show detailed knowledge of a larger amount of text than linguists. 

Intellectual skills

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

  • develop critical acumen and the ability to evaluate primary texts and secondary scholarship;
  • develop analytical skills and an ability to apply evidence to problems and use it to build logical arguments;
  • develop analytical skills and improve written and oral expression of ideas.

Practical skills

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

  • gain experience reading and writing about ancient texts of different kinds;
  • develop enhanced essay writing skills;
  • feel comfortable articulating ideas and contributing to group discussions and online discussion boards.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence;
  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources;
  • present results in a professional manner with appropriate reference to sources and modern published scholarship;
  • use e-resources and gain knowledge of research methods and resources;
  • engage in critical discussion.

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and examine a large amount of often difficult 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.

Assessment methods

Participation in weekly activities and discussion 10%
Portfolio of summative tasks 60%
Essay 30%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Detailed written feedback on coursework and regular engagement with students on discussion boards

Formative and summative

Additional oral feedback offered in consultation hour





Recommended reading

Davis, G. (2010) A Companion to Horace. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Harrison, S. J. (ed.) (2007a) A Cambridge Companion to Horace. Cambridge. (online)

Oliensis, E. (1998) Horace and the Rhetoric of Authority. Cambridge.

Porter, D. H. (1987) Horace’s Poetic Journey: A Reading of Odes 1-3. Princeton.

Watson, L. (2003) A Commentary on Horace’s Epodes. Oxford.

Woodman, T. and Feeney, D. (2002) Traditions and Contexts in the Poetry of Horace. Cambridge.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Maria-Ruth Morello Unit coordinator

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