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BA Politics and Modern History

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Athens and Attica

Unit code CAHE30052
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Classics & Ancient History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The city of Athens was the political, cultural and economic hub of the ancient Aegean, and its history and legacy have fascinated scholars and tourists alike for centuries. This course on the city and its territory takes in a range of approaches, themes and periods. It looks at the ancient city from different angles, for instance, as a lived-in space, as a political space, as a site of religion and festivals.  It also explores the relationship between the city and its countryside (the territory of Attica), and between the city and its neighbours.  The course focuses on the Classical period, but we will also consider the histories (and stories) of the origins and early growth of Athens; in addition, we will look at the later reception and uses of the city, from its ‘discovery’ by 18th century travellers to its transformation into the capital of the modern nation state of Greece.


  • To introduce the physical and topographical setting of Athens and Attica and the material culture of the area.
  • To introduce an understanding of Athenian self-conceptions about their space and territory.
  • To explore the main issues relating to the history, shape and development of this polis in its pre-industrial form.
  • To explore the relationship and divisions between urban and non-urban areas of Attica.
  • To analyse the impact of the physical environment on the social, cultural and economic activity of Attica.
  • To establish understanding of the ways in which space and environment were deployed by the society and institutions of Attica.
  • To examine the disputes about, and politics of territory, on the borders of Athens and Attica.
  • To explore the relationship between the territory of Athens and her political and intellectual significance in Greek history.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should be able to demonstrate:



Lectures will address the following subjects: the development of the astu and chora of Athens, from the Myceneans to the Romans, and in the modern period; politics and political space; religion in Athens and Attica; domestic and social space; burial and commemoration; military structures and monuments; agriculture, mining and other industry; the Piraeus and trade; ‘town planning’ and urban management (water, sewage, etc); Athenian buildings outside Athens. 


Seminars will explore some or all of the following themes: imperialism and the city; internal bureaucracy and the city; sanctuaries; rural settlement; the shape(s) and function(s) of demes; boundaries and contested spaces (Salamis, Oropos, the Sacred Orgas); choregic monuments; euergetism; Hellenistic and Roman reinventions; touristic fantasies, ancient and modern.


Students will be expected to engage with epigraphic and material evidence, as well as with literary accounts of the city of Athens and its territory.  

Teaching and learning methods

22 Lectures and 11 seminars; independent group work (for the Poster project), supported by guidance/supervision from the course convenors.  (Poster preparation will be also supported by training sessions in using the appropriate software.)

Plenary lectures will introduce key texts or themes, and provide a framework to guide students' engagement with further primary and secondary reading. Tutorials will provide opportunities for further detailed study of particular texts and allow students to develop their own arguments in oral and written form.

Knowledge and understanding

  •  An awareness of the history of the city of Athens and its surrounding territory, of different sorts of buildings and spaces in the city (and of the interactions between them), and of the ways in which the city developed over time; an understanding of the major ancient and modern debates which are associated with these themes.
  • Knowledge of a range of types of ancient evidence (literary, epigraphic and material), and an ability to interpret critically the contributions of these different types of material.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will possess intellectual skills, including the ability 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 appropriate reference to sources and modern published scholarship.

Practical skills

  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources;
  • conduct bibliographic searches;
  • present results in a professional manner with appropriate reference to sources and modern published scholarship.
  • Make posters; engage in group work; make use of poster-making software

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Transferable skills, including the ability to manage time, to work co-operatively in small groups, to use professional presentation techniques (and related software), to engage in independent research, and 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 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


Assessment task


Weighting within unit


1000- 1500 words



2000 words



2 hours



Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on summative assessment (see above); all summative coursework feedback is designed to contribute formatively towards improvement in subsequent assessment. 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)
  • Oral feedback after poster-planning session

Recommended reading

Camp, J., The Athenian Agora Guide, Fifth edition, 2009.
Camp, J. M., The Archaeology of Athens, 2001.
Goette, H. R.,. Athens, Attica and the Megarid: An Archaeological Guide, 2001.
Hansen, M. H.. 'Attika,' 624-642 in An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis, edited by M. H. Hansen and T. H. Nielsen, 2004.
Jones, N. Rural Athens Under the Democracy, 2004.
Osborne, R., Demos: The Discovery of Classical Attika, 1985.
Whitehead, D., The Demes of Attica, 508/7 - ca.250 BC, 1986.
Travlos, J, A Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens, 2001.

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
Peter Liddel Unit coordinator

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