BA Ancient History

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE29252
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology & Egyptology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course is devoted to the study of exile in the late Republic and early Empire, and gives students an opportunity to read a wide variety of contemporary sources (in both prose and poetry) which describe the experience of absence from Rome. Special attention will be paid initially to the historians’ treatments of exile and to the development of patriotic feeling and national identity in the city of Rome itself. Subsequently, students will read and analyse the letters and other works of poets and public figures who endured exile or temporary absence of any other kind.

Topics to be covered include:

  • changing conceptions of the patria;
  • the experience of alienation within the city itself;
  • the symbolic significance of Rome’s city centre;
  • the importance of philosophy for a life in exile.

Authors to be read include Livy, Cicero, Ovid and Seneca.  Most students will read the texts in translation, but students with knowledge of Latin will read the texts partly in the original.


This course aims to:

  • provide an introduction to the experience of exile in the Roman world in the 1st century BC and 1st century AD;
  • introduce students to detailed and in-depth study of poetic and epistolary texts written in response to the experience of exile;
  • enable the appreciation of the main lines of criticism on literary texts about exile and to encourage students to develop critical skills by analysing a range of key texts.

Learning outcomes

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

  • demonstrate detailed knowledge of a variety of ancient accounts of exile and alienation;
  • demonstrate understanding of the political and social factors governing the literary response to exile in Rome of the 1st century BC – 1st century AD;
  • demonstrate critical skills for the reading of ancient texts.


The course will be structured around three groups of ancient texts: Ovid’s exile poems (Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto) Seneca’s Consolation to Helvia, and a selection of Cicero’s letters (written from exile, or addressed to other exiles).  Topics for seminar discussion will include: Ovid’s exemplary myths as a mechanism for understanding exile, Ethnography and exile, autobiographical writing in exile, personal exhortations and the inner life, philosophical consolation in theory and practice, the psychology of the exile, memories of Rome and the importance of place.

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:

  • display knowledge of, and appreciation for the range of exilic texts in antiquity;
  • understand how to apply this knowledge in other historical and literary course units relating to the Greek or Roman worlds;
  • demonstrate awareness of the key and characteristic features of exilic texts from the Greek and Roman worlds;
  • become familiar with the main methodologies for the study of ancient exilic texts.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will 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 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.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • demonstrate improvements to verbal and written expression;
  • demonstrate improvements to the organisation of personal study;
  • demonstrate improvements to the use of IT resources.

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

Task Weighting
Essay 25%
Commentary 25%
Exam 50%


Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on formative and summative assessment (see above);
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment).

Recommended reading

  • Claassen, Jo-Marie (1999) The Literature of Exile from Cicero to Boethius, Duckworth and BCP
  • Edwards, C. (1996) Writing Rome: Textual Approaches to the City, Cambridge
  • Ovid, The Poems of Exile, tr. P. Green, Harmondsworth 1994
  • Seneca, Dialogues and Letters, tr. C.D.N. Costa, Harmondsworth 1997

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 3
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Tutorials 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 153

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Maria-Ruth Morello Unit coordinator

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