BA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Families in the Greek and Roman Worlds (6th c. BCE - 3 c. CE)

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE30442
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology & Egyptology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Families and family life are vital for ancient society. As a term 'family' is not a self-evident issue. Starting from Greek and Latin vocabulary, we will define families as groups of people united under one authority, linked with each other through alliances of relation or dependency, and sharing common residence or activities.

After a methodological introduction, we will focus on items as demography, archaeology of the house, domestic economy, legal issues, and the human life course in the context of the family (from birth to funeral) in connection with domestic religion. Special attention will be given to outsiders or 'special' family members: the ill and the disabled, domestic slaves, and singles. The approach will be comparative. While classical Athens and late-Republican early imperial Rome will be at the centre, due attention will be paid to sources from 'other' regions, as well as to the comparison between the Greek and the Roman worlds. 



Pre/Co/Antirequisite units

No formal pre-requisites or co-requisites, but students who did not take Greek or Roman History course units in their first or second year will need to have acquired a basic knowledge of the main narrative of Hellenistic and Roman history (6th cent. BCE to 3rd century CE) in order to follow the course. The use of F. Naerebout, H. Singor, Antiquity. Greeks and Romans in Context (Malden, Oxford, 2014) is recommended in this case.




To explore the role played by family in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, with particular focus on historiographical and methodological questions, including the use of comparative evidence from other Mediterranean societies as well as the interpretation of ancient sources.

Knowledge and understanding

  • an awareness and understanding of the subject;
  • knowledge of a range of literary, epigraphic, linguistic and archaeological/iconographical evidence
  • critical understanding of the strengths and limitations of different types of evidence

Intellectual skills

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

· construct an argument in written and oral form with great depth and complexity

· pose questions and make critical judgments about historical issues with great depth and complexity

· assimilate and summarize evidence with detail

· retrieve relevant information from primary sources and secondary scholarship

Practical skills

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

· make appropriate critical use of library, electronic and online resources

· demonstrate the ability to follow appropriate scholarly conventions in the citing of ancient evidence and of modern scholarship

· present a sustained critical argument with great depth and complexity

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

· demonstrate skills in information retrieval, such as the ability to gather, sift, synthesise and organise material from various sources (including library, electronic and online resources), and to evaluate its significance.

· demonstrate skills in literacy, including the ability to present written work using appropriate scholarly conventions

· demonstrate computer-literacy in skills such as word-processing, information retrieval using library resources, and the avoidance of uncritical use of the internet

· demonstrate skills in time-management, such as the ability independently to plan their own work (including regular preparation for classes), and to submit assessments on time

· demonstrate an ability to improve their own learning through planning, monitoring, critical reflection

· engage in constructive critical discussion both individually and in groups


Employability skills

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to: · analyse and examine information that is sometimes difficult · see both sides of an argument · synthesise an argument in a cogent fashion with great depth and complexity · retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a cogent form, with an eye for detail · recognise exploitation when they see it

Assessment methods

Essay plan 0%
Essay 30%
Exam 70%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

written feedback on formative and summative essays

additional one-to-one feedback (during the    consultation hour or by making an appointment), if desired

formative/ summative




Recommended reading

Mandatory reading:

B. Rawson (ed.), A Companion to Families in the Greek and Roman Worlds (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2011): selected chapters to be read will be made available.

Further reading:

J. Gardener, The Roman Household. A Sourcebook (Routledge, London, New York, 1991).

S. Huebner, The Family in Roman Egypt. A Comparative Approach to Intergenerational Solidarity and Conflict (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013).

M. Golden, Children and Childhood in Classical Athens (Baltimore, 2015, 2nd edition).

Chr. Laes, K. Mustakallio, V. Vuolanto, Limits and Borders of Childhood and Family in the Roman Empire, in Chr. Laes, K. Mustakallio, V. Vuolanto (eds.), Children and Family in Late Antiquity. Life, Death and Interaction (Leuven, Peeters, 2015) p. 1-14.

Chr. Laes, V. Vuolanto (eds.), Children and Everyday Life in the Roman and Late Antique World (London, New York, Routledge, 2017).

J.-B. Bonnard, V. Dasen, J. Wilgaux, Famille et société dans le monde grec et en Italie du Ve au IIe siècle av. J. - C. (Rennes, 2017).


Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Christian Laes Unit coordinator

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