BA Art History and History / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Athens and Attica

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE30631
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics, Ancient History & Egyptology
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.


No formal pre- or co-requisites, but students who have not taken Greek or Roman History course-units in their first or second year will find an outline knowledge of the basic narrative of ancient Greek History useful.

Antirequisite unit: CAHE 20631 (level 2 version of this course)


  • 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 analyse the importance of ancient Athens in Western culture by thinking about her prominence in eighteenth- and nineteeth-century travel literature

Learning outcomes


Knowledge and understanding

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

  • Demonstrate a critical 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; show a critical understanding of the major ancient and modern debates which are associated with these themes.
  • Show in-depth 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.
  • Show awareness of the importance of eighteenth- and nineteeth-century travel literature for understanding ancient Athens

Intellectual skills

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • construct a coherent argument in written and oral form
  • pose meaningful questions and make critical judgments about complex historical issues
  • assimilate and critically analyse large quantities of evidence
  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources and secondary scholarship and treat it analytically
  • treat modern travel literature critically

Practical skills

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • make extensive and appropriate critical use of a wide range of library, electronic and online resources
  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources and critically analyse it in depth;
  • conduct bibliographic searches and treat the findings critically
  • present results in a scholarly and analytical 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 in seminars.

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 (if summative)







Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback after poster-planning session

Formative feedback designed to contribute formatively towards better performance in poster assessment.

Written feedback on Poster  project

Summative coursework feedback designed to contribute formatively towards improvement in subsequent assessment.

Written feedback on Summative coursework essay

Written feedback via TurnItIn (with option of individual discussion if wished). Summative coursework feedback is designed to contribute formatively towards improvement in subsequent assessment.

Written feedback on Exam

Report of first marker (available during following semester by request from UG office)

Recommended reading

Preliminary reading should include:

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
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Peter Liddel Unit coordinator

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