BA Ancient History and Archaeology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Conquering Hero: The Life, Times and Legacy of Alexander The Great

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE20041
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course looks the life and lasting legacy of Alexander the Great. It begins with Alexander’s father Philip and the troubled relations he had with his son.  From there it goes on to study Alexander’s rise to power in Macedon and his conquest of the Persian Empire; examining his army, strategy, and tactics - and those of his opponents. We will also look at what motivated Alexander throughout his short life and at the nature of the empire that he constructed. Finally course deals with Alexander’s legacy to both the ancient and more modern world, examining the societies that emerged on his death and his reputation in both the classical and non-classical worlds from the Hellenistic period to the present day.


This course aims to:

  • introduce the politics of 4th century Macedon;
  • develop a critical approach to the ancient and modern historiography of the period;
  • develop a critical approach to the material evidence of the period;
  • develop a critical approach towards inter-cultural exchange in the ancient world;
  • introduce basic military concepts both from antiquity and their application in later periods.




Knowledge and understanding

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

  • give an account of the functioning of the political systems of the states involved in the course;
  • give an account of Alexander's campaigns and battles;
  • be aware of the various cruces presented by our evidence for Alexander;
  • give an account of the functioning of armies in this period;
  • give an account of military theory relevant to Alexander's campaigns.

Intellectual skills

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

  • evaluate the historical value of different primary texts;
  • evaluate the historical value of archaeological material;
  • evaluate secondary scholarship and its use of primary material;
  • apply both primary and secondary material to problems and use it to build coherent arguments of their own;
  • express complex arguments in both  written and oral forms.

Practical skills

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

  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources;
  • articulate complex arguments both in written and oral form;
  • exercise critical judgement when confronted with contradictory evidence.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • assimilate and synthesise large quantities of evidence;
  • conduct effective bibliographic searches;
  • interrogate e-resources effectively;
  • engage in critical discussion;
  • present a complex argument and field questions after giving such an argument

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and rank a large amount of sometimes contradictory 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. The group presentation will encourage an ability in team working and also an ability to speak in public and debate with an audience.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 60%
Written assignment (inc essay) 40%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative


Formative and Summative



Recommended reading

  • J Romm (ed) The Landmark Arrian (Anchor , 2012)
  • W Heckel (ed) Quintus Curtius, The History of Alexander (Penguin, 1984)
  • R Stoneman, The Greek Alexander Romance (Penguin, 1991)
  • P Green,  Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography (U California Press, 2013) 
  • R Lane Fox, Alexandder the Great (Allen Lane, 1973)
  • A B Bosworth, Conquest and Empire: the reign of Alexander the Great (Cambridge UP, 1993)

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Fear Unit coordinator

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