BA Ancient History and Archaeology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Gods, Kings, and Heroes: The Poetry of Archaic Greece

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE34102
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course complements CAHE31041-2 Greek Epic Poetry by exploring further the Greek poetry of the Archaic and early Classical periods. It concentrates on some of the most important poets who came after Homer (including Hesiod, Sappho and Pindar), to whose poetry they in many ways respond.  We study Hesiod’s Theogony, which tells of the creation of the world and in particular the gods, the Works and Days, in which Hesiod gives advice to his lazy brother Perses (and in doing so tells many of the most famous of Greek myths, such as those of Prometheus and Pandora), and Pindar’s victory odes, composed to celebrate the victories of tyrants and aristocrats in the Olympic games (and similar contests), and also providing a wealth of mythological narrative. We also look at the Homeric Hymns, which celebrate the exploits of gods in a manner very reminiscent of the style and language of the Iliad and the Odyssey. We also look at some fragments of the lyric poet Sappho, which provide a very different perspective on some well-known myths and focus on the portrayal of emotional experience.


(Linguist version only):

Pre-requisite: Advanced Greek 1.

Co-requisite is Advanced Greek 2 (or higher)

Anti-requisite: CAHE 24102 Gods, Kings, and Heroes


  • to introduce students to some of the most significant Greek poetry of the Archaic and early Classical periods, as represented by Hesiod, Pindar, Sappho and the Homeric Hymns
  • to enable the appreciation and understanding (at a sophisticated level) of the main lines of argument concerning the nature, function, and context of this poetry
  • to enable students to analyse this poetry critically at a high level of sophistication.
  • to introduce students to the study of more difficult examples of Archaic poetry, such as complex examples of Homeric Hymns or Pindaric epinicians or Sappho’s monodic lyric, and the interpretative challenges and opportunities involved.

Knowledge and understanding

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

  • demonstrate acquired and sophisticated knowledge of how key Greek texts develop and respond to the poetry of Homer;
  • demonstrate a deep understanding of the development of poetry in the Archaic and early Classical periods;
  • display a sophisticated knowledge and in-depth critical understanding of the content, form, conventions, and background of Pindar’s victory odes, Hesiod, Sappho’s lyrics and the Homeric Hymns;
  • display an appreciation of several key aspects of the nature of poetry building on an oral tradition (Hesiod, Homeric Hymns) and of poetry composed for public performance (Pindar);
  • evince an understanding of, and the ability to illustrate with careful articulation of nuances, the reception of Homer in Hesiod, Sappho and Pindar, as well as the differences between them.
  • evince an in-depth understanding of the nature of studying complex examples of Archaic poems and the significance of these for the interpretation of further examples of the genre or period.

Intellectual skills

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

  • demonstrate in-depth knowledge of characteristic features of different types of ancient Greek poetry;
  • demonstrate developed critical skills for the reading of ancient texts in different genres.
  • demonstrate subject-specific skills, including the ability to respond thoughtfully and in a sophisticated manner to difficult and complex texts, and to comment critically upon them.

Practical skills

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

  • gain experience reading and writing about ancient texts of different kinds at a high level;
  • develop enhanced writing skills with regard to complex and difficult texts;
  • feel comfortable articulating complex ideas and making significant contributions to group discussions.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • construct a sophisticated argument in written and oral form;
  • pose perceptive questions about complex issues;
  • assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence;
  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources;
  • conduct bibliographic searches;
  • present the results in a professional manner with appropriate reference to sources and modern published scholarship;
  • use e-resources and gain knowledge of research methods and resources;
  • manage time and resources;
  • engage in high-level critical discussion.

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

Formative written assessment


Assessed coursework 1 (gobbets)


Assessed coursework 2 (essay)


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on formative and summative assessment (see above);

Formative and Summative


Oral feedback in seminars.


Additional one-to-one (oral) feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment).


Recommended reading

Preliminary reading:

  • Agócs, P., Carey, C., Rawles R. (eds.) (2012) Reading the Victory Ode.   Cambridge. [a collection of several useful articles]
  • Clay, J. S. (1989) The Politics of Olympus. Form and Meaning in the Major Homeric Hymns. Princeton.
  • Clay, J. S. (2003) Hesiod’s Cosmos. Cambridge.
  • Faulkner, A. (ed.) (2011) The Homeric Hymns: Interpretative Essays.  Oxford. [a collection of several useful articles]
  • Greene, E. (ed.) (1996) Reading Sappho: contemporary approaches. Berkeley, CA. [a collection of several useful articles]
  • Nelson, S. (1996) ‘The drama of Hesiod’s farm’, Classical Philology 19: 44-53.

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Morrison Unit coordinator

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