BA Ancient History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Virgil's Aeneid

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE10422
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Virgil’s Aeneid is an iconic text of Roman and world literature, which has been at the core of literary education since soon after its composition. The structure of this course will be guided in part by the notion of ‘encounters’. For example, we will explore Virgil’s relationship with Homer via the Trojans’ encounter with Achaemenides, one of Odysseus’ men who was abandoned in the land of the Cyclops. Likewise, Virgil’s relationship with the 2nd century BC epic poet Ennius will be explored through Aeneas’ encounter with his father Anchises in the underworld. Aeneas’ fateful meeting with Dido will be studied against the backdrop of an array of powerful women from Homer to contemporary Rome.


Pre-requisite units

For those reading the poems only in translation: none; for those reading some parts of the poems in Latin: A-level Latin or CLAH30182 Intensive Latin 2 or equivalent.

Co-requisite units

For those reading the poems only in translation: none; for those reading some parts of the poems in Latin: (at least) CLAH30110 Advanced Latin 1 or equivalent (higher is fine).Those taking this course alongside Advanced Latin are expected to take it as linguists.  If you are in any doubt about which level of the course is appropriate for you, please ask.




This course aims to:

  •  enable students to explore this core work of classical literature, leading to knowledge of and critical thought about the text and analyses of it;
  • introduce students to the intertextual mode of reading, by close study of the relationship between passages, characters, and structures in the poem together with such elements in earlier literature, especially Homer and Ennius.
  • analyse the poetic, generic, and narratological features of the poem;
  • consider the relationship between the poem and its contemporary social and political context;
  • explore issues of identity, nationality, selfhood, and beliefs about the world as displayed in the Aeneid.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will have:
thorough knowledge of Virgil's Aeneid;
specific knowledge of intertextuality between this poem and Homer’s Odyssey, together with an understanding of crucial Iliadic intertextual contributions (such as the identification between the death of Turnus and the death of Hector) and an awareness of non-Homeric intertextuality, especially with the second century BC Roman poet Ennius.
understanding both of the generic and poetic issues and also of the political and cultural issues necessary to engage with the poem;
awareness of a range of critical approaches to the poetry of Virgil and the ability to make effective use of the long tradition of reading this poem;
And in addition
the ability to translate, scan, and critically analyse the passages set from the Aeneid.
the ability to engage directly with the text of the whole poem in translation. 

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 in sophisticated intertextual reading of Latin poetry;
  •  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 have:

  • demonstrate improvements to verbal and written expression;
  • demonstrate improvements to the organisation of personal study;
  •  demonstrate the ability to employ different research methods to resolve complex questions;
  • demonstrate improvements in the use of IT resources

Employability skills

By the end of this course students will be able to: ¿ read and analyse a large amount of information; ¿ see both sides of an argument, including showing respect for and understanding differing points of view; ¿ synthesise an argument in a cogent manner; ¿ retrieve information from complex sources; ¿ present material in a compelling and cogent fashion.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on formative and summative assessment; feedback will be designed to improve understanding and subsequent performance in formative and summative assessment);
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment).

Recommended reading

  • Virgil’s Aeneid (Penguin edition, translated by D. West – core text)
  • Homer’s Odyssey (Duckworth  edition, translated by M. Hammond – core text)
  • Hardie, P.R.  (1998) Virgil (Greece and Rome: New Surveys in the Classics 28), Oxford
  • Harrison, S.J. (1990) Oxford Readings in Vergil’s Aeneid, London and New York
  • Martindale, C. (ed.) (1997) The Cambridge Companion to Virgil, Cambridge
  • Ross, D.O. (2007) Virgil’s Aeneid: A Reader’s Guide, Blackwell
  • Williams, R. D. (1987) The Aeneid. London. 

Study hours

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

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