BA Ancient History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

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

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE24102
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course complements CAHE21041/2 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: Intensive Greek 2 (or equivalent).

Co-requisite is Advanced Greek 1 (or higher). Students concurrently taking Advanced Greek 1 may choose whether to take the linguist non-linguist version. Students concurrently taking Advanced Greek 2 must take the linguist version.

Anti-requisite: CAHE 34102 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 of the main lines of argument concerning the nature, function, and context of this poetry
  • to give the students the ability to analyse the poetry critically.

Knowledge and understanding

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

  • demonstrate acquired knowledge of how key Greek texts develop and respond to the poetry of Homer;
  • demonstrate understanding of the development of poetry in the Archaic and early Classical periods;
  • display a knowledge and 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 some 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, the reception of Homer in Hesiod, Sappho and Pindar, as well as the differences between them.

Intellectual skills

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

  • demonstrate knowledge of characteristic features of different types of ancient Greek poetry;
  • demonstrate critical skills for the reading of ancient texts in different genres.
  • demonstrate subject-specific skills, including the ability to respond thoughtfully 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;
  • develop enhanced writing skills;
  • feel comfortable articulating complex ideas and contributing to group discussions.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • construct an argument in written and oral form;
  • pose 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 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

Additional notes

Any student who satisfies the pre- and co-requisites for the Linguists' Version, and has already completed Advanced Latin/Greek 1, must take that version of the relevant literature course.  Students who are concurrently taking Advanced Latin/Greek 1 may choose whether to take the Linguist or the non-Linguist version. If they are taking more than one literature course concurrently with Advanced 1, they may choose to take the Linguist version of one course and the non-Linguist version of another, or both Linguist, or both non-Linguist. Students who are at Level 3 and taking Advanced Latin/Greek 1 must choose either the Level 3 version of the course as non-Linguist or the Level 2 version of the course as Linguist. Such a student would only be able to take one course unit as a Linguist, since university rules preclude taking more than 20 credits at a lower level.

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