Skip to main content

Study information

Ancient Sources (Written Evidence) - Tyranny

Module titleAncient Sources (Written Evidence) - Tyranny
Module codeCLA1301
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Professor Neville Morley (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The word ‘tyranny’ means something quite different today than it did in the ancient world, where it was the name given to the form of monarchy established in many Greek states in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. Tyranny was not a special form of constitution, or necessarily a reign of terror; the tyrant might either rule directly or retain existing political institutions but exercise a greater influence over their working, and his rule might be benevolent or malevolent. This module will explore the ways in which autocratic power was understood and discussed by different Greek authors and their successors, and the challenges involved in trying to reconstruct the historical reality and significance of tyranny.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aims of the module are:

  • To engage in in-depth thinking about the literary sources for archaic tyranny
  • To illustrate the advantages and limitations of textual evidence for understanding the ancient world and the archaic period in particular

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe and evaluate the literary material bearing upon archaic tyranny
  • 2. Demonstrate a basic understanding of the problems of archaic history
  • 3. Comment on features of traditional narratives associated with tyrants

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Use, analyse and evaluate ancient texts as a major source for understanding the ancient world
  • 5. Demonstrate an understanding of the limitations of textual evidence for understanding the ancient world
  • 6. Demonstrate academic and library skills specific to Classics and Ancient History

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Demonstrate independent study skills in guided research and the presentation of findings
  • 8. Select and organise relevant material and present this in coherent oral and written form
  • 9. Manage your own time and meet deadlines

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction: the problem of tyranny
  • Establishing Tyranny
  • The Tyrant and the People
  • Tyrannical Rule
  • Tyrannical Behaviour
  • Overthrowing Tyranny
  • Foreign, Mythical and Tragic Tyranny
  • The Theory of Tyranny
  • Tyranny as Symbol and Metaphor
  • Hellenistic and Roman Tyranny
  • The Legacy of Greek Tyranny

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5Seminars
Guided Independent Study123Guided independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation5 minutes1-9Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Source analysis301000 words1-9Mark and written comments
Examination7024 hour take-home paper1-9Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Source analysisSource analysis1-9Referral/Deferral period
Examination24 hour take-home paper1-9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Balot, R.K. ed. (2009) A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought, Malden MA; chapter 15 by Forsdyke, with Eckstein on Hellenistic monarchy and Norena on Roman autocracy.
  • Champion, J. (2011, 2012) The Tyrants of Syracuse, Volumes I and II, Barnsley.
  • Lavelle, B.M., (2004) Fame, Money and Power: the rise of Peisistratos and democratic tyranny at Athens, Ann Arbor 
  • Lewis. S. ed., (2006) Ancient Tyranny, Edinburgh
  • Lewis. S. (2009) Greek Tyranny, Bristol
  • McGlew, J. (1993) Tyranny and Political Culture in Archaic Greece, Ithaca 
  • Mitchell, L.G. (2013) The Heroic Rulers of Archaic and Classical Greece, London & New York
  • Ogden, D. (1997). The Crooked Kings of Ancient Greece, London
  • Stein-Hölkeskamp, E. (2009) ‘The Tyrants’, in K.A. Raaflaub and H. van Wees, eds., A Companion to Archaic Greece, Malden, Oxford and Chichester: 100-16.
  • Teegarden, D.A. (2014) Death to Tyrants! ancient Greek democracy and the struggle against tyranny, Princeton.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Ancient, Greece, Tyranny

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date