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Study information

Ancient World: Roman Philosophy

Module titleAncient World: Roman Philosophy
Module codeCLA1508
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Gabriele Galluzzo (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module aims to offer a chance for students from various backgrounds to explore a period of philosophy that is less often studied than Greek philosophy but which is rich in its intellectual and cultural interest. It shows how Roman Philosophy emerged against the background of later Greek (Hellenistic) Philosophy and how Roman thinkers gave a distinctive character to philosophical thought. It also offers you the chance to explore fundamental philosophical questions about human values and happiness, ethics and nature, mind and body, death and the gods, as these are treated by important Roman thinkers such as Lucretius, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius.

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • To examine a range of central philosophical questions debated in Roman philosophy and to set these debates against the background of later Greek (Hellenistic) thought, which strongly influenced Roman thought.
  • To explore contrasting approaches of two leading philosophical movements in this period – Epicureanism and Stoicism – whose ideas are still relevant and significant today.
  • To cover a range of topics that includes ethics (virtues and values), mind-body relationships, the nature of death, and the nature of the gods, through a set of readings by major Roman authors, especially Cicero, Lucretius and Marcus Aurelius.
  • To engage with the philosophical questions conveyed in these readings and to become thoughtful and critical readers of a range of stimulating texts in Roman culture.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe and evaluate a number of key features of Roman philosophy
  • 2. Demonstrate a basic understanding of some important texts by Lucretius, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, together with selected readings on Hellenistic philosophy
  • 3. Use the sources to examine a set of key issues and debates in Roman philosophy

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Demonstrate an appreciation of both the historical and the philosophical issues raised by ancient philosophical texts
  • 5. Demonstrate understanding of the influence of modern conceptions on the interpretation of the ancient world, with awareness of your own assumptions and values
  • 6. Demonstrate basic 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 to Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy
  • Epicureanism: Lucretius on Death, Body and Soul: Nature and Human Civilisation
  • Stoicism: Cicero on Ethics and Social Commitment
  • Epicureanism and Stoicism on Nature and the Gods
  • Marcus Aurelius: Stoic Ethical Reflection as a basis for meeting life's challenges

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 Teaching2211 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching55 x 1 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study123Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Text and problem analysis (in groups)1 hour1-9Oral feedback

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
Essay702000 words1-9Mark and written feedback
Gobbet test301 hour1-9Mark and written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Referral/Deferral period
Gobbet testGobbet test1-9Referral/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

Primary reading (note that this is an indicative list only, and the reading list for the current year can be found on ELE):

  • Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, trans. M. F. Smith (Hackett)
  • Cicero, Selected Works (Penguin Classics), esp. On Duties 3.
  • Cicero, The Nature of the Gods , trans. P. G. Walsh (World’s Classics)
  • Marcus Aurelius,  Meditations , trans. R. Hard, ed. C. Gill (World’s Classics)

Also, Long, A. A. and Sedley, D. N., The Hellenistic Philosophers, vol. 1: extracts, which can be found on the ELE page.

Secondary Reading (introductory):

  • Morford, M. The Roman Philosophers (Routledge)
  • O’Keefe, Tim, Epicureanism (Acumen)
  • Sedley, D. (ed), Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy (Cambridge University Press)
  • Sellars, J. Stoicism (Acumen Press)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Rome, Philosophy, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Cicero, Lucretius, Marcus Aurelius

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date