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Study information

Ancient World (Written Evidence): Persuasion in Ancient Greece

Module titleAncient World (Written Evidence): Persuasion in Ancient Greece
Module codeCLA1516
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Emma Nicholson (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The persuasive arts were deeply important to the Ancient Greeks and embedded not only in their educational system but also in their way of life. Through the genres of epic, oratory, historiography, philosophy and drama, we will investigate the development of persuasion from its earliest roots in Homer’s epics, through to the standardisation of rhetorical practice in Aristotle’s?The Art of Rhetoric. In doing so, we will reflect on how our own use of persuasion, for example in the likes of politics, business and marketing, has been shaped and informed by ancient practices.

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • To take a wide and diachronic approach to the investigation of persuasion and rhetoric in ancient Greece (beginning with the goddess of persuasion, Peitho, and the skill of speaking in Homer’s epics, before moving through the development of oratory in the fifth century law courts and assemblies, the use of persuasive techniques in historiography, drama and philosophy, and concluding with how rhetoric was systematised by Aristotle the 4th?century BC and the effect that this had on oratory in the Hellenistic and Roman periods). 

  • To engage closely with a variety of authors, including Homer, Lysias, Demosthenes, Gorgias, Isocrates, Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybios, Euripides, Aristophanes, Plato, Aristotle, Anaximenes, Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Demetrius of Phalerum.

  • To investigate how the ancient Greeks used, practised and theorised persuasion and the art of speech.

  • To reflect on how our own use and awareness of persuasive techniques, for example in politics, advertising and business, has been informed by these ancient traditions.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate command of key aspects of the historical development of persuasion and rhetorical practices in ancient Greece
  • 2. Demonstrate awareness of how persuasion and rhetoric are used in a variety of ways in ancient Greece

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Demonstrate critical and analytical skills which can be applied to the analysis of ancient texts from a range of time periods
  • 4. Apply academic and library skills specific to Classics and Ancient History as well as a critical ability in assessing published literature
  • 5. Demonstrate awareness of the ways in which the modern world has been shaped by ancient ideas and practices

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Demonstrate the ability to think critically on a range of crucial issues and to construct a consistent argument
  • 7. Demonstrate independence of mind and initiative, intellectual integrity and maturity and an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers
  • 8. Demonstrate the ability to articulate ideas clearly, engage in public debate and respond critically to observations and objections

Syllabus plan

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

  • Introduction: Peitho, the goddess of Persuasion
  • Persuasion in Homeric Epic: The Foundations of Rhetoric
  • The Birth of Oratory: Speeches, Assemblies, and the Law Courts
  • An Education in Persuasion: The Sophists and Rhetoric
  • Persuasive History: Tradition and Authority
  • Theatre and Persuasion
  • Philosophical Rhetoric
  • Rhetoric Systemised
  • Persuasion and Rhetoric in the Hellenistic World
  • Persuasion Ancient and Modern
  • Review

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 lectures
Guided Independent Study123Private study

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
Group presentation 105 minutes per student1-8Mark, written and oral comments
Essay401000 words1-7Mark, written and oral comments
Exam501 hour1-7Mark, written and oral comments

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group Presentation (5 minutes per student)Transcript of contribution to group presentation (500 words)1-8Referral/Deferral period
Essay (1000 words)Essay (1000 words)1-7Referral/Deferral period
Exam (1 hour)Exam (1 hour)1-7Referral/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

The majority of ancient texts consulted in this course will be taken from: 

The main ancient readings:? 

  • Alcidamas,?Concerning Those Who Write Written Speeches?or?Concerning Sophists
  • Anaximenes,?The Art of Rhetoric to Alexander?1421b7-1427b37? 
  • Aristophanes,?Clouds?(Selections) 
  • Aristotle,?The Art of Rhetoric, 1354a1-1405b34
  • Demetrius of?Phalerum,?On Style??(Selections) 
  • Demosthenes,?Philippic 1
  • Dionysius of Halicarnassus,?On the Arrangement of Words?(Selections) 
  • Euripides,?Medea?(Selections) 
  • Gorgias,?Encomium of Helen
  • Herodotus,?Histories??(Selections) 
  • Homer,?The Iliad?(Book 9)? 
  • Homer,?The Odyssey?(Book 6)? 
  • Isocrates,?Discourses 13:?Against the Sophists?(Selections) 
  • Isocrates,?Antidosis
  • Lysias,?Speech 24: On the Refusal of a Pension
  • Plato,?Gorgias?(Selections) 
  • Plato,?Phaedrus?(Selections) 
  • Polybius,?The Histories?(Selections) 
  • Thucydides,?History of the Peloponnesian War?(Selections) 
  • Xenophon,?Apology of Socrates?(Selections) 

Modern Works: 

  • Kennedy, G. A. (2011)?A New History of Classical Rhetoric,?Princeton University Press.? 
  • Woodman, A. J. (2003)?Rhetoric in Classical Historiography: Four Studies,?Routledge.? 
  • Worthington, I. (2002)?Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action, Routledge.? 
  • Worthington, I. (2010)?A Companion to Greek Rhetoric,?John Wiley & Sons.? 

Key words search

Persuasion, rhetoric, oratory, ancient Greece, historiography, literature

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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