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Study information

The Age of Cicero

Module titleThe Age of Cicero
Module codeCLA3008
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Elena Isayev (Convenor)

Dr Claire Holleran (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module is dedicated to close study of the political, social and cultural life of the last generation of the Roman Republic. The same period that witnessed the rise of Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar and Cicero himself also witnessed the collapse of Republican government in a series of bitter political and, finally, military conflicts. Largely thanks to Cicero himself and contemporaries such as Catullus, the final decades of the Roman Republic are among the best documented of all antiquity. This module is dedicated above all to these writings.

Module aims - intentions of the module

In term 1, we will turn to the extensive and diverse writings of Cicero himself as historical and literary documents. In term 2, we will consider themes of Roman culture such as friendship, patronage and sexuality, in the works of contemporary authors, especially Catullus and Lucretius. At the end of the year, we will have studied a wide range of literary evidence and developed a sophisticated understanding of its conventions, historical context and limitations.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Detailed knowledge of the history and culture of the Late Roman Republic
  • 2. Knowledge of approaches to Roman history and literature
  • 3. Familiarity with the sources of the Late Roman Republic
  • 4. Analysis of historical problems raised by the history and culture of late Republican Rome

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Knowledge of historiographical method and literary criticism
  • 6. Critical analysis of ancient literature
  • 7. Analysis of the ideas and ideologies of ancient peoples
  • 8. Ability to digest and organise diverse historical and literary information into a coherent argument
  • 9. Experience in formal academic writing in Classics and Ancient History
  • 10. Experience in conducting independent research in Classics and Ancient History
  • 11. Regular contribution to plenary group discussion

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 12. Knowledge of methods of interpreting evidence
  • 13. Critical analysis of written documents
  • 14. Intellectual criticism of ideas and ideologies
  • 15. Ability to digest and organise diverse information into a coherent argument
  • 16. Experience in writing an analytical essay or report
  • 17. Experience in conducting independent research
  • 18. Regular participation in plenary group discussion

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:

Term 1: The public life of M. Tullius Cicero as a window on the Late Roman Republic. Cicero's speeches and letters.

Term 2: Contemporary attitudes towards (e.g.) friendship, love, sex, marriage, invective, death, religion (in writings of Cicero, Catullus and Lucretius).

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 teaching441 x 2 hour seminar per week
Guided independent study256Independent 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
Essay 1303000 words1-10, 12-17Mark and written comments
Essay 2303000 words1-10, 12-17Mark and written comments
Examination403 hours1-9, 12-16Mark 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
EssayEssay1-10, 12-17Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-9, 12-16Referral/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

Set texts:

  • Catullus. Poems. Trans. G. Lee. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford, 2009. (Any reprint of the paperback since 1991 is fine.)
  • Cicero. Defence Speeches. Trans. D. H. Berry. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford, 2009. (Berry's new translations are a vast improvement over those by M. Grant for Penguin Classics.)
  • Cicero. Political Speeches. Trans. D. H. Berry. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford, 2009.
  • Cicero. Selected Letters. Trans. & ed. D. R. Shackleton Bailey. Penguin Classics. London, 1986.
  • Lucretius. On the Nature of the Universe. Trans. R. Melville. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford, 2009.
  • Sallust. Catiline's War, The Jugurthine War, Histories. Trans. A. J. Woodman. Penguin Classics. London, 2007. (Since we will read Catiline's War, you may want to purchase the whole volume.)
  • Wiseman, T. P. Catullus and his World: A Reappraisal. Cambridge, 1986.

Some further reading:

  • Crawford, M. H. The Roman Republic. 2nd ed. 1993.
  • Ferguson, J. Catullus. Greece & Rome. New Surveys in the Classics, no. 20.Oxford, 1988.
  • Flower, H.I. (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic. Cambridge, 2004.
  • Gaisser, J. H. Catullus. Blackwell Introductions to the Classical World. Oxford, 2009.
  • Gaisser, J. H. (ed.). Catullus. Oxford Readings in Classical Studies. Oxford, 2007.
  • Gilespie, H. and P. Hardie, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Lucretius. Cambridge, 2007. [Online resource!]
  • Lintott, A. Cicero as Evidence. Oxford, 2008.
  • Powell, J. and J. Paterson (eds.).Cicerothe  Advocate .Oxford, 2004.
  • Rawson,E. Cicero: A Portrait. Bristol, 1983.
  • Rawson, E. Intellectual Life in the Late Roman Republic. London, 1985.
  • Rosenstein, N. and Morstein-Marx, R. A Companion to the Roman Republic. Oxford, 2006. [Very useful.]
  • Shackleton Bailey, D. R. Cicero. London, 1971.
  • Steel, C. E. W. Cicero, Rhetoric, and Empire. Oxford, 2001.
  • Steel, C. E. W. Reading Cicero: Genre and Performance in Late Republican Rome. London, 2005.
  • Taylor, L. R. Party Politics in the Age of Caesar. Berkeley, 1949. [An oldie but goodie.]
  • Tatum, W. J. The Patrician Tribune: P. Clodius Pulcher. Chapel Hill, 1999.
  • Treggiari, S. Terentia, Tullia and Publilia: The Women of Cicero's Family. London, 2007.
  • Vasaly, A. Representations: Images of the World in Ciceronian Oratory. Berkeley, 1993.
  • Wallace-Hadrill, A. Patronage in Ancient Society. London, 1989.
  • Wiseman, T. P. (ed.). Roman Political Life: 90 B.C.-A.D. 69.Exeter, 1985.
  • Wood,N. Cicero's Social and Political Thought. Berkeley, 1991.
  • Wray, D. Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood. Cambridge, 2001.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Classics, Cicero, Ancient History, Roman Republic, Ancient Literature, Catullus, Lucretius

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

The successful completion of at least 90 credits at Level 2, 30 credits of which must be in Classics & Ancient History

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date