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Study information

The Age of Cicero

Module titleThe Age of Cicero
Module codeCLA3008
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr William Short (Convenor)

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

The module aims to:

  • introduce you to the extensive and diverse writings of Cicero himself and some of his contemporaries (e.g., Catullus and Lucretius) as historical and literary documents
  • consider themes of Roman culture, such as friendship, patronage, politics, rhetoric, education, and family, in the works of contemporary authors
  • cover a wide range of literary evidence to allow you to develop 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. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the history and culture of the late Roman Republic
  • 2. Demonstrate a good knowledge of the history and variety of scholarship on the literature of the Late Roman Republic
  • 3. Analyse the works of Cicero, Catullus and Lucretius critically, showing how they relate to their socio-historical context

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the issues involved in using ancient texts as historical source material
  • 5. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of core Roman ideologies
  • 6. Demonstrate understanding of the influence of modern conceptions on the interpretation of the ancient world, with awareness of one's own assumptions and values

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to conduct independent research, including the use of a wide range of library and online resources
  • 8. Demonstrate the ability to construct coherent and cogent arguments based on your knowledge and understanding, and to present these clearly and effectively
  • 9. Contribute confidently and constructively to discussion in a peer group

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.) politics, family, education, friendship, love, sex, marriage, invective, death, religion as evinced 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

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Participation in seminar discussion Weekly1-9Feedback from lecturer and peers

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 1353000 words1-8Mark and written comments
Essay 2353000 words1-8Mark and written comments
Thematic presentation (term 1)1510 minute individual presentation1-8Mark and written comments
Thematic presentation (term 2)1510 minute individual presentation1-8Mark 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
EssayEssay1-8Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1-8Referral/Deferral period
PresentationRecorded presentation with transcript (1000 words)1-8Referral/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.
  • Wiseman, T. P. Catullus and his World: A Reappraisal. Cambridge, 1986.

Some further reading:

  • Baraz, Y. A Written Republic. Princeton. 2012.
  • 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.
  • 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.]
  • 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