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Study information

Reading and Writing Greek Literature in the Hellenistic World

Module titleReading and Writing Greek Literature in the Hellenistic World
Module codeCLA3125
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Chiara Meccariello (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

After Alexander the Great’s conquests and the formation of Hellenistic kingdoms, Greek literature reached new corners of the world, and was both enjoyed and produced anew in several multicultural settings from Egypt to central Asia. In this course you will focus on the circulation and production of Greek literature in these expanded horizons, and examine how the cultural, societal and political configurations of the Hellenistic kingdoms affected what was read and written. You will look both at the main centres of learning and literary production, such as Alexandria and its celebrated court poets, and at the less sophisticated literary world of more peripheral areas such as Ai Khanoum in today’s Afghanistan and remote towns and villages of Egypt. In your analysis of texts and cultural phenomena, you will particularly explore the dialectic of Greek and non-Greek elements, gendered dynamics and the role of political institutions in literary production and transmission.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to:

  • Provide a deep understanding of the main forms, themes and aesthetic values of Hellenistic literature and its engagement which previous literature
  • Examine reading, schooling and scholarly practices across the Greek-speaking world of the Hellenistic period
  • Explore how the literary production and cultural phenomena of this period relate to political and societal dynamics and to the multicultural quality of Hellenistic settlements

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate advanced knowledge of different types of Hellenistic literary texts and how they relate to previous literature
  • 2. Demonstrate a deepunderstanding of the variety of sources for the study of Hellenistic culture and the ability to approach them with appropriate methodologies
  • 3. Evidence a detailed knowledge of the dynamics of cultural dissemination and of educational and scholarly practices in the Hellenistic world
  • 4. Show a nuanced understanding of the political and social contexts of Hellenistic literature and culture

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Apply appropriate methodologies and tools for the study of ancient texts and their contexts
  • 6. Show an appreciation of the significance of both authors and readers, and of both texts and contexts in the study of ancient cultures
  • 7. Demonstrate awareness of the significance of peripheral areas and non-canonical literature to gain a fuller understanding of antiquity

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. Analyse and contextualise texts effectively
  • 9. Demonstrate advanced ability to think critically, to develop coherent arguments, to present results clearly and effectively and to respond to and implement feedback
  • 10. Produce work within a specific timeline to a high standard
  • 11. Communicate ideas clearly and confidently in oral form

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:


  • Libraries, scholarship and education from Alexandria to Ai Khanoum
  • Genres old and new: epic poetry (Callimachus’ Hecale, Apollonius’ Argonautica, Moschus’ Europa), Theocritus’, Callimachus’ and Posidippus’ court poetry, Callimachus’ Aitia, Theocritus’ bucolic poetry
  • Literary realism and daily life: Herondas, Theocritus
  • Gods and literature: Callimachus’ Hymns, epigraphic hymns
  • Words and objects: The epigram in books and inscriptions
  • Non-Greek writers of Greek literature: Manetho and Berossus
  • Gender and power: from poems for queens to misogynistic school texts
  • Women as readers and writers in the Hellenistic world

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

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 1403000 words1-10Mark, oral and written comments from lecturer
Essay 2403000 words1-10Mark, oral and written comments from lecturer
Oral presentation of a key textual source2015 minutes + 5-minute discussion1-11Mark, oral comments from lecturer and peers

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1 (3000 words)Essay 1 (3000 words)1-10Referral/Deferral period
Essay 2 (3000 words)Essay 2 (3000 words)1-10Referral/Deferral period
Oral presentation of a key textual source (15 minutes + 5-minute discussion)Transcript of presentation (1500 words) with accompanying handout and/or visual aid1-11Referral/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

Indicative set texts:

  • The poems of Erinna, Anyte, Nossis
  • Posidippus, Epigrams (selection)
  • Callimachus, Aitia (selected fragments); Hecale, Hymn to Athena; Hymn to Demeter
  • Theocritus, Idylls (selection)
  • Herondas, Mimiambs (selection)
  • Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica
  • Moschus, Europa
  • Selection of epigraphic hymns and other verse inscriptions
  • Selected fragments from Manetho’s History of Egypt and Berossus’ Babylonian History

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Introductory readings:

  • James J. Clauss/Martine Cuypers (eds.), A Companion to Hellenistic Literature, Oxford 2010.
  • Marco Fantuzzi/Richard Hunter, Tradition and Innovation in Hellenistic Poetry, Cambridge 2012.
  • Kathryn J. Gutzwiller, A Guide to Hellenistic Literature, Malden, MA 2007.
  • Maria Kanellou/Ivana Petrovic/Chris Carey (eds.), Greek Epigram from the Hellenistic to the Early Byzantine Era, Oxford 2019.
  • Rachel Mairs, The Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek world, Abingdon 2020.
  • Sarah Pomeroy, Women in Hellenistic Egypt from Alexander to Cleopatra, New York 1984.
  • Susan A. Stephens, Seeing Double: Intercultural Poetics in Ptolemaic Alexandria, Berkeley 2003.

Key words search

Hellenistic Literature, Classics, Ancient Education, Libraries, Readership

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


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Last revision date