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Study information

Greek Political Thought

Module titleGreek Political Thought
Module codeCLA3255
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Neville Morley (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module you will look at the development of Greek political thought in ancient Greece. You will consider the nature of Greek political thinking as reflected in a variety of different sources, including philosophy, historiography, tragedy and comedy. You will consider the development of three important trends in the political thought of the fifth and fourth centuries: the rule of law; nomos versus physis; and the theorising of constitutional forms. This module is suitable for students who have already undertaken modules at levels I or II in Greek history (either Problems and Sources or Building Communities), or Greek Philosophy. It will also complement Crisis of the Athenian Polis.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of the module is to introduce you to the political thought in ancient Greece, and how this is reflected in its literature. It will ask questions about the nature of political thought as opposed to political thinking, and consider major issues that arose in the fifth and fourth centuries, particularly as the Greeks grappled with ideas about the nature of law and its relationship to the community and its traditions, and as democracy took shape as an alternative to rule by the few or rule by one. This module should encourage you to reflect not only on ancient political thought, and its theorisation, but also on how these same ideas have often been taken up by modern political thinkers as well.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate understanding of the development of Greek political thinking and its systemisation and theorisation
  • 2. Demonstrate understanding of and be able to analyse the main issues addressed by Greek political thinkers in the fifth and fourth centuries, and how they have influenced later debates
  • 3. Demonstrate understanding of the political nature of different kinds of ancient texts, and analyse key passages from them in relation to the historical and intellectual contexts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Analyse passages of ancient sources, identify the relevant contexts for understanding them, and offer plausible interpretations of your own
  • 5. Show knowledge and understanding of the traditions of interpreting Greek political thought, and how these shape our readings of the ancient texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Demonstrate your ability to conduct independent research, including the use of a wide range of library and online resources, to identify, evaluate and organise relevant material
  • 7. Demonstrate your ability to analyse a wide range of sources and arguments critically
  • 8. Demonstrate your ability to construct coherent, relevant and plausible arguments based on your knowledge and understanding, and to present these clearly and effectively both in writing and orally

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:

  • Studying Greek Political Thought
  • Myth, History and the Origins of the Polis
  • Citizenship and the State
  • Law and Justice
  • Freedom, Autocracy and Tyranny
  • Oligarchy and Aristocracy
  • Democracy, Oratory and Rhetoric
  • Populism and Factionalism
  • The Legacy of Greek Political Thought

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 teaching221 x 2 hour seminar per week
Guided independent study128Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentations10 minutes1-2, 5, 7-8Oral comment; peer comment

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
Written assignment301000 words1-8Mark, written and oral feedback
Essay653000 words1-8Mark, written and oral feedback
Presentation510 minutes1-8Mark, written and oral feedback

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
Written assignmentWritten assignment1-8Referral/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:

  • Greek Lyric Poetry (Oxford World’s Classics).
  • Herodotus, The Histories (Oxford World’s Classics).
  • Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War (Oxford World’s Classics).
  • Aristophanes, Clouds (Penguin Classics).
  • Aeschylus, Suppliant Women, Eumenides (Oxford World’s Classics).
  • Sophocles, Antigone (Cambridge).
  • Euripides, Suppliant Women (Oxford World's Classics).
  • Plato, Republic (Oxford World’s Classics), Laws (Penguin), Statesman (Cambridge).
  • The Old Oligarch (Lactor).
  • Aristotle, Politics (Oxford World’s Classics).
  • Xenophon, The Education of Cyrus (Cornell).

Introductory Reading

  • P.J. Rhodes, A History of the Classical Greek World, 478-323 B.C. (Oxford, 2006).
  • R.K. Balot, Greek Political Thought, (Oxford, 2006).
  • P. Cartledge, Ancient Greek Political Thought in practice (Cambridge, 2009).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

ancient Greece, political thought

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

CLA1001/CLA2001 Problems and Sources, CLA1358/CLA2358 Building Communities, or CLA1507/CLA2507 Greek Philosophy.

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date