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Study information

Ancient Journeys and Migrants

Module titleAncient Journeys and Migrants
Module codeCLA3268
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Professor Elena Isayev (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Ideas of mass migration are crucial to the understanding of our globally-linked 21st century world. But the phenomenon is not uniquely modern. The ancient world too was born from extensive movement – journeys took heroes, pirates, merchants, courtesans, youths, poetesses, refugees and soldiers among others across seas and mountains. The extensive movements challenge conceptions of a natural tie to the land and a demographically settled world. Using Ancient Italy and Rome we will explore the nature of ancient mobility and attitudes to foreigners in a world without borders by drawing on ancient literature (e.g. Plautus, Catullus, Cicero or Polybius), demography, epigraphy and archaeology (e.g. shipwrecks, burials and tesserae). Was there xenophobia? Not in the comedies of Plautus where foreigners abound. The term ‘migrant’ is simply absent – Why? Boundaries of status rather than of geopolitics were difficult to cross. We will consider how permeable boundaries and multiple fluid identities shaped this ancient society, and look at the many journey stories on the way.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of the module is to look at human mobility and attitudes to it across a wide chronological and geographic spectrum. It will consider changing concepts of migration, borders, place, citizenship and the foreigner. It will ask how communities construct and use place and space, in relation to memory, identity and power. Its core case study is the ancient Mediterranean – especially Italy, but it anticipates students from multiple disciplinary backgrounds able to apply the concepts and problems discussed to their own time period and disciplinary interest. It will question the dichotomy of the mobile and the sedentary. The ancient world will provide an alternative model to that of the territorially bounded nation state, with which to think and challenge contemporary preconceptions, while drawing out long term trends and constructs.

There is no exam in this course, but there are 3 different types of assessment – which may consist of the following:

1) Source Analysis – will allow for in-depth critical analysis of either a written or material source in light of migration.

2) A written entry for a Collective Migration Dictionary: every student will choose a term which to discuss in light of the ancient world, this will allow development of conceptual skills, and engagement with theory.

3) A thematic essay – which will be based around a specific problem or question, and will draw on the skills developed in the previous two exercises.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate a knowledge of a wide selection of relevant primary material from the ancient world
  • 2. Demonstrate the development of critical skills for analysis and discussion of such material
  • 3. Explore the meaning and development of key concepts in other chronological and geographic contexts
  • 4. Be familiar with approaches to migration and the ‘other’

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Demonstrate sophisticated critical and analytical skills which can be applied to the analysis of material and other forms of evidence, including texts from any culture
  • 6. They will also be able to take historical examples and understand the impact of contemporary ideologies on its interpretation and in turn the way that historical discourse is used to underpin contemporary policy and perceptionTake historical examples and understand the impact of contemporary ideologies on its interpretation and in turn the way that historical discourse is used to underpin contemporary policy and perception
  • 7. Students will be able to examine theoretical arguments and ideas; to form their own interpretation of primary and secondary texts and consider critically a range of possible interpretationsExamine theoretical arguments and ideas; to form their own interpretation of primary and secondary texts and consider critically a range of possible interpretations
  • 8. Examine the ideologies and values of another culture and to consider their bearing on your own life and culture

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 9. Demonstrate an ability to empathise with the conceptual and ideological basis of an unfamiliar society
  • 10. Demonstrate an increased sophistication in the use of the texts, narratives and material remains generated in a particular society as sources for the study of the history and culture of that society
  • 11. Demonstrate independent research skills, skills in the construction, organisation and presentation of arguments and verbal skills; through seminar presentations and discussion, students should be able to demonstrate confidence and clarity in oral communication; the ability to work in groups

Syllabus plan

The introductory seminars of the module will present a number of key concepts and theories related to migration in the ancient and modern world, and it will also provide a historical background to the region, ancient Italy (including its Greek areas) and period (roughly 6th-1st century BC). The majority of the lessons will be shaped around debates on key issues and the presentation of stories, whether using literature or archaeological evidence.

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

  • The meaning of migration – between sedentarism and nomadism
  • What do the numbers of mass mobility hide?
  • Ancient Mediterranean – a globalised world without borders?
  • Citizenship and other institutions on the move
  • Early Maps and Cartography
  • Were the Ancient Italians xenophobic?
  • How do you recognise an Etruscan abroad or a foreigner in Italy?
  • Shipwrecks – ships, merchants, explorers and seafaring
  • Ancient diasporas – when and where?
  • Buried away from home – what’s written on the bone
  • Mercenaries, barbarians and pirates
  • Exiles, prisoners, hostages and refugees
  • Welcome guests or aggressive colonialists?
  • Who had the right to move people?
  • The eternal story of Homecoming
  • The travels of the Locrian women and their slaves
  • The journey of Demaratus and the first king of Rome
  • Rome’s founders – vagabonds and refugees from Troy
  • Delos and Pithekoussai - the mixed islands
  • The expulsion of the Latins from Rome
  • Did the Gauls really come to Italy for the wine?
  • The massacre of Italians in Asia Minor
  • Escape of the Syrian Prince from Rome
  • Plautus’s mobile comic world – and the story of Poenulus

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 teaching661 x 3 hour seminar per week
Guided independent study234Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group informal presentation / Discussion15 minutes1-11Oral 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 assignment consisting of a collective work (10%) and self-reflective essay (20%)302000 words1-11Mark and written feedback
Written assignment201500 words1-11Mark and written feedback
Essay503500 words1-11Mark and written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-11Referral/Deferral period
Written assignmentWritten assignment1-11Referral/Deferral period
Written assignmentWritten assignment1-11Referral/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

A full reading list will be supplied by the module lecturer in the form of a topic/class specific handout which will also be posted on the Web. The following is a sample of some of the texts:

Primary texts:

  • The Comedies of Plautus, Cicero’s writings, especially De Legibus and The Letters.
  • Ahrweiler H. (1998) ‘Byzantine Concepts of the Foreigner: The case of the nomads’, in Ahrweiler H. and Laiou A.E. (eds.)Studies on the Internal Diaspora of the Byzantine Empire, Washington D.C., 1-15.
  • Brettell, C. B. and Hollifield, J. F. (eds) (2008) Migration theory: talking across disciplines. New York.
  • Broadhead, W. (2004) ‘Rome and the mobility of the Latins’, in Moatti, C. (ed.) La Mobilité des personnes en Méditerranée de l’antiquitéà l’époque moderne. Rome. 315-335.
  • Castles, S. and Miller, M. J. (2003) (3rd edition) The Age of Migration: international population movements in the modern world. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Dench, E. (2005) Romulus’ Asylum. Roman Identities from the Age of Alexander to the Age of Hadrian. Oxford.
  • De Ligt L. and Northwood S. J. (eds.) (2008) People, Land, and Politics: Demographic Developments and the Transformation of Roman Italy 300 BC-AD 14, Leiden-Boston.
  • Favell, A. & Smith, M.P. (eds) (2006) The Human Face of Global Mobility. New Brunswick NJ
  • Gruen, E.S. (1992) Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome. Cornell University.
  • Harvey D. (2009) Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom, Columbia.
  • Horden, P. and Purcell, N. (2000) Corrupting Sea. Cambridge.
  • Malkin, I. (2005) Mediterranean Paradigms and Classical Antiquity. London.
  • Osborne R. (1991) ‘The potential mobility of human populations’, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 10.2:231-52.
  • Osborne R. (1998) ‘Early Greek Colonization? The nature of Greek settlements in the West’, in N. Fisher and H. van Wees (eds.) Archaic Greece. New approaches and new evidence, London and Swansea, 251-70.
  • Schlesier R. and Zellmann U. (eds.) (2004) Mobility and travel in the Mediterranean from antiquity to the Middle Ages, Münster, 73-83.
  • Scheidel W. (2004) ‘Human Mobility in Roman Italy, I: The Free Population’, Journal of Roman Studies 94: 1-26.
  • Scheidel W. (2005) ‘Human Mobility in Roman Italy, II: The Slave Population’, Journal of Roman Studies 95: 64-79.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Ancient History, Migration, Mobility, Italy Rome, Literature, Archaeology Mapping, Foreigners, Migrants, Refugee, Borders, Citizenship

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

Relevant 2nd Year Humanities/Social Science/Geography/Law.

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date