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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

CLAS1100 Ancient Lives

20 creditsClass Size: 70

Module manager: Dr Fabio Sarranito

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The module will consider a range of biographies and life writings by different authors of classical antiquity, from more historical to more literary and fictionalising biographies. It will cover subjects from important political figures such as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to less documented figures including male authors, such as Aesop or Euripides, and women, such as Turia (the likely subject of the narrative inscription Laudatio Turiae written by her husband in praise of his deceased wife). Literary form and genre as well as historical context and other sources for the biographies’ subjects will be considered.


This module aims to equip students with an appreciation of the issues involved in handling and interpreting biographies and life writing from the ancient world in a wide variety of genres. Students will consider biographies in their historical context and compared with other evidence for the period and the subject, and learn to distinguish different authors’ aims, genres, and techniques in writing about individual lives and to reflect on the implications of such factors for our understanding of the texts. Some of the historical figures studied are of central historical importance, such as Alexander and Caesar, while other subjects are of interest to biographers and readers of biography because of the rich tradition of stories about them and the opportunities they present for an alternative form of narrative literature. The knowledge and critical skills acquired in this module will thus provide a basis for further study of Greek and Roman history, historiography, and narrative literature.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following learning outcomes relevant to the subject:
1. Recognise the conventions of life writing in Antiquity.
2. Interpret selected case studies in depth.
3. Identify differences in genre, aims and agendas, and assess the use of these sources as literature and/or as historical sources as well as the problems and limitations involved in using them.
4. Identify relevant historical context and other evidence for the biographies’ subjects from other kinds of source, and describe how to relate the biographies to those contexts.

Skills Learning Outcomes:
On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following skills learning outcomes:
5. Evaluate, select and apply relevant strategies of enquiry to primary evidence.
6. Communicate the results of your work effectively in writing.
7. Respond creatively to a brief, presenting information succinctly.


Details of the syllabus will be provided on the Minerva organisation (or equivalent) for the module.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours175.00
Total Contact hours25.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Formative feedback is provided through contribution in the five seminars, one of which will be focused specifically on practice for the creative writing coursework for discussion with the seminar tutor and group, and one of which will focus on preparation for the final comparative essay, and will provide an opportunity for students to discuss their ideas for this coursework with the seminar tutor and group.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Written Work1250-word creative writing assignment40.00
Essay1750-word comparative essay60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 07/02/2024


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