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Introduction to Ancient Greek History - 20 credits (HS3101)

Staff: Stephen Lambert, Louis Rawlings, Laurence Totelin, Ruth Westgate

This module is an introduction to the history of the Greek world from the early Archaic period to the Hellenistic period (eighth to first centuries BC). We will trace political and military developments including the emergence of city-states, the evolution of the world’s first democracy, the Persian Wars, the conflict between Athens and Sparta, the rise of Macedon, and the Hellenistic kingdoms. We will also study the religion, society and culture of the ancient Greeks, drawing on a range of sources such as poetry, histories, drama, philosophy and archaeological and visual evidence.

Core module for: BA Ancient History, BA Archaeology and Ancient History, BA Ancient and Medieval History, and joint degrees with Ancient History
Optional for: all other Humanities degrees (subject to timetabling constraints)
Availability: autumn and spring semester every year
Teaching: 20 lectures, 4 seminars, study group exercises
Assessment: one essay (35%); one group presentation (15%); one 2-hour examination (50%)

Syllabus content

  • Archaic Greece: the evidence from Homer and archaeology
  • political developments in Archaic Greece: aristocrats, tyrants and democracy
  • Athens and Sparta in the Archaic period
  • Herodotus and the Persian Wars
  • Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War
  • Classical Athens: politics, religion and culture, the economy, the family, women and slaves
  • the rise of Macedon and the campaigns of Alexander the Great
  • the Hellenistic kingdoms
  • culture, religion and society in the Hellenistic period


  • To provide an introduction to the major issues, historical sources and methods involved in studying the political, social and cultural history of the ancient Greek states.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, the student will demonstrate:

  • a knowledge of several important periods of Greek history: Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic.
  • an ability to analyse the historical sources for these periods, including historians (such as Herodotus), poets (such as Homer), and other literary and documentary material.
  • an awareness of modern interpretations of these periods, and an ability to develop their own ideas.

Primary sources (to be bought)

Herodotus, The Histories (Oxford World’s Classics)

A sourcebook containing extracts from other ancient sources will be provided.

Preliminary reading

Secondary sources:
O. Murray, Early Greece (second edition, 1993)
R. Osborne, Greece in the Making (second edition, 2009)
J. M. Hall, A History of the Archaic Greek World, ca. 1200–479 BC (2007)
P. J. Rhodes, A History of the Classical Greek World, ca. 480–323 BC (2005)
S. Hornblower, The Greek World, 479–323 BC (second edition, 2002)
R. M. Errington, A History of the Hellenistic World, ca. 323–30 BC (2008)
G. Shipley, The Greek World after Alexander, 323–30 BC (2000)
R. Just, Women in Athenian Life and Law (1980)
N. R. E. Fisher, Slavery in Classical Greece (1993)
J. Mikalson, Ancient Greek Religion (2004)

Primary sources:
Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey
Herodotus, The Histories
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War
Greek drama: tragedies by Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides; comedies by Aristophanes

Related modules

HS2102 Archaeology of the Greek and Roman World

HS3102 Introduction to Roman History

all Ancient History Part Two modules