CLA1508 - Ancient World: Roman Philosophy

2006/7 Module description

Lecturer(s)Prof. Chris Gill
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.50
Duration of ModuleOne Semester
Total Student Study Time150 hours, to include 12 x 1-hour lectures, 8 x 1-hour seminars/study-groups and 130 hours private study.

Module aims

This module provides an introduction into Roman Philosophy. It is concerned with Hellenistic and Roman thinking on fundamental issues about human values and happiness, mind and body, death and nature. Students will learn how to use and analyse Hellenistic and Roman philosophical texts and modern scholarly discussions as sources for understanding Roman philosophy.

Intended learning outcomes

Module-specific skills

Through an analysis of Hellenistic and Roman philosophical texts and modern scholarly discussions, on completion of this module students should, with guidance, be able to describe and evaluate a number of key features of Roman philosophy. They should also have assimilated a basic understanding of some important texts by Lucretius, Cicero and Epictetus, together with selected readings on Hellenistic philosophy. They should also, with guidance, be able to use the sources to examine a set of key issues and debates in Roman philosophy.

Discipline-specific skills

Students should be able to use, analyse and evaluate Hellenistic and Roman philosophical texts as historical sources. They should also develop basic academic and library skills as well as a critical ability in assessing published literature on selected texts in Hellenistic and Roman philosophy.

Personal and key skills

Students should demonstrate independent and group study skills in guided research and presentation of findings. They should also be able to select and organise relevant material and to present this in connected oral and written form, and to discuss issues in a peer group. They should be able to manage their own time and meet deadlines.

Learning and teaching methods

(1) Lectures; (2) whole group seminars; 3) study-groups meeting independently to prepare for seminars; 4) seminar-presentations, either individual or in pairs or groups.


One essay of 2000 words.


(1) The essay assignment (30% of whole module mark), (2) one two-hour examination, comprising one question on sources and a choice of one essay question (70%).

Syllabus plan

1. Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy.
2. Epicureanism: Lucretius on Death, Body and Soul: Nature and Human Civilisation.
3. Stoicism: Cicero on Ethics and Social Commitment: Epictetus on Happiness, Self-management and Social Involvement.

Indicative basic reading list

1. Core Set Texts
Lucretius, On The Nature of Things, trans. M. F. Smith (Hackett)
Cicero, Selected Works (Penguin Classics)
Epictetus, Discourses etc., tr. R. Hard, ed. C. Gill (Everyman)
Selected texts on Hellenistic Philosophy (to be supplied).

2. Other Recommended Reading:
A. A. Long, Hellenistic Philosophy (California UP, 1999)
M. Morford, The Roman Philosophers (Routledge, 2002)
D. Sedley, Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy (Cambridge, 2003)
R. W. Sharples, Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics: An Introduction to Hellenistic Philosophy (Routledge, 1996)

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