CLA1508 - Ancient World: Roman Philosophy

2012/3 Module description

StaffChristopher Gill - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.50
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module description

This module aims to offer a chance for students from various backgrounds to explore a period of philosophy that is less often studied than Greek philosophy but which is rich in its intellectual and cultural interest. It shows how Roman Philosophy emerged against the background of later Greek (Hellenistic) Philosophy and how Roman thinkers gave a distinctive character to philosophical thought. It offers a chance to explore fundamental philosophical questions about human values and happiness, ethics and nature, mind and body, death and the gods, as these are treated by important Roman thinkers such as Lucretius, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius.

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.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Students should, with guidance, be able to describe and evaluate a number of key features of Roman philosophy.
  • 2. They should also have assimilated a basic understanding of some important texts by Lucretius, Cicero and Epictetus, together with selected readings on Hellenistic philosophy.
  • 3. They should also, with guidance, be able to use the sources to examine a set of key issues and debates in Roman philosophy.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Students should be able to use, analyse and evaluate Hellenistic and Roman philosophical texts as historical sources.
  • 5. 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.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Students should demonstrate independent and group study skills in guided research and presentation of findings.
  • 7. 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.
  • 8. They should be able to manage their own time and meet deadlines.

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. 4. Epicureanism and Stoicism on Nature and the Gods

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 Teaching Activities2211 x 2-hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities55x 1-hour seminars/study-groups
Guided independent study123Private study

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
Oral presentation1010 mins1-8Written and verbal
Essay302000 words1-8Written and verbal
Exam602 hours1-8Written and verbal

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Oral presentationOral presentation1-8Refer/Defer period
EssayEssay1-8Refer/Defer period
ExamExam1-8Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading: Primary Reading (to be bought).

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, trans. M. F. Smith (Hackett)

Cicero, Selected Works (Penguin Classics), esp. On Duties 3.

Cicero, The Nature of the Gods, trans. P. G. Walsh (World’s Classics)

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, trans. R. Hard, ed. C. Gill (World’s Classics)

(Also, Long, A. A. and Sedley, D. N., The Hellenistic Philosophers, vol. 1: extracts;

distributed by C. Gill: no charge)

Secondary Reading (introductory)

Morford, M. The Roman Philosophers (Routledge)

O’Keefe, Tim, Epicureanism (Acumen)

Sedley, D. (ed), Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy (Cambridge University Press)

Sellars, J., Stoicism (Acumen Press)

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Available as distance learning?


Last revision date


Key words search

Hellenist, Roman, Ancient World

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