CLA2508 - Ancient World: Roman Philosophy

2012/3 Module description

StaffChristopher Gill - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
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

The aim is to examine a range of central philosophical questions debated in Roman philosophy and to set these debates against the background of later Greek (Hellenistic) thought which strongly influenced Roman thought. Much of the module centres on the contrasting approaches of two leading philosophical movements in this period – Epicureanism and Stoicism – whose ideas are still relevant and significant today. The topics treated include ethics (virtues and values), mind-body relationships, the nature of death, and the nature of the gods. These topics are studied through a set of readings by major Roman authors, especially Cicero, Lucretius and Marcus Aurelius. Students are encouraged through lectures, seminars, study-groups and written work, to engage with the philosophical questions conveyed in these readings and to become thoughtful and critical readers of a range of stimulating texts in Roman culture.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a broad and detailed knowledge of a wide selection of a large number of primary texts (in English translation)
  • 2. Demonstrate a general understanding of philosophical views and debates in Hellenistic and Roman thought
  • 3. Reflect critically on the philosophical views found in Hellenistic and Roman philosophy and engage with modern scholarly discussions of these views

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Be able to use, analyse and critically evaluate ancient texts
  • 5. Develop advanced academic and library skills
  • 6. Develop a critical engagement with modern scholarly literature

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Demonstrate independent and group study skills in the research and presentation of findings
  • 8. Demonstrate an ability to select and organise relevant material
  • 9. Demonstrate an ability to present a strong argument in oral and written form
  • 10. Develop confidence and clarity in oral communication
  • 11. Develop the ability to work and discuss issues in a peer group
  • 12. Develop as critical readers of philosophical writing general

Syllabus plan

1. Introduction to 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.

5 Marcus Aurelius: Stoic Ethical Reflection as a basis for meeting life's challenges.

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 activities2222 x 1-hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities88 x 1-hour seminars/study-groups
Guided independent study120private study
Scheduled leanring and teaching activities11-hour consultation

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 mins1-12Verbal
Essay402000 words1-9, 12Verbal and Written
Exam502 hours1-9, 12Verbal and Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9, 12August
ExamExam1-9, 12August

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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Key words search

Rome, Philosophy, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Cicero, Lucretious, Marcus Aurelius

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