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Seminar Latin: Epic Transformations: Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica


Admission requirements

This class can be taken in fulfilment of the requirements of both the MA and the Research MA program in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (track Classics).

Admission requirements for other students: a BA degree in Classics obtained from a university in the Netherlands, or a comparable qualification obtained from a university outside the Netherlands. Moreover, students with an international degree have to contact the coordinator of studies to check admissibility.

If you are interested in taking this course, but are not sure whether you fulfill the entry requirements, please, contact the instructor.


Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica is an (unfinished) epic poem, probably written during the reign of Vespasian (69-79 AD), that recounts the famous mythical voyage of the Argonauts and Jason’s love affair with Medea, who helps our hero to secure the Golden Fleece.

In handbooks of Latin literature, Valerius’ poem is often characterized as a Vergilian retelling of Apollonius’ Argonautica. It is precisely this hypothesis that we will put to the test. Although Valerius’ epic does indeed rework both Apollonius and Vergil, we will see that things are more complicated: Homer and Ovid, for instance, play an important role as well – and perhaps Valerius can be seen to respond to Vergil’s reworking of Apollonius in the Aeneid?

In the course of the semester, we will read substantial parts of the Argonautica in Latin and the rest of the poem in translation. Although we will focus on Valerius’ epic transformations, i.e. his creative engagement with his epic predecessors in both Greek and Latin, other questions will be aired as well. How does Valerius’ epic sit in the cultural and political context of Flavian Rome, for instance? And if the Argonautica is incomplete (an idea that has recently been contested), how did Valerius plan to end his poem?

At the end of the semester, there will be a written exam (50%). In addition, students will give a presentation (20%) and write a paper (30%) that addresses one particular passage and its epic transformations. All students are expected to be well-prepared and to participate in the discussion.

Course objectives


  • Broadening knowledge of Latin literature;

  • Enlarging reading and interpretative competence of Latin texts;

  • Reflection on intertextuality;

  • Practising intertextuality and textual criticism;

  • Practising critical assessment of secondary literature.


  • Enhancing presentational skills;

  • Enhancing writing skills;

  • Enhancing research skills.

This tutorial contributes to the achievement of learning outcomes 4a and 4c (to give and write a clear and well-argued oral and written presentation on a research topic in accordance with academic standards) of the study programme Classics and Ancient Civilizations.


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Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Written exam (50%), consisting of (a) two translations (seen) and grammatical questions (25%) and (b) other questions (25%);

  • Oral presentation (20%);

  • Written presentation: paper (ca. 3000, Research MA students ca. 4000 words) (30%).

Research MA students are expected to write a more substantial paper and to show a more independent scholarly attitude (in formulating and working out the research question, quantity/complexity of secondary literature).


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the examinations mentioned above. A sufficient score for the translations and grammatical questions is a condicio sine qua non.


If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, the student can revise his/her paper and/or retake the written examination (after consultation with the teacher). There is no resit for the oral presentation.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Students are expected to have

  • J.H. Mozley (ed.) (1934) Valerius Flaccus: Argonautica. Loeb Classical Library 286. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

  • G. Manuwald (ed.) (2015) Valerius Flaccus: Argonautica III. Cambridge.
    In addition, Dutch students may wish to purchase:

  • S. Van den Broeck (2015) Gaius Valerius Flaccus. De Argonautica, Leiden.
    For the Latin passages we will use Ehlers’ Teubner edition (available online):

  • W.-W. Ehlers (ed.) (1980) Gai Valeri Flacci Setini Balbi Argonauticon libri octo. Stuttgart.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.

Not applicable.


Dr. J. Soerink


Students are advised to (re)read Apollonius’ and Valerius’ Argonautica before the start of the semester.