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From Dusk till Dawn: the Ancient World at Night


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


How did ancient Greeks and Romans perceive their nights? Undoubtedly they considered them to be dark, cold, and dangerous. But what else? In the literature, insufficient light has been shed on these questions.

Historical research is often concerned with issues and problems related to events that took place during the day. What happens when we, instead, focus on the night? Which events or activities took place at night?
The symposium, burglary, night fishing, magical practices and sex are just a few of the examples that might be mentioned here. Some of these examples took place at night out of practical necessity, others out of cultural habit.

In the latter cases the night may have allowed for a sense of equality that was not felt during the daytime; or perhaps a perceived amplification of emotions enabled new possibilities for interaction. Each student will research an individual topic in the context of ancient conceptions and ideas about the night, expanding our understanding of this important and quotidian part of life. Jasper Verplanke, who specializes in the topic of the ancient night, will provide a guest lecture.

This topic is a suitable subject for comparative historical research. For example, it has been argued that the ‘colonization of the night’ only took place in the Early Modern period due to technical innovations. Is this true? Which similarities between the ancient world and other periods might we deduce?

There will be an entry test for this course: reading will be communicated through Brightspace.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
  2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  5. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
  6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
  7. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
  8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  9. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;
  10. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Ancient History: unification processes in the Graeco-Roman World, 400 BC – 400 AD; insight into the recent large-scale debates in the field with respect to both the history of mentality and socio-economic history.
  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following:
    -in the specialisation Ancient History: the comparative method; application of socio-scientific methods; specialized source knowledge, in particular of documentary sources, and more specifically epigraphy.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  1. can identify current debates about the night in a historical context;
  2. can develop ways in which to explore the night;
  3. (ResMA only): interprets a potentially complex corpus of sources; shows the ability to identify new approaches within existing academic debates; shows knowledge of the interdisciplinary aspects of the specialisation.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, the student is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (6.500-7.500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography) measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-14 (ResMA also: 10 and 15)

  • Oral presentation measured learning objectives: 3-7

  • Assignment 1 (Heuristic assignment) measured learning objectives: 2-3, 7 (ResMA also: 15)


  • Written paper: 70%

  • Oral presentation: 20%

  • Assignment 1: 10%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

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

Reading list

Literature to be announced.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.