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Seminar Greek: Tranquillity of mind: Plutarch on a forgotten ideal


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), with differential requirements.
Admission requirements: 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.


This seminar will centre around Plutarch's treatise On Tranquillity of Mind (Peri euthymias), which we will read in Greek in its entirity. Starting from this central work, we will explore (and read from) other works of Plutarch's Moralia (e.g. Consolation to My Wife and On Exile) and Lives (e.g. Life of Marius). Thus, this course will provide an overview of Plutarch's monumental oeuvre as a whole, taking into account both his ethical/philosophical and his historiographical/biographical projects. At the same time, we will analyse the concept of 'tranquillity of mind' (euthymia). How does it relate to other, more famous ethical concepts such as ataraxia, apatheia and eudaimonia as championed by different philosophical schools in Antiquity? Is Plutarch's view compatible with that of Seneca, of whom we also have a treatise On Tranquillity of Mind? What is the role of euthymia in Renaissance and Early Modern philosophy? And how should we evaluate the 'emerging role' of this forgotten ideal in current psychotherapy (e.g. Guidi & Fava 2020)?

Course objectives


  • knowledge of Plutarch's On Tranquillity of Mind and a selection from Plutarch's other works, including the ability to translate the Greek texts and to explain grammatical, syntactical and literary aspects;

  • knowledge of Plutarch's life, work, and thought, as well as its historical, cultural, and philosophical context;

  • knowledge of current scholarly approaches to Plutarch and his context (esp. the tradition of Quellenforschung and its methodological challenges and problems);

  • knowledge of the philosophical concept of 'euthymia', its place within Graeco-Roman ethics, and its reception.
    Understanding and skills: (for differentiation between MA and ResMA, see below under Assessment Methods)

  • research skills: formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials, analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions.

  • reading skills: translation of Greek text into idiomatic English; ability to discuss grammatical and discourse linguistic features of a text; ability to reflect on implications of textcritical issues.

  • critical assessment of secondary literature according to the standards of academic debate.

  • oral presentation: the student will give a clear and well-argued interpretation of a text passage, making effective use of a handout (mandatory) and, optionally, with other presentation devices.

  • written presentation: the paper will offer a clear and well-structured presentation of the student's research.

  • students must demonstrate their grasp of critical issues in recent scholarship and assess recent scholarly contributions by confronting them with the original source material.

  • this course aims at active participation and preparation: the student demonstrates involvement in the topic by asking well-informed and constructive questions and making contributions to the collective progress, based on antecedent independent preparation.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Examination on the Greek texts, secondary literature and topics discussed in class (30%)

  • Oral presentation (30%)

  • Written Paper (3000-5000 words) (30%)

  • Participation (10%)
    The requirements for MA and ResMA students are differentiated:

  • The paper of an MA student will present a specific text passage with translation and commentary.

  • The paper of a ResMA student will take the form of a scholarly article that presents the innovative and well-argued interpretation of a text passage, with a clear research question, an argument and a conclusion.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average combined with one additional requirement: the grade for the examination on the Greek texts, secondary literature and topics discussed in class must be satisfactory.


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

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

W.C. Helmbold (ed. & tr.), Plutarch. Moralia. Volume VI, Cambridge, MA / London, 1939.
G. Roskam, Plutarch, Cambridge, 2021; also available on-line; students are expected to have read this brief introduction to Plutarch by the third session at the latest; chapter 6 (pages 113-144) is not part of the mandatory reading.
Additional literature and/or a reading list with titles to be found in the Leiden University Library will be made available before the start of the seminar (through Brightspace). A selection of relevant books will be made available on a special bookshelf at the University Library.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


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

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


All other information.