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Classical Literature


Admission requirements

This course is open to all BA -students of Leiden University, as well as to contract- and à la carte-students. Knowledge of Ancient Greek and Latin is not required as all ancient texts are studied in translation. Even though the course is expecially aimed at those students who wish to acquaint themselves with the many highlights of classical literature, classicists are more than welcome too.


Greek and Latin literature has exerted a profound influence on Western culture. To many people, the names of Homer, Aristotle, Sophocles, Virgil, Horace and Tacitus still have a familiar ring, although their work is largely unknown. This course presents an overview of classical literature from Homer to Augustine, and discusses all the ancient genres: epic, histioriography, tragedy, rhetoric, the novel and much more. All texts, selected for their fame and impact, will be read in translation; attention will also be paid to scholarly approaches to them.

This course offers an excellent introduction to classical literature, a rudimentary knowledge of which is indispensable for a decent understanding of European literature and culture. Therefore, this course is most suitable for all students with a broad interest in western culture and history. Classicists will also find the course interesting, since it will discuss several authors and genres that receive little attention in the regular programme of the BA Greek and Latin language and culture.

The programme of the course is (roughly) as follows:

  • 1) Greek heroic and didactic epic (Homer, Hesiod)

  • 2) Archaic poetry (Pindar, Sappho, Solon, Theognis)

  • 3) Greek historiography (Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon)

  • 4) Greek drama, especially tragedy (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes)

  • 5) Greek philosophy (Plato, Aristotle)

  • 6) Greek rhetoric (the sophists, Lysias, Demosthenes)

  • 7) Latin epic (Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid)

  • 8) The ‘new poets’ (Catullus, Propertius, Horace)

  • 9) Roman historiography (Sallust, Livy, Tacitus)

  • 10) Roman rhetoric (Cicero, Quintilian)

  • 11) Epistolography (Seneca, Pliny)

  • 12) The ancient novel (Petronius, Apuleius)

Course objectives

  • The student has acquired a basic knowledge of Greek and Latin literature;

  • The student has read and understood about 30 highlights of classical literature;

  • The student has acquired an elementary insight in literary genres and their development in antiquity;

  • The student has become familiar with several scholarly approaches to classical literary texts (such as narratology, rhetorical analysis, close reading, reception study, and philology).


The timetable is available on the Griekse en Latijnse taal en cultuur website.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Course Load

Total course load is 5 EC x 28 hours = 140 hours, of which:

  • Classes: 12 x 2 hours = 24 hours;

  • Reading: 12 x 7 hours = 84 hours;

  • Preparation for exams: 2 x 16 hours = 32 hours.

Assessment method

Examination consists of two written exams on the course book, the texts in translation and the topics discussed in class. There is one exam on the first 6 classes (Greek literature) and one exam on the second 6 classies (Latin literature). Both exams make up 50 percent of the final grade, and both exams require a minimum 5.5 score.


The final mark is established by i) determining the weighted average of the two examinations (50% both) combined with (ii) the additional requirement that both written examinations require a minimum 5.5 score.


Exams that get a grade below 5.5 must be re-done. When both exams are graded below 5.5, both exams should be re-done.

Exam review

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.


Blackboard will be used for posting information and sharing the presentations.

Reading list

Richard Rutherford, Classical Literature: A Concise History. Oxford 2005.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Dr. H.H. Koning