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Diversities of doing Greek. ‘Hellenisation’ and ‘Hellenism’ in ancient Eurasia


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible to BA students.


From the 4th century BC into the first centuries of the Christian era (and arguably beyond), a period in World History that witnessed a rapid increase in connectivity all over Eurasia, something remarkable happens: from Britain to China and from the Scythian steppe to the African Sahara people suddenly start doing Greek. In part this is a form of Hellenisation that has to do with Greek-speaking people spreading Greek customs and ideas. But it is also a form of what we could call ‘Hellenism’: the conscious adoption, for all kinds of reasons, of what the concept of ‘Greekness’ had come to mean overtime, by all kinds of actors who had little or nothing to do with Greece or Greeks. Scholarly research is still struggling to distinguish between ‘Hellenisation’ and ‘Hellenism’ and to make sense of the many Greek/‘Greek’ elements that populated Eurasian cultures in the Hellenistic and Roman periods – and in many aspects down to today. This is a subject on which there still is a lot of work to be done. In the post-colonial days of the second half of the 20th century, there was conducted a long-running, heated (but ultimately unresolved) debate on ‘Romanisation’. ‘Hellenisation’ (let alone ‘Hellenism’) was never subjected to the same kind of scrutiny. Time has come to set that right – and possibly revive the stalled Romanisation debate at the same time.

In this course we will analyse the questions “what is Greek(ness)” and “what makes out the attractiveness of things Greek/‘Greek’ to non-Greeks” critically and from a variety of different perspectives. These are questions that go to the very heart of the disciplines of Classics, Ancient History and Classical Archaeology (and of much of cultural history at large). Focussing on Ancient History and Classical Archaeology in particular we will investigate the struggles of earlier scholars dealing with questions of ancient and of modern identity. To do so we will also draw in comparable concepts and their scholarly debates, for instance Egyptianisation and Romanisation. Throughout the course we will constantly confront approaches from Ancient History, ultimately based on the written sources, with approaches from Archaeology, ultimately based on the remains of material culture. Our case studies will take you from the western confines of the Roman Empire to Afghanistan (and sometimes even further east) and from the Caucasus to North Africa. Fasten your seatbelts!

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

  • 11) 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.

  • 12) 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:

  • 13) is supposed to engage critically with some of the central issues in contemporary scholarship concerning the Greco-Roman world.

  • 14) should be able to contribute actively to the debate on a multidisciplinary basis.

  • 15) should be able to relate a theoretical stance to case studies and vice versa.

  • 16) should be able to handle case studies that are largely archaeological, i.e. concerned with material evidence.

  • 17) (ResMA only) should be able to develop relevant research independently, and to do so in the spirit of interdisciplinarity which this course ultimately seeks to foster


The timetable is available on the MA History website

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, he 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, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Lectures: 26 hours

  • Literature / preparation: 65 hours

  • Writing a paper: 189 hours

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: 1-17

  • Oral presentations and assignments
    measured learning objectives: 1-17


  • Written paper: 75 %

  • Oral presentations, assignments, participation: 25 %

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


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


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

Exam review

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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • publication of the course outline

  • reading lists

  • assignments

  • all other communications

Reading list

Reading lists will be handed out during the classes


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


F.G. Naerebout


This course will be open to students of the History and of the Archaeology Department