Roman Afterlives CLASSIC4033

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

A survey of the multifarious Roman views of life after death, as manifested in literature and art, from their origins in Greek and Etruscan culture to the rise of Christianity.


Two one-hour sessions weekly over 10 weeks: 15 one-hour lectures; 5 one-hour seminars (group presentations) This is one of the honours options in Classics and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on mycampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into Classics, Greek or Latin, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes.


Coursework: students will be required to write one coursework essay (2,500 words) 40% of the final mark.

Examination: one two-hour
examination  60% of the final mark

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity:

to explore Roman conceptions of life after death, as manifested in a range of literary and philosophical works and in contemporary inscriptions, with reference (where applicable) to relevant works of Roman art

to consider a range of possible factors - literary, political, social, religious and philosophical - affecting representations of the afterlife in individual Roman authors and in different media

to analyse the impact of these factors on Roman representations of posthumous experience from Ennius to late-antique Christian Latin epic, and reflect on the issues involved in using literary and other texts as evidence for religious beliefs and philosophical convictions

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of the course you should be able to:

identify allusions in Roman literature to traditional elements in depictions of the underworld, and explain the likely connotations and resonances of this material (including infernal punishments, rewards and topography) for Roman and early Christian audiences

discuss in an informed manner representations of the posthumous destination of human souls in Roman literary and epigraphic sources, and relate these representations to their contemporary historical context

comment pertinently and critically, both orally and in writing, on individual passages from Roman literature and epigraphy dealing with death and the afterlife

analyse the ways in which depictions of the underworld and other forms of posthumous experience in Roman literature are affected by and contribute to the different literary contexts in which they occur

give an account of the implications of literary and epigraphic sources for an understanding of ancient Roman theories and beliefs concerning death and the afterlife, and evaluate the historical value of these sources

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.