The Restless Dead: Voices from Beyond in the Ancient World CLASSIC4076

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course provides an introduction to the various ways of attempted or thwarted communication between the living and the dead in the ancient Mediterranean, by focusing on a wide range of literary sources (from Homer to Lucian), as well as amulet texts, and recipes and spells from the corpus of the Greek magical papyri. It examines a wide range of ghost stories, dream interpretations, necromancies, katabaseis, and exorcisms and, in general, practices which sought to initiate an interaction with the dead, or, by contrast, keep away malicious spirits. It seeks to help the students develop an understanding of ancient Greek beliefs in the power of the dead to interact with the living, and the need of the living to communicate with the dead, as well as trace the changing attitudes towards the afterlife in ancient Greece.


2x1hr seminars per week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus. 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, Ancient History, Greek or Latin, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes.

Excluded Courses



Essay (3,500 words): 60%

Seminar presentation (15 minutes): 40%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

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:

■ become acquainted with ghost stories and sorcery in antiquity from the archaic to the imperial period

■ explore the various forms and meaning of ghost appearances in Greek and Roman literature

■ investigate the social position and legal status of ritual practitioners and sorcerers in antiquity 

■ analyse key sources, textual and archaeological, for the study of the interaction between the dead and the living

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

■ identify the various forms of ghost-evocation and ghost-expulsion in antiquity

■ critically discuss the rules that govern the relations between the living and the dead

■ assess the social, political and legal role of sorcerers and ritual practitioners in their communities

■ explore, orally and in written form ancient ideas about the dead in response to changing social and cultural conditions

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.