Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

The Invention of History: Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon (PG) CLASSIC5086

  • Academic Session: 2020-21
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

The idea of writing down the events of the past first occurred to the ancient Greeks. Through a reading of the three earliest surviving works of historiography (Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon) this course investigates the motivations, preoccupations, ambitions, and techniques driving the invention of History, as discipline and as narrative form. 


2x1hr seminars per week over 10 weeks, with the occasional short lecture element

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College Level

Excluded Courses

CLASSIC4056, The Invention of History: Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon




Essay (4,000 words) - 70%

Oral Presentation (10 minutes) - 30%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course aims to:


■ Enable students the opportunity to study in depth the three Classical Greek authors who invented the discipline of history and the genre of historiography: Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon.

■ Allow the students to engage with different concepts of history and the recording of the past, ancient and modern. 

■ Provide students the opportunity and the tools to reflect critically on the challenges of recording the past and the uses of history and historiography.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Analyse each of the three primary texts both as an individual instance of historiography and as part of a literary and intellectual tradition.

■ Engage critically with the main scholarly debates about the three texts and about Classical Greek historiography more generally. 

■ Engage critically with selected ancient and modern theories of history and the recording of the past. 

■ Present their arguments lucidly in writing with due regard for scholarly literature and the formalities of the discipline of Classics.

■ Present their arguments clearly and engagingly in an oral presentation in front of an audience of their peers and answer questions lucidly and civilly.

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.