Classics (Classical Civilisation) MA/MA(SocSci)

Ancient Warfare CLASSIC4081

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • 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

Short Description

This course will explore war in the ancient world through literary, artistic, and archaeological evidence across a chronological span running from the period of Classical Greece to the later Roman Empire (5th century BC - 4th century AD). It will chart the evolution of military practice and explore some of the most important conflicts of this extensive period as historical events, introducing students both to traditional military history (campaign narratives and institutional histories) and more modern studies of battle itself as a social and psychological phenomenon. The course will consider the problems of representing warfare in literary and figurative media, will explore ancient military theory, and will look at representations of ancient warfare in the modern world.


10x1 hour lectures; 10x1 hour 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.

Excluded Courses





Exam (90 minutes) - 50%

Essay (3,000 words) - 50%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course will provide an opportunity to:

■ Introduce students to the military history of the fifth century BC to fourth century AD, exploring key battles and wars within this period

■ Introduce some of the most important military historians of the period (Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Arian, Polybius, Caesar, Ammianus Marcellinus), key works of military theory (Onosander, Vegetius), and artistic and literary sources that pertain to the subject of warfare and battle)

■ Familiarise students with the mechanics of ancient battle and the logistics of ancient warfare, as well as basic concepts of the ancient military (phalanx, maniple, etc)

■ Explore how warfare both influences and is influenced by the society that produces it, and examine how the study of warfare can illuminate socio-political structures.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ Examine critically the historiography of ancient writing and warfare and be able to comment upon topoi, features of the genre, and the character of ancient military thinking

■ Describe how technology, social and political structures, and cultural constructs dictate how war is fought, whom it is fought by, and to what purpose it is fought.

■ Think critically about the modern historiography of ancient warfare and how study of warfare relates more generally to our understanding of ancient society

■ Understand and compare the different practices of warfare and of battle across a wide range of societies and chronologies within Mediterranean history

■ Apply insights drawn from historical and psychological studies of modern battle to understand the physical and psychological forces at work on soldiers in ancient battles

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.