Greek MA

Heroes of the past: an introduction to ancient biography CLASSIC4069

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2 (Alternate Years)
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course offers an introduction to the genre of biography in antiquity (from the 5th century BC to the 3rd century AD) and look at the ways in which it evolved over the centuries. It covers a variety of Greek and Roman authors and works (in translation) concerned with biographical narration, especially Xenophon, Suetonius, and Plutarch. The main focus of the course will be on the definition, pre-history, and main features of the genre, but also on its relation to historiography and its emphasis on the depiction of character.

Excluded Courses





Essay (3,500 words) - 60%

Presentation of 15 minutes - 40%

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:

■ study the main themes and concepts in ancient biography

■ examine the formation and development of the genre of life-writing

■ appreciate the value of the most representative authors and works of ancient biography

■ investigate the interplay between biography and other literary genres, esp. historiography, ethical philosophy, and rhetoric

■ study biographical works in their historical, socio-political, and cultural context

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ identify the key features of ancient biographical works

■ describe and evaluate the major changes that the biographical genre underwent, especially in the turn from the Hellenistic to the Imperial period

■ critically assess notions of transformation and literary interpenetration

■ discuss how the special conditions of contemporary society and culture might be reflected in certain biographical works

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.