Classics (Classical Civilisation) MA/MA(SocSci)

How to Lead the Good Life: Greek and Roman Ethics CLASSIC4064

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • 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
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course deals with some of the most influential ethical writings of Greek and Roman philosophy, and explores how major thinkers approached the issue of virtue and happiness. Through close readings of primary texts read in English translation, the course focuses on the rhetorical and moralising techniques employed in the construction of philosophical ideas, and on the effects that these techniques have upon readers. Special emphasis is paid on the self-presentation of moralists, and the variety of ethical genres that were in circulation (dialogues, letters, treatises, diaries). Finally, this course casts light on the social and cultural implications of morality in ancient Greece and Rome from the 5th century BC to the 2nd century AD.


Two hours per week (lecture/seminar varied). 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.


Examination (90 minutes duration) - 50%
Essay (2,500 words) - 30%

Seminar presentation of 20 minutes - 20%

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 central notions debated in ancient ethics,

■ develop analytical skills in reading ethical works, both Greek and Latin,

■ appreciate the literary and rhetorical merit of philosophical works,

■ examine the main schools and representatives of ethical philosophy,

■ make meaningful comparisons with modern notions of morality.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ identify the key issues in ancient theories of virtue,

■ discuss how these issues relate to wider social, cultural, political, and philosophical discourses of antiquity,

■ compare and contrast closely linked and radically different ethical approaches to virtue and happiness from a philosophical point of view,

■ reflect upon how transferrable such approaches can be, reappraising the reception of ancient practical ethics in later centuries,

■ analyse the moralising means employed by each philosopher, and ultimately evaluate the literary and philosophical significance of works both in oral and in written form.

■ explore a chosen topic in ancient ethical writing through independent research on the prescribed texts 

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.