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World Philosophies: Greek and Roman Antiquity


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives

  • international pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


The word philosophia is Greek and so are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, some of the most famous philosophers. Unsurprisingly, ancient philosophy was until recently almost synonymous with that of Greece and Rome. Today, however, it is increasingly recognised that Greek and Roman philosophy is only one of several traditions of ancient thought. This course offers an overview of the philosophy of the Greeks and Romans and examines both its distinctive characteristics and what it shares with those other traditions. It starts with its origins in the 5th century BCE and follows it up to the 6th century CE. The focus will be on influential thinkers and schools, such as Heraclitus, Parmenides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Scepticism and Neoplatonism. We will examine how their views are shaped both by on-going philosophical discussions between themselves and other philosophical traditions and societal and political changes.

Classes wil typically consist of a a combination of lectures and group discussions about prescribed primary texts and assignments.

Course objectives

The course offers an overview of the major thinkers and philosophical schools from Graeco-Roman Antiquity in the larger historical context of the Graeco-Roman world and compares it to contemporary philosophical developments in other cultures. It fosters awareness about the issues involved in studying Greek and Roman philosophies (e.g. that of sources and translations) and of relating different ancient philosophical traditions to each other.

Students who successfully complete the course will have an understanding of:

  • the history of Greek and Roman philosophy, in particular of major thinkers and philosophical schools, within the larger historical context of the ancient world, including periodization, sources and the development of philosophical themes over longer periods of time;

  • the relation of the philosophies of Greece and Rome to other ancient philosophical traditions;

  • the scholarly method of historical interpretation of and research into Graeco-Roman philosophy;

  • the development of the discipline within its historical context;

  • the issues involved in dealing with sources and translations.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • offer an overview of the major figures, schools and issues of Graeco-Roman philosophy;

  • relate the positions of the various Greek and Roman thinkers and schools to each other and to other relevant philosophical traditions;

  • offer a historical contextualization of Graeco-Roman philosophies;

  • handle (translated) sources in a sophisticated manner.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures (3 hours per week)

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Midterm exam: take home exam with short open and essay questions (50%)

  • Final exam: take home exam with short open and essay questions (50%)

Attendance and active participation (including the preparation of assignments) is compulsory.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the two subtests (see above). A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory.


The resit consists of one examination for all parts at once, consisting of take home exam covering the entire course content. The mark for the resit will replace all previously earned marks for subtests. No separate resits will be offered for subtests.

Preparatory assignments and/or sufficient attendance or class participation will be a prerequisite for participation in the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Upon appointment with the instructor.

Reading list

  • D. Sedley (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek And Roman Philosophy, Cambridge 2003.

  • P.L. Miller, C.D.C. Reeve, and L.P. Gerson (eds.). Introductory Readings in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy, 2nd edition, Indianapolis 2015.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. R.M. van den Berg


Not applicable.