nl en

Core Course: The Commentary


Admission requirements

This course is open to and compulsory for Research Master students in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (all specializations).


For various reasons and purposes ancient civilizations have produced extensive commentaries on literary, philosophical, religious, mathematical, and astrological texts they considered to be of crucial importance to their cultural or professional identity.

In this course a team of instructors will present representative samples of commentary literature from each of the cultures studied in the Research Master Classics and Ancient Civilizations.

Central issues will be the causes that led to the rise and development of a commentary tradition, the definition and characteristics of the genre, the context of the commentary in a teaching environment (if applicable), and the authors and public of commentaries. The resulting body of sample texts will then be used to perform a cross-cultural comparison that seeks to identify and explain similarities and differences between the cultural domains, and explore the possibilities of cross-cultural interaction in this field.

Course objectives

  • Analysis and interpretation of a wide variety of commentary texts from different cultural backgrounds;

  • Encouragement of critical thinking;

  • The student is able to comment on similarities and differences between commentaries derived from various cultures and to their interaction.


See timetables Classics and Ancient Civilizations.

Mode of instruction

  • Introductory lectures

  • Student presentations

  • Independent study of scholarly literature

Assessment method

  • Class presentation, 40%

  • Final paper, 50%

  • Participation, 10%


Blackboard will be used for course materials and the distribution of hand outs.

Reading list

To be announced in class.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.


Dhr. prof. dr. J. van der Vliet