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Seminar Latin: Roman Republican Tragedy


Admission requirements


Roman Republican Tragedy

From the very beginning of Roman drama, the Romans were fanatic theatregoers. Roman tragedies were celebrated, reperformed and appreciated by later authors.
Yet, paradoxically, the only tragedies that have been fully transmitted, are Seneca’s tragedies, written in the imperial period; and we do not even know whether they have ever been performed on stage. From the long period of Republican tragedy, however, – the tragedies of Livius Andronicus, Naevius, Ennius, Pacuvius and Accius, to name but a few important authors – we have only fragments, in some cases but a few verses. Why?

In this seminar we will read and explore a small selection of what has been transmitted from Republican tragedy. What do the fragments and the contexts, in which these fragments are transmitted, tell us about the original texts? How – and to what extent – can we reconstruct these tragedies, and what are the methodological problems related to a reconstruction? To what extent can we draw conclusions as to the subjects and themes Republican tragedians were specifically interested in? What can we say about the role these tragedies may have played within the development from Greek to Roman (imperial) tragedy?

The seminar will start with two introductory classes. At Class III we will select the tragedies to be explored.
Class IV-XIV will be devoted to reading the fragments of these tragedies, studying the ancient testimonia and discussing modern attempts of reconstruction.

In short oral and written presentations you will e.g. describe a relevant context, such as the mythological subject or the impact of the texts that have transmitted the fragments, or critically assess the scholarly reconstruction of a tragedy.

Please note: You are required to have read the fragments of the tragedies of Livius Andronicus, Naevius, Ennius, Pacuvius, Accius in advance in either English or Dutch translation:

  • E.H. Warmington: Remins of Old Latin, 4 vols., Cambridge/ Mass. 1967. (only read the fragments of the tragedies) = Loeb edition, online via the UB

  • V. Hunink: Woeste mensenharten. De eerste tragedies uit Rome, ‘s Hertogenbosch 2007. 2nd edition online via

Course objectives

  • Survey Roman Republican tragedy

  • Working with fragments

  • Advanced research skills: independent formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials (both primary texts and results of earlier research). Analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions.

  • Critical assessment of secondary literature;

  • Oral presentation: presenting clearly and making effective use of hand-outs, illustrations and/or multi-media techniques; responding to the argumentation of one of the papers and chairing the discussion

  • Written presentation: setting out research results effectively, clearly and in a well-structured manner.


Please consult the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Tutorial

Course Load

Attending Classes: 28 hrs

Preparing classes (reading fragments and secondary literature): 14 x 5 = 70 hrs

In case of 5 EC:

  • Preparing short oral or written presentations: 14 hrs

  • Preparing paper (1000 words): 28 hrs

In case of 10 EC:

  • Preparing short oral or written presentations: 42 hrs

  • Preparing paper (5000 words): 140 hrs

Assessment method

In case of 5 ECTS:

  • Active participation, preparation of the pensum (40%)

  • Short oral or written presentations (40 %)

  • Paper (1000 words) (20%)

In case of 10 ECTS:

  • Active participation, preparation of the pensum (35%)

  • Short oral or written presentations (15%)

  • Paper (5000 words) (50%)

  • Papers deadline: 30 jan 2018 (50%)

If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, either the written exam or the paper can be repeated after consultation with the teacher. The marks for the oral presentation and the response will still count in such a case.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • to upload powerpoints, handouts and papers

  • Secondary literature will be available via the University Library.

Reading list

Scaenicae Romanorum Poesis Fragmenta, ed. O. Ribbeck, Leipzig 1898.

Tragicorum Romanorum Fragmenta, ed. M. Schauer, Göttingen 2012-


Livius Andronicus: Spaltenstein, François: Commentaire des fragments dramatiques de Livius Andronicus, Bruxelles 2008.

Naevius: Spaltenstein, François: Commentaire des fragments dramatiques de Naevius, Bruxelles: 2014.
Ennius: Jocelyn, H.D.: The tragedies of Ennius, Cambridge 1967.
Pacuvius: Schierl, Petra: Die Tragödien des Pacuvius. Ein Kommentar zu den Fragmenten mit Einleitung, Text und Übersetzung, Berlin/ New York 2006.
Accius: Dangel, Jacqueline: L. Accius. Oeuvre, Paris 1995.

General Introduction to Roman Republican Tragedy

Manuwald, G.: Roman Drama. A Reader, London 2010.
Roman Republican Theatre, Cambridge 2011.


Most, Glenn W. (ed.) Collecting fragments = Fragmente sammeln, Göttingen, 1997.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Prof. dr. A.B. Wessels


Students are required to attend the classes regularly, to be fully prepared and to join the discussions.