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Seminar Greek: Greek Poetry in Rome


Admission requirements

This class can be taken in fulfilment of the requirements of both the MA and the Research MA program in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (track Classics), with differential requirements.

Admission requirements for other students: a BA degree in Classics obtained from a university in the Netherlands, or a comparable qualification obtained from a university outside the Netherlands. Moreover, students with an international degree have to contact the coordinator of studies to check admissibility.

If you are interested in taking this course, but are not sure whether you fulfill the entry requirements, please, contact the instructor.


How do Greek poets of the Roman Era position themselves in relation to Rome? That is the central question that we will discuss in this seminar. The Greek genres that flourished in the Late Republic and Imperial Period were epigram, epic and epyllion; but we will also read a number of (anonymous) Anacreontic poems, and the lyric poetry of Mesomedes, a freedman and friend of emperor Hadrian. The Greek poets of the Roman Era had different relationships to Rome. Some of them lived in Rome, some adopted a Roman name, and some were friends with the emperor. But others preferred to ignore Rome altogether, focusing instead on the great past of classical Greece. How should we understand these different Greek attitudes towards Rome?

The Greek poets to be read will include Philodemus, Antipater, Mesomedes, Marcus Agentarius, Palladas, Quintus Smynaeus and Musaeus. The Epicurean philosopher Philodemus of Gadara moved via Athens to Rome and then to Herculaneum. In Italy he became a teacher of Virgil; the Anthologia Palatina contains 34 of his epigrams. Antipater of Thessalonica composed his epigrams in the Augustan period, under the patronage of Lucius Calpurnius Piso. In his poems he celebrates the military successes of various Roman politicians, including his patron, Octavian, and Gaius Caesar, the emperor’s grandson. Works that are less obviously related to Rome are the fables of Babrius, the epic Posthomerica by Quintus Smyrnaeus (4th century AD) and the epyllion Hero and Leander by Musaeus (5th-6th century AD), which is considered one of the most beautiful poems of late antiquity. The poets of these works were deeply engaged in the imitation and emulation of Homeric and Hellenistic Greek poetry.

Many of the texts will be selected from Neil Hopkinson’s Greek Poetry of the Imperial Period. An Anthology (Cambridge 1994); other texts, including a number of epigrams from the Greek Anthology, will be accessible via the Leiden University Library. All students will give an oral presentation presenting their interpretation of one poem or a combination of poems or a passage from a longer poem; the interpretation will be further developed in a written paper.

Course objectives


  • thorough knowledge of a selection of Greek poetry written during the Late Republic and the Imperial Period and the ability to explain grammatical, syntactical and literary aspects of these poems;

  • knowledge of the history of Greek poetry of the Roman period, including genres like epigram, epic, epyllion, and Anacreontea, and including authors like Philodemus of Gadara, Antipater of Thessalonica, Medomedes, Quintus Smyrnaeus, and Musaeus;

  • understanding of the different ways in which Greek poets position themselves in relation to Rome;

  • the ability to understand, compare and critique advanced secondary literature on Greek poetry of Late Republican Rome and the Imperial Period;

  • understanding of theoretical concepts, notions, approaches and paradigms that help us to understand the interaction between Greece and Rome.

Understanding and skills:

(for differentiation between MA and ResMA, see below under Assessment Methods)

  • research skills: formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials, analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions;

  • reading skills: oral translation of Greek text into idiomatic English; ability to discuss grammatical and discourse linguistic features of a text; ability to reflect on implications of textcritical issues;

  • critical assessment of secondary literature according to the standards of academic debate;

  • oral presentation: the student will give a clear and well-argued interpretation of one poem or a passage from a larger poem, making effective use of a handout (mandatory) and, optionally, with other presentation devices;

  • written presentation: the paper will offer a clear and well-structured presentation of original research;

  • the student must demonstrate his or her grasp of critical issues in recent scholarship, and assess recent scholarly contributions by confronting them with the original source material;

  • this course aims at active participation and preparation: the student demonstrates involvement in the topic by asking well-informed and constructive questions and making contributions to the collective progress, on the basis of antecedent independent preparation.

This research seminar contributes to the achievement of learning outcomes 4a and 4c (to give and write a clear and well-argued oral and written presentation on a research topic in accordance with academic standards) of the study programme Classics and Ancient Civilizations.


The timetable is available on the MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations website and the Research MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours, of which:

  • Lectures (contact hours): 13 X 2 = 26 hours

  • Reading Greek texts (with commentary): 75 hours

  • Study of secondary literature: 30 hours

  • Preparation oral presentation: 34 hours

  • Preparation of oral examination: 34 hours

  • Written paper: 80 hours

  • Exam(s): 1 hour

Assessment method

  • Oral examination on the Greek texts, secondary literature and topics discussed in class (30%)

  • Oral presentation (30%)

  • Written Paper (5000-6000 words) (30%)

  • Participation (10%)

The requirements for MA and ResMA students are differentiated:

  • The paper of an MA student will present text, translation and commentary of one poem (or a combination of poems or a passage from a larger poem).

  • The paper of a ResMA student will take the form of a scholarly article that presents the innovative and well-argued interpretation of a poem (or a combination of poems or a passage from a larger poem).


The final mark for the course is established by (i) determination of the weighted average combined with (ii) one additional requirement: the grade for the oral examination on the Greek texts, secondary literature and topics discussed in class must be satisfactory.


If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, the student can either revise the paper or retake the oral examination (after consultation with the teacher). There is no resit for the oral presentation and participation.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • distribution of study material

  • distribution of the syllabus and course schedule

Reading list

Students are expected to have their own copy of:

An additional reading list, with titles to be found in the Leiden University Library, will be made available before the start of the seminar (via Blackboard). A selection of relevant books will be made available on a special bookshelf at the University Library.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. C.C. de Jonge


Students are required to attend the classes, to be fully prepared and to join the discussions. Students who fail more than one session without valid reason will be excluded from the course.