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Tutorial Latin: Ennius Tragedies


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). Minimum amount of participants is 5, max. 14.


In this seminar we will concentrate on the most influential tragic playwright during the period of Roman Republican tragedy: Ennius (239 BC, Rudiae – 169 BC, Rome). He left us with fragments from at least 20 tragedies and 2 praetextae.
From the very beginning of Roman drama, the Romans were fanatic theatregoers. 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 selection of what has been transmitted from Ennius tragedies. 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 actually draw conclusions as to the subjects and themes Ennius was 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. Class III-XIV will be devoted to a close reading of Ennius’ fragments, studying the ancient testimonia and discussing modern attempts of reconstruction.

Students are required to regularly write short commentaries on a selection of fragments and to submit their commentaries via the discussion board.
In short oral mini-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 in advance in either English or Dutch translation:

  • Fragmentary Republican Latin, vol. II: Ennius. Dramatic Fragments. Minor Works, ed. S.M. Goldberg and G. Manuwald, Cambridge/Mass. 2018 (= Loeb edition, online via the University Library)

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

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.

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

  • Attending classes: 28 hours

  • Preparing classes (reading fragments and secondary literature, writing commentaries): 14 x 4 = 56 hours

in case of 5 EC:

  • Preparing short oral or written presentations: 14 hours

  • Preparing paper (1500 words): 42 hours

in case of 10 EC:

  • Preparing short oral or written presentations: 42 hours

  • Preparing paper (5000 words): 140 hours

Assessment method

In case of 5 EC:

  • Active participation including minipresentation, preparation of the pensum, writing commentaries (40%)

  • Midterm assignment (translation & questions) (30%)

  • Paper (1500 words) (30%)

In case of 10 EC:

  • Active participation including minipresentation, preparation of the pensum, writing commentaries (20%)

  • Midterm assignment (translation & questions) (15%)

  • Paper (1500 words) (15%)

  • Paper (5000 words) (50%): this paper can be based on or even include the 1500-words-paper
    Deadline papers: 8 jan 2020

The requirements for MA and ResMA students are differentiated: ResMA students are expected to come up with their own original research topic, find literature, and write a scholarly report; MA students may expect more help in choosing their topic and their papers may consist of an assessment of the status quaestionis on a given question.
The 1500 word-papers will be discussed at the final meeting “paper & response”. Students are welcome to revise thise version and to incorporate the feedback given by the instructor and the classmates. The grade will then be based on this final version, deadline 8 January.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the examination components mentioned above.


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.

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 have to be organized.


Blackboard is used to upload powerpoints, handouts and papers. Secondary literature will be available via the University Library.

Reading list


  • Tragicorum Romanorum Fragmenta, vol. 2: Ennius, ed. G. Manuwald, Göttingen 2012.


  • Ennius: Jocelyn, H.D.: The tragedies of Ennius, Cambridge 1967.

General Introduction to Roman Republican Tragedy:

  • Manuwald, G.: Roman Drama. A Reader, London 2010.

  • Manuwald, G: Roman Republican Theatre, Cambridge 2011.


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

  • Tronzo W. (ed.): The Fragment - An Incomplete History. Los Angeles 2009.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.


Prof. dr. A.B. (Antje) Wessels


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