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Seminar Greek: Greek Responses to Rome: Migrant Literature in the Early Roman Empire


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.


In 27 BC Augustus became the first Roman emperor, after a long period of civil wars. The flourishing city of Rome immediately began to attract numerous migrants from all corners of the Mediterranean world. They came to find work, for pleasure, or for politics; some visited Rome and moved on, others decided to stay. Many of these migrants wrote in Greek, as they came from the Greek-speaking regions in the Eastern Mediterranean: the names of the migrant authors of the Early Roman Empire are telling. They include Strabo of Amasia (in present-day Turkey), Nicolaus of Damascus (Syria), Crinagoras of Mytilene (on Lesbos), Philo of Alexandria (Egypt), and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (in present-day Turkey): a geographer, a historian, a poet, a philosopher and a rhetorician who was also a historian. All of them wrote in Greek, all were moving through the Roman Empire, and all responded in some way to the reality of a world dominated by Rome.
How did these migrant writers of Greek literature position themselves in relation to Rome? And how does the Greek literature of this age reflect and construct the complex interaction between Greek, Roman and local identities? The overall aim of this seminar is to answer these questions through a systematic analysis of early imperial Greek literature (from Augustus to Nero, 27 BC – 68 AD) through the modern concept of ‘migrant literature’. The literature to be studied will include passages from Strabo’s Geography, Dionysius’ Preface to On the Ancient Orators, Crinagoras’ epigrams, Nicolaus’ Biography of Augustus, and Philo’s On the Embassy to Gaius. Secondary literature will included recent approaches to Greek Imperial Literature (Swain, Whitmarsh, Goldhill), as well as recent scholarship on cultural interaction and the concept of migrant literature.

Course objectives


  • thorough knowledge of a selection of Greek texts of the early Roman Empire (Dionysius, Strabo, Nicolaus, Philo, Crinagoras) and the ability to explain grammatical, syntactical and literary aspects of these texts;

  • knowledge of the history of Greek literature of the Julio-Claudian age (27 BC – 68 AD), including genres like biography, geography, rhetoric, philosophy, epigram, and including authors like Strabo of Amasia, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Philo of Alexandria, Antipater of Thessalonica, Crinagoras of Mytilene, and Nicolaus of Damascus;

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

  • the ability to understand, compare and critique secondary literature on Greek literature of 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 passage or 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.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


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

  • Oral presentation (30%)

  • Written Paper (3000-5000 words) (30%)

  • Participation (10%)
    The requirements for MA and ResMA students are differentiated:
    The paper of a MA student will present text, translation and commentary of one passage from a Greek text.
    The paper of a ResMA student will take the form of a scholarly article that presents the innovative and well-argued interpretation of a passage from a Greek text from the perspective of cultural interaction and / or migrant literature.


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 written 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 written 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 have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Guide to Academic Skills
    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 Bright Space). 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 en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration 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.