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Research Workshop: Greek and Latin Epigraphy (10 EC)


Admission requirements

This course is part of the ResMA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


Thousands of inscribed texts survive from the ancient world, ranging from monumental building dedications to tombstones, from graffiti scratched on walls to law codes hundreds of lines long. These writings are fundamental to our understanding of Greek and Roman society, and this module will explore how to use inscriptions in historical research, drawing on a wide range of examples. In line with the aims of the MA Ancient History programme The Unification of the Mediterranean, this will be done on the basis of a selection of inscriptions and accompanying modern literature dating from the Hellenistic, Roman, and late-antique period. It will be taught entirely in translation and assumes no prior knowledge of inscriptions or ancient languages.

The course aims to teach you how to approach an epigraphic text, and to understand how inscriptions can be used to write ancient history, exploring both their benefits and limitations as historical sources. You will become familiar with the main epigraphic corpora and digital resources, and learn about different editions of texts (including digital editions). You will consider the importance of the materiality and physical context of an inscription, and think about what they can tell us about wider issues, such as literacy, self-representation, and human mobility in the ancient world.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  2. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  3. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  4. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  5. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  6. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  7. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  8. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    • in the specialisation Ancient History: unification processes in the Graeco-Roman world, 400 BC-400 AD; insight into the recent large-scale debates in the field with respect to both the history of mentality and socio-economic history;
  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following:
    • in the specialisation Ancient History: the comparative method; application of socio-economic methods; specialized source knowledge, in particular of documentary sources.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Workshop

The student:

  1. Will get acquainted with the historical emergence of the epigraphic habit in the Graeco-Roman world;

  2. Will acquire knowledge of and insight to the theories, apparatus, research methods, corpora and databases of Roman epigraphy;

  3. Will acquire the ability to compile a corpus of inscriptions;

  4. Will acquire knowledge of digital resources, and learns how to use them;

  5. Will be able to apply the acquired knowledge and research skills in presentations and research;

  6. (ResMA only) will be able to focus on a complex and large corpus of Graeco-Roman inscriptions;

  7. (ResMA only) will have the ability to apply new approaches which raise new questions.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Workshop (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. Students who are unable to attend must notify the lecturer beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the lecturer will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Students have to prepare for the sessions by self-study of modern literature and videos, and will have to hand in written assignments.

Assessment method


  • Entry test (essay of 2000 words, based on ca 300 pages of literature)

  • Participation, incl. written comments on the forum, posted after class

  • Essays, by which 3 out of the 5 comments posted on the forum are turned into longer texts (700-800 words, based on ca 120 pages of modern literature)

  • paper proposal (1000 words)

  • Final paper (4000 words)


  • Entry test: 10%

  • Participation: 5%

  • Essays: 15%

  • Paper proposal: 10%

  • Final paper: 60%


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, students can resubmit their work. Papers graded with a 4 or lower should be written on a new topic, papers graded with a 5 can be revised after consultation with the instructor. If no paper has been handed in at the original deadline, a new subject should be chosen for the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.

Reading list

Bodel, J. (ed.) Epigraphic Evidence: Ancient History from Inscriptions (London [etc.] 2001). [This edited volume is not digitally available and needs to be purchased]

Millar, F. ‘Epigraphy’, in: M. Crawford (ed.), Sources for Ancient History (Cambridge 1983) 80-136. Digitally available through U-Cat


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


This course will be taught at the Dutch Museum of Antiquities in Leiden (Rijks Museum van Oudheden), where we will work with original inscriptions. It consists of 7 sessions, of which 4 will be taught together with students from Exeter University, UK, who will join online. The majority of the sessions will take place during the first block of the semester, but the concluding sessions (and the final paper) are planned in the second block.

This course can be taken either as a 5 EC course for students of the MA History: Ancient History, or as a 10 EC optional course for the students of ResMA History: Ancient History and (Res)MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations.

  • Students who take the course as a 5 EC course must enrol for 5774VRW02.

  • Students who take the course as a 10 EC course must enrol for 5774VRW13.