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Tutorial MA/ ResMA Greek: Alcibiades: Ideology and Literary Presentation



This course is open to MA and ResMA students in Classics


Time did not obscure the controversial glamour of Alcibiades, whose arrogance, ambitions and power are described (and shaped) by Thucydides, (Pseudo-)Andocides and most famously by Plato in his Symposium — who in different ways reflect on his political role in Athens at the end of the fifth century. Four centuries later, Plutarch’s Life of Alcibiades depicts and evaluates the curious course of his career, the inconsistency of his character and his ability to transform himself to suit his surroundings.

In this tutorial we will analyse the different testimonia and focus on the process of historical characterization in literary texts, and on questions of politics and ideology, such as how our sources reflect a tension between ythe awareness of civic responsibilities and the attractions of a powerful individual.
Students will formulate a research question concerning the presentation of Alcibiades in one or more of the extant sources (including, apart from the texts referred to above, Aristophanes, fragments from Aeschines, the speech in defence of Alcibiades’ son by Isocrates, and the Pseudo-Platonic Alcibiades I and II). The approach may vary from questions of discourse and text type to an analysis of political and moral positions shaping the various texts involved.


The competence to read the relevant sources within their historical, political and literary context; critical assessment of secondary literature.
Students are expected to formulate a research question concerning the semantics and discourse characteristics by means of which a controversial public figure is presented and evaluated, or involving a more comparative approach regarding the historical and socio-political context in which these presentations and judgements are shaped.
Oral and written paper; response to paper of a fellow-student; active participation in discussions.


In consultation with the participants.




Oral presentation (25%), active participartion in class (inc. response) 25 , written paper (50). When this class is taken for 5 ECTS, no final paper is required.


No use of Blackboard.


  • Plato, OCT Vol. 2, ed. J. Burnet (Symposium, Alcibiades I, II). – Plutarch’s Lives, Vol. 4 (Alcibiades and Coriolanus; Lysander and Sulla), ed. B. Perrin, Cambridge, Mass. 1959 (Loeb)


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