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Tutorial Latin: Writing Rome. The Physical and Symbolic City in Latin Poetry


Admission requirements

This course is open to MA and research MA students in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (specialization Classics). 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.


‘The city of Rome is built not only of bricks and marble but also of the words of its writers. For the ancient inhabitant or visitor, the buildings of Rome, the public spaces of the city, were crowded with meanings and associations. These meanings were generated partly through activities associated with particular places, but Rome also took on meanings from literature written about the city: stories of its foundation, praise of its splendid buildings, laments composed by those obliged to leave it. Ancient writers made use of the city to explore the complexities of Roman history, power and identity.’

This abstract of Catherine Edwards’ monograph (1996) ‘Writing Rome. Textual approaches to the City’, will be the point of departure for our MA tutorial. It aims at mapping and analyzing aspects of Rome’s resonance in literature and the literary resonance of Rome. In this we will focus on poetic texts from Antiquity, among others by Virgil, Propertius, Ovid, Juvenal and Martial.

Additionally, we will also start to explore how these ancient images of Rome were employed in later Latin poetry, medieval and Renaissance, in other religious or political contexts. In this we will ask ourselves which literary, historical or social parameters determine how ancient literary images of Rome were (re-)used and what this teaches us about the development of the symbol of ‘eternal’ Rome.

Course objectives

  • You will become familiar with Latin literature about the city and symbolism of Rome and with the relevant developments within this literature.

  • You will practise reading and analysing Latin literature from different critical angles.

  • You will become familiar with recent interdisciplinary scholarship (literary criticism; reception studies; sociology of literature) and will be trained to critically assess secondary literature in these fields.

  • You will be trained to formulate original research questions, and to answer these in an oral presentation and in a written essay.


Please consult the timetable on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

10 ECTS = 280 hours

Rough division:

  • class: 28 hours

  • weekly preparation: 112 hours

  • book review: 30 hours

  • presentation of research project: 40 hours

  • essay: 70 hours

Assessment method

  • Book review (20%)

  • Oral presentation, with full handout (20%)

  • Written paper (50%)

  • Active participation in class (10%)

Notice that Research MA students are required to present original research in this seminar, and will be assessed accordingly.

When this class is taken for 5.0 EC the method of assessment will be decided on individually.


In this course we make use of Blackboard.

Reading list

Most primary and secondary literature will be made available through the University Library, but each student should have:

Edwards, C., Writing Rome. Textual Approaches to the City (Cambridge, 1996)

Further literature:

  • Boyle, A.J., Ovid and the Monuments. A Poet’s Rome (Victoria: Aureal, 2003)

  • Hardie, P., ‘Augustan Poets and the Mutability of Rome’, in Roman Poetry and Propaganda in the Age of Augustus, ed. C.A. Powell (London: Bristol Classical Press, 1992), 59-82

  • Hinds, S., Allusion and Intertext. Dynamics of Appropriation in Roman Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998)

  • Kytzler, B., ed., Roma Aeterna. Lateinische und griechische Romdichtung von der Antike bis in die Gegenwart (Zürich: Artemis, 1972)

  • Ramsey, P.A., ed., Rome in the Renaissance. The City and the Myth (New York: Center for Medieval & Early Renaissance Studies, 1982)

  • Welch, T.S., Elegiac Cityscape. Propertius and the Meaning of Roman Monuments (Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2005)

  • Zanker, P., Augustus und die Macht der Bilder (München: Beck, 1987)


Students are required to register for this course via usis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in Blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.


Mw. Dr. S.T.M. de Beer


The course will be taught in Dutch or English, depending on the first language of participating students.