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Seminar Latin: Callimachus in Rome


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.


Art has always worked along two productive but conflicting trajectories: one in reference to pre-existing models – be it nature itself or former authors – and the other in response to a demand for creativity. Throughout, the development of an individual and new perspective presents itself in relation to past accomplishments or settled requirements. Innovation negotiates with tradition: they are inextricably bound up with each other.

The history of Roman literature starts with the adoption and transformation of Greek models: The first production of a Roman epic work, Livius Andronicus’ Odusia was presented as a translation of Homer’s Odyssey; Plautus as well as Terence identify their comedies as adoptions of Greek models, Horace proudly presents himself as the first Roman poet to introduce Greek archaic poetry to Rome; and Propertius – no less proudly – claims to be a “Roman Callimachus” (Prop. 4, 1, 64).
Roman authors are creative by imitating Greek poetry. However, Roman authors do not only re-fer to Greek authors and their works. They also re-construct, re-write and re-interpret them. What is the idea behind the imitation of ‘Greek models’ and to what extent has the Roman reception shaped our modern view on them? Could Roman literature successfully have been established without its strong ties to the non-Roman, however well-known Greek tradition?

In this seminar we will concentrate on the reception of Callimachus in Roman poetry, which has been much debated since Walter Wimmels “Kallimachos in Rom” (1960) and, more than forty years hereafter – a debate which has been critically re-assessed in Richard Hunter’s book “The Shadow of Callimachus” (2006).

Course objectives

  • Broadening the knowledge on reception theory;

  • Practicing critical assessment of modern approaches;

  • Enlarging reading and interpretative competence of Latin texts;

  • Enhancing presentation skills;

  • Enhancing writing skills;

  • Enhancing research skills.


Please consult the timetable on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load for the course: 10 EC = 280 hours

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 2 hours per week = 28 hours

  • Time for preparing the classes: 3 hours per class = 42 hours

  • Time for reading the Latin pensum: 50 hours

  • Time to prepare presentation, essay & response, and paper (including reading / research): 160 hours

Assessment method

  • Oral presentation (30%)

  • Written essay and oral response (20%)

  • Written paper (50 %)
    The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average. Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the essay and/or paper is to be revised after consultation with the teacher.

Blackboard In this course we make use of Blackboard.

Reading list

The Latin texts will be made accessible in a reader or in photocopy at the beginning of the course.
A selective bibliography will be distributed at the beginning of the class.
The following titles might be useful for a first orientation:

  • R. Hunter: The Shadow of Callimachus. Cambridge, 2006.

  • R. Hunter/ M. Fantuzzi: ‘Roman Epilogue’, in: Tradition and Innovation in Hellenistic Poetry. Cambridge 2004, pp. 444-485.

  • W. Wimmel: Kallimachos in Rom. Die Nachfolge seines Apologetischen Dichtens in der Augusteerzeit. Stuttgart 1960.

  • R. Thomas: ‘Callimachus back in Rome’, in: A. M. Harder / R. F. Regtuit / G. C. Wakker (eds.): Callimachus, Groningen 1993, 197-215.

  • B. Arkins: ‘The Freedom of Influence. Callimachus and Latin Poetry’, in: Latomus 47 (1988), 285-293.

Text editions:

  • Callimachus, Aetia, ed. A. Harder, vol. 1: Introduction, Text, and Translation; vol. 2: Commentary. Oxford 2012.

  • Catullus, ed. R. Mynors. Oxford 1967.

  • Vergil, ed. R. Mynors. Oxford

  • Propertius, ed. P. Fedeli. Stuttgart 1984.


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.

Contact Prof. dr. A.B. Wessels

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

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