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Ancient World: Roman Philosophy (CLA2508)

StaffDr Gabriele Galluzzo - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of this module is to:

  • Examine a range of central philosophical questions debated in Roman philosophy and to set these debates against the background of later Greek (Hellenistic) thought, which strongly influenced Roman thought.
  • Explore contrasting approaches of two leading philosophical movements in this period – Epicureanism and Stoicism – whose ideas are still relevant and significant today.
  • Cover a range of topics that includes ethics (virtues and values), mind-body relationships, the nature of death, and the nature of the gods, through a set of readings by major Roman authors, especially Cicero, Lucretius and Marcus Aurelius.
  • Engage with the philosophical questions conveyed in these readings and to become thoughtful and critical readers of a range of stimulating texts in Roman culture.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a broad and detailed knowledge of key features of Roman philosophy
  • 2. Demonstrate a nuanced understanding of some important texts by Lucretius, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, together with selected readings on Hellenistic philosophy
  • 3. Use the sources to examine and engage critically with a set of key issues and debates in Roman philosophy

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate understanding of both the historical and the philosophical issues raised by ancient philosophical texts
  • 5. Demonstrate understanding of the influence of modern conceptions on the interpretation of the ancient world, with awareness of your own assumptions and values
  • 6. Demonstrate advanced academic and library skills specific to Classics and Ancient History

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Demonstrate independent study skills in research and the presentation of findings
  • 8. Select and organise relevant material and present this in coherent oral and written form with a strong argument
  • 9. Manage your own time and meet deadlines

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction to Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy
  • Epicureanism: Lucretius on Death, Body and Soul: Nature and Human Civilisation
  • Stoicism: Cicero on Ethics and Social Commitment
  • Epicureanism and Stoicism on Nature and the Gods
  • Marcus Aurelius: Stoic Ethical Reflection as a basis for meeting life's challenges

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2211 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching44 x 1 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study124Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Text and problem analysis (in groups)1 hour1-9Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay702000 words1-9Mark and written feedback
Gobbet test301 hour1-9Mark and written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Referral/Deferral period
Gobbet testGobbet test1-9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary reading (to be bought):

  • Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, trans. M. F. Smith (Hackett)
  • Cicero, Selected Works (Penguin Classics), esp. On Duties 3.
  • Cicero, The Nature of the Gods, trans. P. G. Walsh (World’s Classics)
  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, trans. R. Hard, ed. C. Gill (World’s Classics)
  • (Also, Long, A. A. and Sedley, D. N., The Hellenistic Philosophers, vol. 1: extracts, on the ELE page: no charge)

Note that the above is an indicative list only, and that the current year’s list of books to be purchased can be found on the module’s ELE page.

Secondary Reading (introductory):

  • Morford, M. The Roman Philosophers (Routledge)
  • O’Keefe, Tim, Epicureanism (Acumen)
  • Sedley, D. (ed), Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy (Cambridge University Press)
  • Sellars, J. Stoicism (Acumen Press)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Rome, Philosophy, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Cicero, Lucretious, Marcus Aurelius