Ancient Sources (Written Evidence): Roman Historical Writing (CLA2303)

StaffProfessor Rebecca Langlands - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.50
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

To study selections from the historiographical works of Sallust, Livy and Tacitus in detail, exploring the various literary techniques they used to write about the past. To familiarise you with the variety of different modes of writing about the past that were used in ancient Rome (including annalistic history, ethnography, geography and biography) on subjects from ancient legends to contemporary history. To reflect on the distinctions between ancient and modern historiography, and to explore the aims, sources and historical methods of the ancient writers. To consider how writers used the past to explore moral, political and ideological issues. To think about the usefulness and the limitations of these texts as source material: how should we use them as evidence about Roman history? 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. describe and evaluate with guidance the rhetoric and politics of historical narrative by Livy, Sallust and Tacitus
  • 2. Develop a basic understanding of the history of Rome from its beginnings up to the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
  • 3. be able to develop the practice of literary and textual interpretation through 'close reading' with guidance.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. use, analyse and evaluate ancient texts as a major source for understanding the ancient world.
  • 5. develop basic academic and library skills as well as a critical ability in assessing published literature.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. demonstrate independent and group study skills in guided research and presentation of findings.
  • 7. select and organise relevant material and to present this in coherent oral and written form, and to discuss issues in a peer group.
  • 8. manage your own time and meet deadlines.

Syllabus plan

Topics may include: Sallust, Livy, Tacitus.

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 teaching activities121 x 2 hour lecture, 10 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities7.55 x 1.5 hour seminars
Guided independent study130.5Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral contribution in seminars1-8Oral 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
Exam602 hours1-8Written & verbal
Essay402000 words1-8Written & verbal

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExamExam1-8ref/def period
EssayEssay1-8ref/def period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


To be confirmed

1. Core Set Texts

C.S. Kraus, A.J. Woodman, Latin Historians (Greece and Rome: New Surveys in the Classics 27), Cambridge University Press 1997, ISBN 0-19-922293-2

Sallust, Catiline's War: WITH The Jugurthine War (Penguin Classics) (Paperback), Penguin, 2007, 978-0140449488

Livy, The Early History of Rome: Bks. 1-5 (Penguin Classics) (Paperback), Penguin, 2002, 978-0140448092

Tacitus, The Annals (Paperback), Hackett Publishing, 2004, 978-0872205581


2. Other Recommended Reading:

Woodman, A.J. (1987) Rhetoric in Ancient Historiography. 

Marincola, J. (1997) Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography.

Wiseman, P. (1994) Historiography and Imagination (ch. 1-3)



ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Last revision date


Key words search

Ancient Sources, Livy, Tacitus