Greek Political Thought (CLA3255)

StaffProfessor Lynette Mitchell - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim on the module is to introduce students to political thought in ancient Greece, and how it is reflected in its literature. It will ask questions about the nature of political thought as opposed to political thinking, and consider major issues that arose in the fifth and fourth centuries, particularly as the Greeks grappled with the nature of law and its relationship to the community, and democracy took shape as an alternative to rule by the few or rule by one.

This module should encourage students to reflect not only on ancient political thought, and its theorization, but also on how these same ideas have often been taken up by modern political thinkers as well.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand the development of Greek political thinking and its systemisation and theorisation.
  • 2. Understand and be able to analyse the main issues addressed by Greek political thinkers in the fifth and fourth centuries
  • 3. Understand the political nature of and analyse different kinds of ancient texts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse in detail political ideas expressed through a variety of kinds of ancient texts
  • 5. Understand key political concerns in the ancient world

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Demonstrate IT skills through the word processing of continuously-assessed work
  • 7. Research and to organise material into succinct and logical form
  • 8. Argue a case confidently and closely in defence of their own viewpoint and to challenge the viewpoint of his/her peer group

Syllabus plan

Section A: Political thought

What is Greek political thought?

The origins of Greek political thinking: the archaic period and the poets

Drama and political thought: Aeschylus, Eumenides, Sophocles, Antigone and Euripides, Suppliants

The historians and the development of political thought

Section B: Law

Nomos basileus

Nomos and phusis: Aristophanes, Clouds, Thucydides, Melian dialogue, Antiphon, On Truth, Plato, Thrasymacheia

Section C: Constitutions

The one, the few and the many: Herodotus, Constitution Debate



Autocracy: Monarchy and Tyranny

Conclusion: Greek political thought and the polis?

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
Learning and teaching activity22Seminars (1 x 2 hours per week)
Guided independent study128Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentations10 minutes1, 2, 5, 7, 8Oral comment; peer comment

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
Written assignment301000 words1-6Mark, written and oral feedback
Essay653000 words1-7Mark, written and oral feedback
Mini presentation510 minutes1-8Mark, written and oral feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-7August referral/deferral period
Written assignmentWritten assignment1-6August referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

1. Set texts:

Greek Lyric Poetry (Oxford World’s Classics)

Herodotus, The Histories (Oxford World’s Classics)

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War (Oxford World’s Classics)

Aristophanes, Clouds (Penguin Classics)

Aeschylus, Suppliant Women, Eumenides (Oxford World’s Classics)

Sophocles, Antigone (Cambridge)

Euripides, Suppliant Women (Oxford World's Classics)

Plato, Republic (Oxford World’s Classics), Laws (Penguin), Statesman (Cambridge)

The Old Oligarch (Lactor)

Aristotle, Politics (Oxford World’s Classics)

Xenophon, The Education of Cyrus (Cornell)

2. Introductory Reading

P.J. Rhodes, A History of the Classical Greek World, 478-323 B.C. (Oxford, 2006)

R.K. Balot, Greek Political Thought, (Oxford, 2006)

P. Cartledge, Ancient Greek Political Thought in practice (Cambridge, 2009)

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Key words search

ancient Greece, political thought