Classical Language and Texts: Greek V: Epic (CLA3270)

StaffDr Karen Ni Mheallaigh - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesClassical Language and Texts: Greek IV or equivalent
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims to produce advanced understanding of the language, style and significance of Greek epic by close study of selected works in the original Greek. The prescribed texts include portions of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey as well as a representative selection of fragments from the Greek Epic Cycle. Emphasis will be placed not just on close reading of the Greek texts but also on the historical, literary and social context that gave rise to epic poetry.

Through detailed study of the prescribed texts, commentaries and secondary literature (and also through more extensive reading of the entire Iliad and Odyssey in translation), students will also be encouraged to engage with broader questions about the epic genre, such as: who was Homer? How did the Iliad and Odyssey come to be written? How do these epics relate to the world that produced them? What do they have to say about heroism, religion, society, power, personal relationships, ethics, the nature of the world, and the human condition?  What are the main characteristics of oral poetry? What can we know about the other, ‘cylic’ Greek epics, and how do they relate to Homeric epic?  

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the language, style and content of the texts studied
  • 2. describe in detail and provide an advanced analysis of the form and significance of the genre of Greek epic

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. demonstrate advanced linguistic mastery of ancient Greek
  • 4. enhanced critical and interpretative skills
  • 5. the ability to locate literary texts in their cultural context

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. show a capacity for sustained independent analysis of literary texts in a foreign (ancient) language
  • 7. capacity to discuss the content and form of these texts with peers and instructor

Syllabus plan

22 two-hour seminars, with instructor and students exploring closely the Greek texts and their significance. Seminars concentrating on important passages taken from texts/fragments, with instructor and students sharing in translation, interpretation and discussion.

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 teaching4422 x 2 hour seminars (one per week)
Guided independent study256Private study

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
Exam603 hours1-7Mark and written or verbal comments
Essay 1203,000 words1-7Mark, written comments and verbal feedback session
Essay 2203,000 words1-7Mark, written comments and verbal feedback session

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExamExam1-7August refer/defer period
EssaysEssays1-7August refer/defer period

Re-assessment notes


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Prescribed texts:

Homer, Iliad III (ed. J.T. Hooker, Bristol Classical Press/Bloomsbury)

Homer, Iliad XXIV (ed. C. Macleod, Cambridge University Press)

Homer, Odyssey VI-VIII (ed. A. Garvie, Cambridge University Press)

Selected fragments of Oedipodeia, Thebaid, Epigoni, Cypria, Aethiopis, Little Iliad, Sack of Ilion, Nostoi: in M.L. West (ed.), Greek Epic Fragments (Loeb Classical Library).


A detailed reading schedule, including a complete list of fragments to be studied and a full secondary bibliography, will be provided by the module lecturer.


Selected further reading:

M. Davies, The Greek Epic Cycle (Bristol, 1989).

I. De Jong, A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey (Cambridge, 2001).

M.L. Edwards, Homer, Poet of the Iliad (Baltimore, 1987).

M.I. Finley, The World of Odysseus (London, 1978).

T. Gantz, Early Greek Myth (Baltimore, 1993).

J. Griffin, ‘The Epic Cycle and the Uniqueness of Homer’, JHS 97 (1977), 39-53.

R. Rutherford, Homer (Greece and Rome New Surveys: revised edition, Cambridge, 2013).

O.P. Taplin, Homeric Soundings (Oxford, 1992).

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Available as distance learning?


Origin date

February 2016

Last revision date


Key words search

Greek poetry epic literature