Text and Context: Flavian Rome through the eyes of Martial and Statius (CLA1409)

StaffProfessor Rebecca Langlands - Lecturer
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The vast Flavian Amphitheatre or "Colosseum" is one of ancient Rome's best known landmarks. Its grand opening in 80 CE was celebrated with an extraordinary series of spectacular shows - brutal, exotic, extravagant, bloodthirsty and stunning – which are vividly described by contemporaries Martial and Statius, rival poets in a society where poetry had a vital political and social function. This module analyses a selection of Statius' and Martial's writings to explore their vibrant picture of Roman life in the late first century: from awe-struck flattery of the emperor to obscene satirising of the urban lowlifes hanging out in the public baths, from luxurious beachside villas to dirty tenement blocks, from drunken dinner parties to imperial road building.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an overview of the content of the set texts and an enhanced understanding of Roman culture in the Flavian period
  • 2. demonstrate an overview of the content of the set texts and an enhanced understanding of Roman culture in the Flavian period
  • 3. demonstrate a basic understanding of the literary tradition upon which the poetry of Martial and Statius draws and within which it functions
  • 4. analyse, evaluate and use the poems both as literature from a particular genre and as a historical source
  • 5. demonstrate a basic knowledge of the history and variety of scholarship on the poems of Statius and Martial, and how this scholarship can inform their own readings of the poetry

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. demonstrate an understanding of the issues involved in reading ancient texts in translation and use commentaries and secondary literature to enhance their understanding and appreciation of ancient texts
  • 7. identify and appreciate different theoretical approaches to ancient literature
  • 8. demonstrate appreciation of the issues involved in using ancient texts as historical source material and relate texts to their socio-historical context

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. demonstrate independent and group study skills in research and presentation of findings
  • 10. select and organise relevant material to produce an argument
  • 11. present a strong argument in coherent oral and written form
  • 12. discuss issues in a peer group

Syllabus plan

 Lecture 1: Introduction to Flavian Rome

Lectures 2-10: themes in reading Martial and Statius and understanding Flavian Rome such as the power of poetry in Flavian Rome and its social and political functions; representation of the opening games of the Colosseum and the role of spectacles, extravagance and staged violence in Roman culture; Martial and Statius as court poets and rivals and the workings of the patronage system; satire, sycophancy and the pitfalls of writing about the Roman emperor

Lecture 11: Conclusion & Revision

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 activities22Lectures (11 x 2 hours)
Scheduled learning and teaching activities5Seminars (5 x 1 hour)
Guided independent study123Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 x written commentaries on set text. 2 x 500 words, 2 x 700 words2-4, 7-13Written comments and discussion. Written feedback from lecturer with option of one-on-one tutorial discussion. General feedback in lectures.

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
Portfolio of 2 best pieces of work from assignments60500 or 700 words2-4, 7-13Written comments and discussion
Exam402 hours1-13Mark, written feedback and opportunity for oral feedback from marker

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written commentariesWritten commentaries2-4, 7-13August ref/def period
Exam Exam 1-13August ref/def period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Set text: D. R. Shackleton Bailey (ed. and trans.) Martial Epigrams vol. 1, Loeb edition.


Indicative basic reading list:

 A. J. Boyle & W. J. Dominick (eds) Flavian Rome: Culture, Image, Text (Leiden, 2003)

William Fitzgerald, Martial: the world of the epigram (2007)

Sullivan, John P., Martial: the unexpected classic: a literary and historical study. Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1991

K. M. Coleman, Martial, Liber Spectaculorum, Oxford University Press, 2006

R.R. Nauta , H-J van Dam & J. J. L. Smolenaars (eds.) Flavian Poetry Leiden 2006

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Last revision date


Key words search

Flavian, Rome, Martial, Statius