GRC20270 The Athenian Empire

Academic Year 2024/2025

This module explores the rise and fall of the Athenian empire from its beginnings in the 470s to its defeat at the hands of Sparta in 404 BC, as well as Athenian attempts to recapture such pre-eminence in the early fourth century. It reflects on the nature of imperialism in antiquity, as well as how Athenian ascendancy shaped not only one of the most famous cities of antiquity, but also the wider Mediterranean world. Drawing on a wide range of material and literary culture from the period we will analyse how this ‘new’ way of exercising power was conceptualised and how later ancient writers judged Athenian dominance. We shall closely examine the historical works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Diodorus Siculus, draw on the plays of Aristophanes and Euripides, philosophers such as Xenophon, Plato, and Aristotle, as well as the works of the Attic orators in order to debate the history of the empire and the problem of power and imperialism in ancient Greek thought. We also will examine the ways in which Athenian visual and material culture, e.g. epigraphic (inscriptions) and numismatics (coins) - including examples held in the UCD museum - as well as the 5th century Athenian building programme communicates Athenian imperial ideology and power to ancient and modern audiences.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

• Students will gain a deeper understanding of the political and social history of Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries BC.
• Students will be able to analyse a variety of forms of ancient evidence, including: literary, numismatic, and epigraphic sources, as well as fifth-century Athenian art, architecture, and iconography.
• Students will gain an understanding of the key debates in the study of ancient imperialism and empire with particular emphasis on fifth- and fourth-century Athens.
• Through engagement with complex texts and trans-cultural traditions students will develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
• Students will hone their ability to communicate their ideas and argument through oral and written presentations.
• Students will develop their ability to manage deadlines and balance conflicting demands.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
A .pdf version of the slides will be uploaded prior to the lecture in order to assist students in note taking. The lectures aim to over an overview of the history of the period and will examine specific case studies in order to discuss key sources and problems for the study of ancient imperialism and of Athenian hegemony in the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Where public health and government guidance may change it may become necessary to deliver the module in a blended or online format, but the default will be in person, face-to-face learning and so attendance on campus is required. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment(Including Essay): You will be asked to prepare a 2,000 word essay (word count includes in-text citations but excludes the bibliography. The essay must draw on both ancient sources and modern scholarship. n/a Graded No


Assignment(Including Essay): Create an 8-10 minute podcast or recorded presentation. Grading rubric used and recording guidance notes will be provided in the module handbook at the start of term. n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Online automated feedback

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students will receive individual feedback on their coursework from the module coordinator through Brightspace.