GRC30070 Family Life in Ancient Greece

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module explores the history of family groups in the ancient Greek world in the Archaic (Homeric), Classical and Hellenistic periods. Topics studied include: marriage & adultery, child-rearing & education, old age & death, exposure & infanticide, gender & status divisions in households. An important feature of the module is the analysis and interpretation of evidence provided by a wide variety of literary texts and documents, which are read in translation. We will also make use of archaeological and artistic material.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:
- assess the nature of family life in the ancient Greek world
- synthesize information from a wide range of primary and secondary sources
- analyze primary sources of evidence critically, place them in their historical contexts and assess their reliability and historical value
- compare and evaluate the arguments of modern scholars
-construct relevant and analytical arguments in response to historical questions

Indicative Module Content:

Typical lecture list:
1. Introduction
2. Archaic and Classical Greece
3. Hellenistic World
4. Households and Gender
5. Families and Litigation in Athens
6. Marriage and Inheritance
7. Workshop: writing a good commentary
8. Childhood and Growing Up
9. Old Age and Death
10. Exposure and Infanticide
11. Workshop: writing a good essay

Typical tutorial list:
1. Homer and Hesiod
2. Xenophon
3. When families go wrong
4. Adultery, prostitution and murder
5. Exposure and infanticide

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is delivered through a combination of lectures and tutorials.
The lectures outline major developments and highlight key issues in ancient Greek family life, illustrating them with indicative examples from primary sources and discussing important modern interpretations. They also provide guidance on further reading.
The tutorials, for which advance preparation is essential, are small groups classes devoted to the detailed analysis and interpretation of selected primary sources.
One lecture will be a workshop on how to complete the commentary assignment successfully and another will focus on how to write a good essay. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

It is desirable for students to have a basic knowledge of ancient Greek history and culture at the start of 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: 1,500 word commentary. The aim is to analyse and comment in detail on an example of written primary source material relating to ancient Greek family life. Week 9 n/a Graded No


Essay: 2,500 word essay. The aim is to answer a question about ancient Greek family life, using and evaluating source material from the three main periods (Archaic, Classical & Hellenistic). Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


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

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students will receive individual written feedback on their commentary and essay as soon as possible, and within 20 working days of submission; it will be emailed directly to them. They may also arrange an individual feedback session with the module co-ordinator to discuss their feedback and grades.

GRC30070 Family Life in Ancient Greece General Reading List
There is no single textbook for this module, but these three books are all highly recommended:
Cynthia Patterson, The Family in Greek History, 1998, Harvard UP
S. Pomeroy, Families in Classical and Hellenistic Greece, 1997, Oxford UP
R. Garland, The Greek Way of Life, 1990, Duckworth & Cornell UP
Other useful books are:
B. Rawson (ed.) A Companion to Families in the Greek and Roman World (Wiley-Blackwell 2011)
J. Evans Grubbs, T. Parkin, R. Bell (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Childhood and Education in the Classical World (Oxford UP 2013).
Mark Golden, Children and Childhood in Classical Athens, 1990, Johns Hopkins UP
Joint Association of Classical Teachers, The World of Athens, 2nd edition 2008, Cambridge UP
Nancy Demand, Birth, Death, and Motherhood in Classical Greece, 1994, Johns Hopkins UP
M. Dillon & L. Garland, Ancient Greece: Social and Historical Documents from Archaic Times to the Death of Socrates 3rd edition, 2010, Routledge
Christopher Carey, Trials from Classical Athens, 1994, Routledge
M. R. Lefkowitz & M. B. Fant, Women’s Life in Greece and Rome: a source book in translation, 3rd edition 2005, Duckworth
Further, detailed bibliographies relating to particular topics and specific primary sources will be made available on Brightspace during the module. PDF versions of selected items will be available in the My Learning section of the Brightspace site for this module.
Associate Professor Philip de Souza, UCD School of Classics, Module Co-ordinator
Name Role
Dr Martin Brady Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Joanna Day Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Alexander Thein Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Fri 12:00 - 12:50
Tutorial Offering 1 Week(s) - 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 Mon 12:00 - 12:50
Tutorial Offering 2 Week(s) - 2, 4, 6, 9, 11 Mon 12:00 - 12:50
Tutorial Offering 3 Week(s) - 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 Tues 13:00 - 13:50
Tutorial Offering 4 Week(s) - 2, 4, 6, 9, 11 Tues 13:00 - 13:50