GRC40010 Warfare and Society in the Ancient World

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module looks at ancient warfare in its social contexts from the era of the Homeric warriors to the early Byzantine period (c. 800 BC - AD 600). We will focus on current areas of debate among modern scholars, making extensive use of written primary sources (in translation) as well as archaeological and artistic material. The topics studied may include piracy and predatory warfare, the impact of warfare on the lives of non-combatants such as women, children and slaves, command and leadership issues in different ancient communities, the significance of ethical and religious considerations in warfare, and the nature of ancient imperialism. The precise contents of the module will, however, depend in part on the preferences of those students who have chosen to take it. They will be consulted prior to the commencement of the module to establish a syllabus that reflects their interests.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the module students will be able to:
- demonstrate detailed knowledge and understanding of specific aspects of ancient warfare in their social contexts
- comment critically on a range of ancient sources, assess their reliability and their historical value
- evaluate key areas of scholarly debate
- present appropriate information and ideas in written formats

Indicative Module Content:

Indicative content
Week Topic
1. Introduction: course structure, content, assessment
2. Early Greek and Assyrian Warfare
3. Archaic and Classical Greek hoplites
4. Alexander the ideal commander?
5. Soldiers and Society in the Roman Empire
6. Commentaries – how to do them well
7. Student choice
8. Student choice
9. Student choice
10. Student choice
11. Student choice
This list is for indicative purposes only; the final schedule will be based on class interests and proposed seminar paper topics.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The classes will be seminars scheduled for 2 hours. In some, we will discuss aspects of ancient warfare and society based around key articles and/or primary sources. In others students will present short seminar papers for discussion on topics of their choice. 
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 In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Critical commentary on an ancient source (c. 2,000 words). Week 9 n/a Graded No


Essay: Essay on topic chosen in consultation with module co-ordinator (c. 5,000 words). Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer 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 assignments 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 coordinator to discuss their feedback and grades.

The Ancient World at War: a global history, edited by Philip de Souza (2008, Thames & Hudson).
Ancient warfare: a very short introduction, by Harry Sidebottom (2004, Oxford University Press).
War and Society in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, edited by Kurt Raaflaub & Nathan Rosenstein (1999, Harvard University Press).
War and Society in the Greek World & War and Society in the Roman World, both edited by John Rich & Graham Shipley (1993, Routledge).
Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities, by Hans van Wees (2004, Duckworth).
Soldiers & Ghosts: a History of Battle in Classical Antiquity, by J. E. Lendon (2005, Yale University Press).
The Oxford Handbook of Warfare in the Classical World edited by Brian Campbell and Lawrence A. Tritle (2013, Oxford University Press).
Name Role
Dr Christopher Farrell Lecturer / Co-Lecturer