GRC40310 Greek Political Thought

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module examines questions as pressing today as they were for people millennia ago - how should communities be organised and governed, by whom, and why? What does good leadership entail? What are our obligations to others? What recourse do we have when our political systems fail? In this module we will examine the variety of answers offered to the ‘problem of ruling’ and the ideas underpinning the rule of the 'many' (democracy/'mob' rule), the rule of the 'few' (aristocracy/oligarchy), the rule of 'one' (monarchy/tyranny), and even the absence of a ruler (anarchic). To do so we will explore a range of different kinds of ancient political writing, including works of poetry, drama, philosophy, history, oratory, and even inscriptions. Together we will reflect on the legacy of such texts and debate whether any of these solutions actually might be deemed a ‘utopia’ or relevant for our lives today. Particular focus is paid to studying works in their original context. All texts will be read in translation and students are also welcome to explore the impact that such ideas and their reception have had on shaping modern political debates and rhetoric in class and coursework.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of the module students will:
• demonstrate an ability to present research orally in presentations and class discussions and in writing through reflections and
• develop their ability to analyse the main ‘political’ themes that concerned ancient Greek authors.
• exhibit understanding of the political nature of ancient writing and how these ideas continue to shape the language of modern
political rhetoric and discourse.
• be able to analyse and comment on political ideas expressed through a variety of ancient texts and genres.

Indicative Module Content:

Authors studied may vary from year to year. They may include, but are not limited to:
• Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Polybius, and Plutarch
• Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes
• Plato, Aristotle, and ps. Xenophon 'The Old Oligarch'
• Select Lyric poets

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


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Where appropriate short lectures may be provided for context on key authors or concepts, but on the whole the module will mostly be delivered through weekly seminars, so regular participation is encouraged. I understand that for a variety of reasons not everyone will be comfortable engaging through in-class debate and discussion; as such opportunities to share your reflections will also be afforded through your portfolio of engagement and personal reflections on the set material. Time will be set aside in each class for student presentations. Students are expected to read set passages/sections from key ancient works ahead of class and will be directed to relevant modern scholarship to complement this reading, but you are also encouraged to read widely as your time permits. Questions may be directed to the module coordinator at any time in class, during office hours (in person or over zoom), or via email. 
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
Presentation: You may either make a 10 minute presentation in person or record a 10 minute presentation (audio over PowerPoint) to be submitted ahead of the session in which your presentation would be delivered. Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: For this module you must write EITHER one 4000 word essay (50%) OR two 2000 word essays (25% + 25%). Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Portfolio of Participation and Engagement: students will reflect on their level of engagement with the module. Additional guidance and a grading rubric will be provided in the module handbook Throughout the 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 written feedback on each assignment within 20 working days. Feedback will be delivered through Brightspace. Students are encouraged to discuss their feedback with the module coordinator during office hours.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Tues 12:00 - 13:50