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Greek and Roman Political Thought in Context


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor: Dr Benjamin Gray
  • Assessment: a 500-word primary source analysis (17%), 500-word modern scholarship summary (17%) and 2000-word essay (66%)

Module description

In this module you have the chance to engage with the most important themes and debates of Greek and Roman political thought, including citizenship, rule, justice, virtue, slavery, gender and cosmopolitanism.

Focusing on the period from Plato’s Republic to Cicero’s Republic, you will be able to read and interpret these two works in detail, but our aim is to place them in a much broader context of Greek and Roman political debate and argument, which extended well beyond formal philosophy. You will be encouraged to study speeches, historical works, drama, epigraphy and material remains, in order to better understand the wider debates to which Plato and Cicero were contributing.

As well as concentrating on fourth-century BC Athens and first-century BC Rome as centres of political debate, we will consider Hellenistic political thought, to encourage you to think about the long and complex historical processes linking the two republics.

Indicative syllabus

  • Introduction: Plato and Athenian democracy
  • How to read Plato’s Republic and understand its opening challenge
  • The argument of the Republic: city, soul and the good life
  • Ideas of justice: the Republic in its Classical Greek context
  • Private life, the family and property, between the Republic and Classical Greek society
  • Cave, agora and theatre: education and indoctrination, culture and censorship
  • Outsiders in Classical Greek political life and thought: women, metics, slaves
  • Hellenistic politics and political thought: the journey from Plato’s Republic to Cicero’s Republic
  • Cicero’s Republic in context: citizenship, constitutions and conservatism
  • Debating justice, law and empire in first-century Rome: Cicero responds to Plato