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Exiles, Refugees and the Ancient World


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutor: Dr Benjamin Gray
  • Assessment: an 800-word formative exercise (20%) and 3000-word essay (80%)

Module description

In this module, we study the complex history of displacement and displaced people in the ancient world, connecting it to broader historical trends and contemporary debates. Focusing on the ancient Greek-speaking eastern Mediterranean and Rome, we will consider:

  • processes of expulsion from city-states, kingdoms and other communities
  • the lives, communities and writings of exiles and refugees
  • processes of reintegration of exiles and commemoration of displacement.

In addition, we consider how we can reconstruct the voices and perspectives of the displaced from the ancient world and the role modern exiles have played in shaping how we understand the ancient world itself.

Indicative syllabus

  • Forms of displacement in the ancient world - punishment, poverty, war, civil war
  • The life and writings of an ancient Greek exile - Xenophon
  • Reconstructing the lives of ancient Greek exiles and refugees beyond the elite
  • Reintegrating exiles in the ancient Greek world
  • Ancient Greek exiles, commemoration and history-writing
  • Exile at Rome, from republic to empire
  • Consoling the exile - displacement and philosophy in the ancient world
  • Exile and empire - the ancient world and modern colonial and post-colonial displacement
  • Political struggle - the ancient world and modern political exiles
  • Nostalgia and Classicism - how have exiles and refugees shaped our picture of the ancient world?

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of themes and research in the history of ancient displacement, exile and reintegration, and how it informs current debates about ancient society
  • undertake your own research and engage with modern scholars’ approaches on the subject, developing your own arguments with reference to the primary evidence
  • handle a range of difficult primary sources with confidence and use them as a means of critiquing current paradigms
  • compare critically refugee history across different periods, making use of the latest research and concepts
  • apply the methods and techniques that you have learned to review, consolidate, extend and apply your knowledge and carry out coursework projects.