Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module CLAS44030: Cicero Philosophus

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS44030: Cicero Philosophus

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To contribute to several streams in the MA Classics programme.
  • To provide a valuable learning experience for students interested in ancient philosophy as well as historical/cultural studies.
  • In accordance with the general aims of the MA programmes in Classics, to promote independent and self-motivated research in the sub-discipline of Latin/Roman philosophy or the study of Cicero.


  • The Hellenistic schools of philosophy (Academic Skepticism, Epicureanism, Stoicism) as well as their increasing presence in Roman intellectual culture in the Late Republic.
  • Engagement with the entirety of Cicero’s philosophical works, of both the 50s and 40s B.C., including a limited engagement with his rhetorical works.
  • The literary and political climate in the Late Republic, and how they relate to Cicero’s literary and political goals. Some analysis of his philosophical predecessors and rivals in Latin.
  • Analysis of Cicero’s achievement and scholarly approaches to him: to what degree are his philosophical works original and innovative, to what degree a transmitter of the Greek tradition?
  • Close analysis of his use of the dialogue form: is it possible to identify a particularly Ciceronian voice or set of doctrines?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module, students will be familiar with the entirety of Cicero’s philosophica (in translation), as well as current debates in the recent renaissance of scholarship in this field; likewise, students will gain a deeper appreciation of the relationship between Roman and Greek literature, as well as gain insight into the process and difficulties of translation by analyzing a Latin speaker grappling with how to introduce Greek terms to a Roman audience. Students with backgrounds in either the history of Greco-Roman philosophy or the history of Latin literature are welcome; given Cicero’s essential value as a source for Republican history, students interested in Roman history will also profit from taking this course.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will develop skills to engage responsibly with the fragmentary evidence for Hellenistic philosophy, dealing with an author who writes across literary genres over the course of decades, and assessing the political and cultural importance of literature.
Key Skills:
  • Close analysis of individual ancient texts as well as the ability to read texts in connection with each other.
  • Development of argumentative skills and the ability to engage directly with secondary scholarship in order to produce an original scholarly argument.
  • Development of oral presentation skills and experience in the use of a wide range of resources online or at a research library.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Each two-hour meeting will focus on a subsection of Cicero’s philosophical works (i.e. ethics, rhetoric, theology), in rough chronological order. For each class, one or two students will be assigned to give a presentation introducing the works under discussion and framing recent scholarly developments. Thereafter, the class will focus on discussing relevant issues: Cicero’s use of Greek sources, his literary and political aims, issues of translation and audience. In the second half of the course, students will also give a presentation on topic of their choosing to support the writing of their summative essay, followed by feedback and discussion by students and the instructor.
  • Formative assessment components include the two student presentations (one to introduce material, the other to introduce a summative essay topic) and a formative essay of 2,500 words; the summative component will be an essay of 5,000 words which engages with primary texts and relevant recent secondary scholarship.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 4 in Michaelmas term, 4 in Epiphany term 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 284
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Two presentations. One essay (2.500 words).

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University