Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module CLAS3601: The Life and Times of Cicero

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS3601: The Life and Times of Cicero

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • CLAS 1301 Monuments and Memory in the Age of Augustus OR CLAS 1731 The Craft of the Ancient Historian.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To enrich students’ knowledge of Roman history and culture by examining in detail the life and writings of one of our most important sources. The course builds on their learning from core Level 1 modules and provides extension to the core at Level 3.


  • This module concentrates on the person of Cicero, who lived from 106 to 43 BCE.
  • We will read a variety of Cicero’s works in translation.
  • The module covers Cicero’s biography and writings in the context of contemporary political, social, and cultural history.
  • We follow Cicero from his early life to his courtroom successes, his political rise, his consulship, and the struggles that came after it in the changing political system.
  • Cicero is our major source Republican history, and must be approached carefully to avoid a one-sided narrative.
  • Cicero’s speeches, rhetorical treatises, philosophical works, letters, and even poetry are each useful historical sources and also illuminate various facets of Roman society, from family life to legal practice to literary and philosophical culture.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge of the biography and writings of Cicero in their political, cultural, and social context, and an understanding of how much of our narratives of the period are based on his works. Awareness of major scholarly debates touching on Cicero’s life and works.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Increased familiarity with literary, philosophical, and historical approaches to written sources.
  • The selection and application of appropriate methods when reading and anlyzing texts in the different genres represented in Cicero’s writings.
Key Skills:
  • Close textual analysis and evaluation of evidence using a range of methods and approaches.
  • Construction of clear arguments and rebuttal of counter-arguments, orally and in writing.
  • Understanding and evaluating published scholarly arguments.
  • Finding and making use of published research in the library and using online databases.
  • The ability to work independently on projects, organize time, and make use of appropriate IT and physical resources.

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

  • Lectures are used to convey information and model skills of textual analysis, evaluation of evidence, and constructing arguments.
  • Seminars designed around individual texts give the opportunity to gain closer familiarity with the sources and practice skills of analysis and evaluation of ancient sources and modern scholarly arguments.
  • Presentations allow students to develop their skills presenting information and arguments orally, and responding to peer questions and comments.
  • Written essays provide opportunities for the development of techniques for working independently, finding and evaluating published research, and written argumentation.
  • Examinations test students’ knowledge and allow them to demonstrate their skills in close textual analysis and evaluation of evidence.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 1 per week 1 hour 22
Seminars 6 3 in Michaelmas Term, 3 in Epiphany Term 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay max 2,500 words 100% Essay
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay max 2,500 words 100% Essay

Formative Assessment:

One formative assignment. One oral presentation

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