This course offers an overview of Greek literature from its beginnings in the 8th century BCE to the brilliant intellectuals of the Roman Empire (2nd/3rd century CE). It offers an overview of authors, works and genres, and of the historical and cultural context in which they appeared and had a function. As a side effect, literary terms and concepts will be introduced to the beginners among you and reflected on, so that the advanced student of literature can benefit as well. You will be introduced to a range of excerpts of Greek literature, some of them well known classics, others less familiar to the general public, but no less interesting and delightful.

The subject will be presented from the following main perspectives.

  • Genetic: Greek literature can be seen as a sequence of literary experimentations; we will observe how new forms were invented and tested.
  • Context-oriented: although Greek literature constitutes the beginning of European and Western literature, it did not arise from nothing. We will view it in its context and trace various historical, economic and cultural factors that contributed to the finished literary products we study today, including important influences from non-Greek cultures.
  • Pragmatic: we will always ask how a certain work might have functioned in its original real-life context, its Sitz im Leben.
  • Text-oriented: although this is a general overview we will always take our time to look closely at some original writings themselves.

Teaching on Mondays will be frontal for the most part, in form of a lecture shared with the parallel 2-credit course CL 2013.

Thursdays will be devoted to more in-depth exploration through discussion and exercises on the basis of additional readings and extra oral or written tasks, e.g. comparing two different translations of the same Greek text, writing a summary or stylistic analysis; analyzing the structure of a play that was prescribed for reading (after the basic structure of a Greek tragedy has been explained in the previous lecture). You will be introduced to scholarly research tools and also given — optional — creative writing exercises.

For each of you we will devise an individual reading plan, set up on the basis of a list of essential readings (what one should have read as a literature person) and the readings you have already done. By reading selected original works you will build, or enrich, your acquaintance with ancient Greek literature and, if you have already encountered the essential readings in previous courses, build your own focus of interest.

Each of you will also write a research paper in which you engage with a work or a topic of your choice.


  • Overview of ancient Greek literature that can serve as a backdrop to further encounter with Greco-Roman antiquity in other AUP courses or the “life outside,” including the ubiquitous and manifold receptions in popular and “high” culture.
  • Knowledge of
    • essential names, dates, work titles, outlines of authors’ biographies;
    • basic content of famous works (including some familiarity with the Greek/Roman pantheon and important mythical and historical figures);
    • basic facts of ancient Greek history and culture (in order to place the works in their original context);
    • basics of material and visual culture (e.g. how a Greek theatre looked like).
  • Introduction to issues of literary criticism relevant to the study of ancient Greek literature, such as
    • questions of literacy and performance (i.e. how the texts reached their audience);
    • metrics and prosody;
    • names, evolution and characteristics of literary genres;
    • critical terms and categories specific to ancient Greek literature (e.g. distinctions of works according to social class and character of the represented; a different meaning of the word “lyric”; quantitative meter; etc.);
    • reception.*
  • Learn to read the Greek alphabet.
  • Enhanced acquaintance with works of Greek literature through extensive own reading of complete texts (for beginners: getting to know the basics; for advanced students: fill the gaps, build a focus).
  • Introduction to methods and tools of scholarship in Classical Studies, especially also the “historical-philological method.”
  • Ability to effectively summarize the content of a longer text and to analyze its structure.

*”Reception” is a term used to refer to all the various forms in which a text is read, translated, imitated, taught in schools and universities, liked, hated, in short: taken up and used in many different ways from its first publication until today.

GENERAL EDUCATION: The general education program at AUP consists of four requirements: Speaking the World, Modeling the World, Mapping the World, and Comparing Worlds Past and Present.

This course can be used to fulfill the Comparing Worlds Past and Present requirement and as such has the following learning objectives:

  • Acquisition of an historical perspective by following the development of Greek literature over a period of c. 1000 years.
  • Cross-cultural and diachronic comparison both within classical antiquity itself (e.g. Greeks and “Barbarians;” Athenians — Spartans; different periods and their distinctive features) and between classical antiquity and today.
  • Observing how literature is a practice embedded in a socio-politic, economic and cultural context.
  • Understanding reception as process that blends practices memory and creation and the service of self-definition and self-promotion, in particular that of a privileged elite.