An Introduction to Ancient Greece

Go back in time for two days (Saturday 22 – Sunday 23 September ) of immersion in the extraordinary world of ancient Greece. In this course we’ll be studying many of the most important cultural and political inventions of the ancient Greeks. Spanning the archaic age of epic song, the classical era of science and reason, and globalisation of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, this course will introduce the people, places and ideas that made ancient Greece so unique.

In a series of lectures and discussion sessions we will investigate how the Greeks used myths and storytelling to analyse their own society, why the poetry of Homer shaped a millennium of Greek literature, and what Athenian democracy was all about. We’ll look at the horrors of Greek tragedy, the uproarious rudeness of Greek comedy, the values underpinning Greek athletic competitions, and the role of women throughout Greek society. We’ll also consider the ways in which this remarkable culture has influenced later writers, thinkers, and filmmakers, from Byron to Freud, from Virginia Woolf to Oliver Stone.

No previous knowledge required… What’s Included?


Day 1

Session 1: Introduction: 1000 Years of Ancient Greeks

Session 2: Greek Myth as Art and Education

Session 3: Homer and the Origins of Greek Literature (Charlotte Higgins)

Session 4: The Invention of Reason: Philosophy, Science and Democracy

Homework: A short quiz and some extracts from ancient Greek plays, poems and novels to read for Day 2.


Day 2

Session 1: Athletic Games and Festivals: The (Greek) World’s a Stage

Session 2: Tragic Women and Comic Communities: Insiders vs. Outsiders

Session 3: Hellenistic Multiculturalism

Session 4: What Happened Next? The Enduring Impact of the Ancient Greek World


Tutor Details

Dr Emily Pillinger studied Classics as an undergraduate at Oxford University and then went to teach and study in America for several years, gaining a Ph.D. in Classics from Princeton University in 2009. She moved back to the UK to work at Bristol University and more recently at Balliol College, Oxford. Her research focuses on unusual forms of communication in the literature of the ancient world, and she is particularly interested in the mysterious voices of prophets, witches, and ghosts from beyond the grave.

Charlotte Higgins will offer a special guest lecture. She is chief arts writer for the Guardian newspaper, graduate in Classics from Oxford University, and author of the award-winning ‘It’s All Greek to Me’


For more information and a contact email address, go to

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