Module Catalogue 2019/20

CAH3012 : Geographical knowledge in the ancient world

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Ivan Matijasic
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



In this module we will consider the development of geographical knowledge in the ancient Greek and Roman world, focusing on different ancient geographical texts, from the most ancient extant descriptions of the coast to Late Antiquity. We will deal with different ages in a diachronic perspective, considering a set of heterogeneous Greek and Latin authors.
The course will focus primarily on the understanding of the perception of space in a geographical context, from small scale environment (knowledge of local realities, interactions within restricted areas) to macro areas (continents, great distance travels).
The module’s aims are:
-       to gain a sound and general understanding of ancient geography and the ancients’ perception of space
-       to explore the relations between geography, ethnography and history
-       to critically read the primary sources (Greek and Latin texts in translation) as well as the specific secondary literature
-       to develop the capacity for independent study

Outline Of Syllabus

The topic of the course will be divided in four sections roughly following a chronological order: 1) earliest examples of geographical texts, focusing primarily on Hecataeus of Miletus’ description of the earth, Herodotus’ Histories, Hanno’s voyage and pseudo-Scylax’s description of the coast. 2) Hellenistic scientific geography, mainly represented by Eratosthenes (lost, but partly known through Strabo’s Geography) and Ptolemy’s Geography, as well as early imperial age Latin texts such Pomponius Mela’s Chorographia and Pliny the Elder’s Natural history. 3) The diverging approaches of Dionysius Periegetes’ verses and Pausanias’ Guide to Greece. 4) Finally, we will investigate the reception of the above-mentioned texts in Late Antiquity and their significance for the understanding of both ancient and contemporary historical geography.
The study of ancient geographical thought will be contextualized and each author’s age will be considered to gain a general historical perspective. The module intends to offer a close reading of ancient texts in English translation focusing on some paramount Greek words. These words will be assessed and their modern use will be considered: it will show the significance of ancient Greek and Latin geography for modern geographical descriptions and their everyday use.
The seminars will be devoted to the reading of specific items of secondary literature which will help to illuminate the modern and contemporary understanding of ancient sources and their value.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

On completion of the module, students will have acquired the ability to:
-       describe the nature of ancient geography in a historical perspective
-       identify, describe and assess the relevant primary sources
-       identify and describe the problems in dealing with these primary sources
-       demonstrate an up-to-date knowledge of the secondary literature on the subject
-       provide a critical assessment of the secondary literature

Intended Skill Outcomes

On completion of the module, students should have enhanced:
-       their skills in analysing and interpreting ancient sources (in translation, if written), with regards to details of the source and overall issues of interpretation
-       their skills in evaluating modern scholarship and in testing its views against the ancient evidence
-       their adaptability in applying these skills to issues other than those discussed in class, both ancient and modern
-       their skills in offering a clear presentation of their views and analysis in written form
-       their capacity for independent study

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture281:0028:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:001/3 of guided independent study
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading551:0055:001/3 of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching42:008:00Presentations and class discussions
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study541:0054:001/3 of guided independent study
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
CAH8012Geographical knowledge in the ancient world
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart core knowledge and an outline of knowledge that students are expected to acquire and they stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills. Primary sources will be read and interpreted in lectures and general topics will be discussed as they emerge from these readings. Presentations and class discussions the students will make a formal presentation building on sources and modern scholarship they have read in independent study. After each presentation, students will be encouraged to engage in discussion. In doing so, students will develop analytical skills, oral communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation152A1510 minutes presentation plus 5 minutes discussion. Will employ powerpoint presentations and/or handouts
Written Examination1802A85The exam consists of 3 gobbet source criticism and 2 essay questions
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The seminar workshops assess knowledge and understanding of core themes, the ability to compare and contrast source materials, and the ability to expound and criticize a textual extract lucidly and succinctly. The students' oral communication and presentation skills will be developed by their delivering a formal presentation which will be summatively assessed by the seminar leader. This will help students to develop transferable skills such as using powerpoint to a professional standard and expressing complex ideas to a non-specialist audience. Formal training will be provided in the form of a skills session in week one.

The unseen examination tests assess the students’ acquisition of a general and overall knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse problems quickly, to select from and apply both the general knowledge and detailed knowledge of aspects of the subject to new questions, problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided and to write clearly and concisely.
This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2019/20 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2020/21 entry will be published here in early-April 2019. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.