Module Catalogue 2020/21

CAH2006 : Hellenistic Empires from Alexander to Cleopatra

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr John Holton
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module aims to introduce students to historical developments across the ancient Greek and near eastern worlds in the fourth to first centuries BC. This period covers the conquests of Alexander the Great in 336-323 BC and the rise and fall of the Hellenistic empires (principally the Antigonid, Seleucid, and Ptolemaic) down to the collapse of the Ptolemaic kingdom, under Cleopatra VII, in 30 BC. Recurrent thematic focuses across this module principally (but not exclusively) include:

• structures and strategies of ancient imperialism (Greek, Macedonian, near eastern);
• relations between different cultural groups (Greeks, Macedonians, Persians, Egyptians, Babylonians, etc.);
• power, agency, and dynamics of interaction between political actors of differing statuses;
• social and cultural issues, such as identity and belonging, from the elite to the masses;
• continuity and change in the eastern Mediterranean and ancient near east in the 4th-1st centuries BC;
• long-term and short-term perspectives on historical processes, and how the historian can integrate these.

Underpinning the content of the module is a commitment to a further aim, namely the development of more holistic and more sophisticated approaches to the ancient evidence for a given area of study, be it historiographical, poetic, epigraphic, numismatic, artistic, or other.

Outline Of Syllabus

The following constitute some central topics that might typically be included in a given year:

• Experiences under Alexander’s rule
• The Achaemenid Persian empire prior to Alexander’s conquest
• Alexander in Egypt and Persia
• Greeks and Macedonians in Afghanistan and India
• The emergence of the Hellenistic royal state after Alexander
• Regional identities in the Seleucid empire
• Culture and power in Ptolemaic Egypt
• Rome and the Hellenistic empires

Aligned with the lecture programme, the following seminars might be included.

• Research skills in ancient history
• The League of Corinth
• The cities of Anatolia (a.k.a. Asia Minor)
• Egyptian relations with Alexander
• Factional strife after Alexander’s death
• Kings, oligarchs, and democrats in early Hellenistic Athens
• Babylonia under the Seleucids
• Hellenistic Alexandria

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

1. To recognise and recall the institutional features of and historical contexts surrounding the empires developed by Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic kingdoms;
2. To identify and explain important historical processes at work in the period investigated in this module, namely 4th-1st centuries BC, with respect to the areas and regions studied;
3. To show an advanced awareness of how to appraise and productively compare different forms of evidence for the topics within the module’s ambit.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1. To integrate different historical perspectives and different forms of evidence in reconstructing the contexts introduced in the module;
2. To investigate and evaluate historical topics both collectively (in seminars, discussion boards, and reading groups) and individually (in class preparation and in assessment-related work);
3. To apply learned knowledge and skills (selectively, where appropriate) in the completion of the module’s different assessment components;
4. To demonstrate a greater competence in communicating complex ideas verbally (in seminars) and in written form (for the module’s assessments, but also in the module's online discussion boards and reading groups).
5. To further develop core digital literacy skills, linked to taught content but also facilitating independent work.

Teaching Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2020/21 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 2021/22 entry will be published here in early-April 2021. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.