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CAH2006 : Hellenistic Empires from Alexander to Cleopatra

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr John Holton
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


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 are some of the central topics typically included in lectures and non-synchronous materials:

• 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
• Decolonising Hellenistic history

Aligned with lectures and non-synchronous materials, the following are some of topics typically included in seminars:

• 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
• Speaking to power: papyrological and epigraphic evidence
• Hellenistic Alexandria

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:001 lecture p/w
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Part of student contact hours (e.g. 1 hr of lecture recordings p/w)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion651:0065:00For 3 assessment components (2 summative, 1 formative)
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading331:0033:003 hrs reading p/w from module reading list
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:001 seminar p/w (except first/last weeks)
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities181:0018:002 hrs prep tasks per seminar
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study511:0051:00General consolidation activities (e.g. reviewing notes, recordings, readings)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk21:002:00Introduction/conclusion to the module (first/last weeks)
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures and non-synchronous lecture materials will introduce topics and provide expert orientation and exposition on a broad range of themes and issues, supplemented by the module reading list. In-person lectures will provide opportunities for dialogue, while lecture materials can be reviewed at any time across the week and revisited numerous times afterwards. In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to present recorded materials asynchronously and retain timetabled slots for live discussion of these materials.

Seminars will also consolidate the learning progress from lectures, lecture materials, and weekly readings by enabling students to focus on connected issues and material in greater depth. Seminars will be student-led and facilitated by teaching staff, and will hinge upon group discussion and debate about materials circulated in advance (for example, sets of evidence, scholarship, and questions). In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to hold live seminar discussions online and retain timetabled slots.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A652,300 word essay
Poster2M35Creative digital presentation and analysis (800 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Reflective log2MInformal blog entries on first 3 wks of module (150 words p/w = 450 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

REFLECTIVE LOG (formative assessment)

The reflective log will consist of three short blog entries intended as a space for students to reflect on their progress against the module’s skills outcomes as well as practise writing skills.

POSTER (35% of total module grade)

The poster enables students to investigate a self-chosen piece of evidence in great depth and present the products of their research in an engaging, individually designed format. As well as testing the ability to deconstruct and discuss ancient evidence, this component gives students an opportunity to show digital capability in the creative presentation of their work.

ESSAY (60% of total module grade)

The essay is a response to a question from a pre-set list, and it is intended to bring together the balance of knowledge and skills developed over the course of the module. It is an opportunity for students to apply their learning on an individual and independent basis. This builds on the work with evidence and writing practice provided in the form of the other two assessment components.

All of the assessments for this module will be submitted and marked online.

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.

Reading Lists