Skip to main content


CAH2006 : Hellenistic Empires from Alexander to Cleopatra

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr John Holton
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


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, 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

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

- 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 ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00n/a
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion651:0065:00For 2 assessment components (1 poster, 1 essay)
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading331:0033:003 hrs reading p/w from module reading list
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:00n/a
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)
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will introduce topics and provide 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, and recordings of these can be reviewed at any time across the week and revisited numerous times afterwards.

Seminars will also consolidate the learning progress from lectures 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).

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A752,000 word essay
Poster1M25Creative digital presentation and analysis (750 words OR 5-minute recording)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

POSTER (25% 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 - with free choice of either 750 word written piece of 5-minute recorded piece, to give students of different learning styles equal opportunity for success. 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. Feedback from the poster will feed forward to the final essay.

ESSAY (75% 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. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.

Reading Lists