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CAH2061 : Slavery in Greco-Roman Antiquity

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Simon Corcoran
  • Lecturer: Dr Micaela Langellotti
  • 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


The aim of the course is to understand slavery, a fundamental, but often under-appreciated, aspect of the Greek and Roman worlds in its varied social, economic, legal and ideological aspects, and to be able to analyse and discuss it in a contextualized manner. This is to be done primarily through the study of antique writers, documents, artefacts and archaeology, and by engaging in particular with the problems caused by this uneven ancient evidence, in which the views of slave-owners are well represented, while slaves seldom have an explicit voice. Understanding the modern historiography is also key, since contemporary disputes, resonances and sensitivities (e.g. the reparations debate; and movements to 'decolonize' written and physical legacies) form a further inescapable part of the context for studying this ancient topic.

Outline Of Syllabus

The following are key themes and topics in the module (although the sequence and structure of their treatment may differ):
- The modern historiography of ancient slavery and the contemporary resonances of slavery.
- The range and nature of the ancient sources and evidence, textual and material.
- Definitions of slavery, ancient & modern.
- Ideas and ideology about slaves in Greek and Roman writers, including also Christian and Jewish authors.
- Becoming or acquiring a slave, including the sources of slaves, the slave trade, and the demography of ancient slave populations.
- Labour, including the ideology of ‘work’; the range of slave jobs, domestic, commercial, agricultural; their economic and/or social importance.
- The treatment of slaves, public and private, in particular the role of violence and torture.
- Slave responses to slavery, including revolts and resistance.
- Manumission: purposes, processes, consequences.
- Freed persons: obligations and opportunities.
- Public slaves; particularly the Roman emperor's ‘familia’ and the Roman 'civil service' (especially imperial freedmen, including late antique court eunuchs).
- Other forms of ‘unfree’ labour, including debt-bondage and the Helots at Sparta.
NOTE that the above are most often treated in relation to Classical Athens and late Republican and early imperial Rome, but the periods and places studied are not necessarily limited to these.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading351:0035:00Exploration of topics, documents and bibliography in the Module Handbook and on Canvas
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading165:0065:00Completion of assessments, formative and summative.
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities112:0022:00Tasks and guided reading
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities102:0020:00Reading and other work preparatory for seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Weekly seminars (except the final week)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery11:001:00End of module drop-in Q&A and feedback session
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study251:0025:00Independent study going beyond the module materials
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures highlight the most important themes and approaches and clarify information, building also on preparatory reading. These, plus the seminar preparation, facilitate the flipped classroom seminar, where students, singly or in groups, lead discussion and analysis of key ancient source materials. One of the essay assessments will be tied specifically to the texts studied in seminars. Tasks and guided reading build up relevant skills, consolidate knowledge, and encourage self-reflectivity. The formative assessment is designed to foster the ability for close reading of the sources. These all feed into both summative essays. The end of module drop-in allows students to give and get feedback on the module and reflect on their experience.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M501,800 words
Essay1A501,800 words
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise1MSource commentary exercise (400 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

One essay is intended to demonstrate engagement with specific ancient source material and to display skills of source-criticism, command of detail, and awareness of relevant contexts. The other essay allows engagement with a major topic or theme relevant to slavery and the development of well-considered arguments bolstered by appropriate ancient evidence and modern scholarship, suitably contextualized.

The source commentary exercise is designed to foster both close reading and historically aware analysis of ancient evidence (material or textual). The timing of all three assessments will allow for feedforward from each to the next.

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