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CAH3010 : The Life and Afterlife of Alexander the Great (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2022/23
  • 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


In this module we will study the figure of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), who overthrew the Persian empire and in so doing effected great change in the ancient world. We will investigate Alexander in terms of both his life and his afterlife: both his life in its own context, looking at different historical processes (political, military, cultural, religious, and social) at work in Alexander’s reign, and his enduring afterlife, exploring various modes of reception of and engagement with the figure of Alexander in different contexts and cultures after his death.

This is thus a course of two halves, and both are contingent on using a wide range of ancient evidence types (historiography, epigraphy, art, poetry, numismatics, and philosophy, as well as other prose texts of various genres). The first half of this course will concentrate on exploring Alexander’s reign in great detail, and with the use of a number of interconnected perspectives, through a thematic programme of study. The second half of this course focuses on the legacy of Alexander, specifically on different examples of posthumous engagement with the figure in antiquity and beyond, through a case-by-case programme of study. Just as the complexity of Alexander’s career cannot be appreciated fully through any single type of historical narrative, so too his legacy must be understood as a complex, adaptable phenomenon which came to mean different things in different cultures. Both life and afterlife are, in their own ways, crucial for reconstructing the history of Alexander the Great.

Outline Of Syllabus

The course will be split into roughly two halves, respectively covering the ‘Life’ and ‘Afterlife’ of Alexander. Throughout the whole course extensive engagement with a range of ancient sources for a given topic will be crucially emphasised.

Topics covered in the first half of the course will typically include: Alexander’s political background; his relationships with different subject groups (e.g. Greeks, Macedonians, Persians, Egyptians); his acquisition of empire and ideologies of empire and monarchy; his religion and religious associations; and the issue of divine kingship.

Topics covered in the second half of the course will typically include: appropriations and adaptations of Alexander’s image and memory in the period of the Successors (323-276 BC); uses and constructions of Alexander by the Ptolemaic (305-30 BC) and Seleucid (305-64 BC) dynasties; the reception of Alexander in the politics and culture of Republican and Imperial Rome; select ancient fictional treatments of Alexander; and some select modern treatments of Alexander.

Evidence-based seminars/reading classes will take place throughout the course and will focus on specific topics related to Alexander’s career and on specific cases of later engagement with his model.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/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 teaching101:0010:00Seminars and/or reading classes
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00Revision sessions
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study541:0054:001/3 of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will provide the introductory knowledge and frameworks needed for approaching the core historical topics of the course. They will also ensure the development of a number of crucial skills for the student, including the ability to listen, to take notes, and reflect critically on course content.

Weekly seminars will consolidate the knowledge and approaches outlined in the lectures by providing an opportunity for the students to focus in greater depth on these topics and to contribute actively to their own learning. These seminars will consist primarily of class discussions and debates on important evidence and historical problems relating to the weekly topic(s). Based on pre-assigned readings, as well as involving the development of individual interpretations, these will ensure the further development of a number of important skills, such as analysis, critical reading of the evidence, and oral communication.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A60N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M40Essay of 2,500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment for this course consists of a two-hour examination and a 2,500-word coursework essay. The former assesses, under time-constrained conditions, the ability to recognise, understand the content of, and comment critically on various sources (both textual and visual) as well as the ability to recall information, synthesise this, and respond analytically to questions; the latter assesses the ability to investigate important topics independently and to present findings analytically, with an overall emphasis on critical and research skills. The qualities, skills, and abilities that these two methods of assessment test will have been continually developed throughout the course and, as key components of its intended aims and learning outcomes, are crucial to its successful completion.

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.

Reading Lists