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

  • Inactive for Year: 2020/21
  • 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

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

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.

Reading Lists