Skip to main content
Unit of study_

ANHS2616: Tragedy and Society in Greece and Rome

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Oedipus, Agamemnon, Medea - tragedy as a genre and as a worldview was invented in Classical Athens and has dominated Western culture ever since. This unit will explore all aspects of tragedy in Athens and Rome from the poetry of its language to the theatricality of its staging, but with particular emphasis on how it reflected and shaped the societies in which it was performed, and engaged with those societies central concerns: gender, religion and politics, war, justice and ethnicity.

Unit details and rules

Unit code ANHS2616
Academic unit Classics and Ancient History
Credit points 6
12 credit points at 1000 level from any combination of Ancient History, Latin, Ancient Greek, History, Philosophy, Archaeology, English
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Robert Cowan,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Supervised exam
Final exam
Final exam
40% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO4
Presentation Presentation
Presentation (online; live or pre-recorded)
10% Ongoing 500wd equiv
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Participation Participation
10% Ongoing n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
Assignment Review of performance
Review of performance
10% Week 06
Due date: 31 Mar 2023 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO4
Assignment Essay
30% Week 11
Due date: 12 May 2023 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO2

Assessment summary

  • Exam: four commentaries (one from each tragedian from a choice of two)
  • Essay: one topic from a choice of three on Greek tragedy. Topics posted on Canvas.
  • Review of a performance: analysis of stagecraft choices in an assigned clip from a set play
  • Presentation: tutorial presentation on a set topic
  • Participation: preparation for class and full engagement in discussion

Assessment criteria

Fail (Below 50%)

Work not of an acceptable standard.

Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: lack of sufficient research using appropriate sources; irrelevance of content; failure to answer the specific question or treat the specified theme; irrelevance of content; wholesale lack of analysis or interpretation; unacceptable levels of paraphrasing; presentation, grammar or structure so sloppy that work cannot be understood; very late submission without an extension.


Low Pass (50-54%)

Work of an acceptable standard.

Written work contains evidence of minimal reading and some understanding of subject matter, offers descriptive summary of material relevant to the question, but may have a tendency to paraphrase; makes a reasonable attempt to organise material logically and comprehensibly and to provide scholarly documentation. There may be gaps in any or all of these areas.


Medium Pass (55-59%)

Work of a satisfactory standard.

Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading and research, and demonstrates a reasonable understanding of subject matter. Offers a synthesis of relevant material and shows a genuine effort to avoid paraphrasing, has a logical and comprehensible structure and acceptable documentation, and attempts to mount an argument, though there may be weaknesses in particular areas.


High Pass (60-64%)

Work of considerable merit, though Honours is not automatically recommended.

Written work contains evidence of a broad and reasonably accurate command of the subject matter and some sense of its broader significance, offers synthesis and some evaluation of material, demonstrates an effort to go beyond the essential reading, contains clear focus on the principal issues, understanding of relevant arguments and diverse interpretations, and a coherent argument grounded in relevant evidence, though there may be some weaknesses of clarify or structure. Articulate, properly documented.


Low Credit (65-69%)

Competent work, demonstrating potential to complete Honours work, though further development needed to do so successfully.

Written work contains evidence of comprehensive reading, offers synthesis and critical evaluation of material on its own terms, takes a position in relation to various interpretations. In addition, it shows some extra spark of insight or analysis. Demonstrates understanding of broad historical significance, good selection of evidence, coherent and sustainable argument, some evidence of independent thought, grasp of relevant historiography.


High Credit (70-74%)

Highly competent work, demonstrating clear capacity to complete Honours successfully.

Evidence of extensive reading and initiative in research, sound grasp of subject matter and appreciation of key issues and context. Engages critically and creatively with the question, and attempts an analytical evaluation of material. Makes a good attempt to critique various historical interpretations, and offers a pointed and thoughtful contribution to an existing historical debate. Some evidence of ability to think theoretically as well as empirically, and to conceptualise and problematise issues in historical terms. Well written and documented.


Distinction (75-84%)

Work of a superior standard.

Written work demonstrates initiative in research and reading, complex understanding and original analysis of subject matter and its context, both empirical and theoretical; makes good attempt to ‘get behind’ the evidence and engage with its underlying assumptions, takes a critical, interrogative stance in relation to historical argument and interpretation, shows critical understanding of the principles and values underlying the unit. Properly documented; writing characterised by style, clarity and some creativity.


High Distinction (85%+)

Work of exceptional standard.

Written work demonstrates initiative and ingenuity in research and reading, pointed and critical analysis of material, innovative interpretation of evidence, makes an insightful contribution to historical debate, engages with values, assumptions and contested meanings contained within original evidence, develops abstract or theoretical arguments on the strength of detailed historical research and interpretation. Properly documented; writing characterised by creativity, style and precision.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

as per Faculty regulations

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. Introduction to the unit 2. The contexts of ancient tragedy Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 3. Stagecraft 4. Euripides Hippolytus Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
1. Euripides Hippolytus Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 03 5. Politics 6. Sophocles Antigone Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
2. Sophocles Antigone Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 04 7. Gender 8. Euripides Medea Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
3. Euripides Medea Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 05 9. Ideas and values 10. Sophocles Aias Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
4. Sophocles Aias Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 06 11.The gods and religion 12. Aeschylus Agamemnon Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 07 13. Revenge and Justice 14. Aeschylus Libation-Bearers Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
5. Aeschylus Agamemnon and Libation Bearers Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 08 15. The chorus 16. Aeschylus Eumenides Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
6. Aeschylus Eumenides Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 09 17. Metatheatre 18. Sophocles Philoctetes Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
7. Sophocles Philoctetes Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 10 19. Ethnicity 20. Euripides Hecuba Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
8. Euripides Hecuba Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 11 21. Introduction to Seneca: Stoicism, self-consciousness and rhetoric 22. Seneca Medea Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
9. Seneca Medea Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 12 23. Tragedy and Rome 24. Seneca Thyestes Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
10. Seneca Thyestes Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 13 25. What is tragedy? 26. Revision and a look at the exam Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

The set plays are

  • Aeschylus Oresteia (Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers, Eumenides)
  • Sophocles Aias, Antigone, Philoctetes
  • Euripides Hippolytus, Medea, Hecuba
  • Seneca Medea, Thyestes

These should be read in the Oxford World’s Classics translations by Collard (Aeschylus), Taplin (Sophocles), Morwood (Euripides), and Wilson (Seneca), all of which are available via Oxford Scholarly Editions Online.

A unit bibliography will be available on the unit Canvas site.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Demonstrate disciplinary expertise in historical and historiographical methods of inquiry and an understanding of the principles of the ancient historian.
  • LO2. Demonstrate the ability to effectively use primary evidence in the form of texts, epigraphic and numismatic material, iconography and/or material culture (including architecture and archaeological evidence).
  • LO3. Effectively and ethically communicate their knowledge to others and engage in informed and respectful disagreement.
  • LO4. Examine complex disciplinary problems and work independently to research and analyse those problems in an innovative way.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Response to the last iteration of this unit was overwhelmingly positive, but the freedom offered by OSEO means that it is now possible to offer Antigone rather than OT as one of the set plays.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.