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Unit of study_

ANHS2619: The World of Ancient Epic

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

Ancient epic helped shape the European cultural imagination. These masterpieces treat issues of universal concern: life, death, love, war, fate, the supernatural, and journeys of experience. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are both entertainment and serious explorations of social values. Vergil's Aeneid recounts the foundations of Rome and considers the individual's plight amid unstoppable historical and supernatural forces. Lucan's Civil War presents a disturbing vision of a world descending into chaos. This unit explores in detail these brilliant and influential poems.

Unit details and rules

Unit code ANHS2619
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, English
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Ben Brown,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Take-home extended release) Type E final exam Take-Home Exam
2 x 750w answers = 1500w total
30% Formal exam period 48 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Participation Tutorial Participation
10% Ongoing no set length
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Research Essay
40% Week 12
Due date: 24 May 2021 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Seminar Preparation Journals
See Canvas Assessment Description webpage
20% Weekly 4 x 250w = 1000w total
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Type E final exam = Type E final exam ?

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

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.

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. What is epic? The structure of the unit; 2. Epic as genre; form and content; song vs. poetry Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 02 1.The contexts and forms of early Greek Epic: kuklos, lyric, etc: Thebes, Troy, myth and foundation. Ethnicity and community. Digression: Hesiodic song; 2. Homer and the Homeric Question(s): an introduction part 1 Lecture (2 hr)  
What is Epic Poetry 1: performance and song Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 03 1. Homer and the Homeric Question(s): an introduction part 2; 2. Iliad 1: structure and narrative arc Lecture (2 hr)  
What is Epic Poetry 2: transmission, composition and interpretation Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 04 1. Iliad 2: Achilles, hero of the Iliad; 2. Iliad 3: The social and economic world of the Iliad Lecture (2 hr)  
Homeric World(s) I: The social context of the Iliad Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 05 1. The gods and cosmos of the Homeric Poems; 2. Odyssey 1: structure and narrative arc (and the relationship between the Iliad and the Odyssey) Lecture (2 hr)  
Meaning and the Homeric Hero: Achilles/Patroklos and 'a man', Odysseus Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 06 1. Odyssey 2: Odysseus, what kind of man? 2. Odyssey 3: The worlds of the Odyssey Lecture (2 hr)  
Homeric World(s) II: gender, ethnography and geography in the Odyssey Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 07 Between Helen and Penelope: Homeric women Lecture (1 hr)  
Week 08 1. Epic 2.0: the transformation of epic and the origins of ‘literary fiction’: from performer to author 2. The historical and intellectual context of the transformation: from sophistic Athens to Hellenistic Alexandria Lecture (2 hr)  
The Ends of Epic: Homeric Closure Iliad 23-4; Odyssey 23-4 Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 09 1. Apollonius of Rhodes; 2. Argonautica 1: why the Argonautic Saga? Jason and the Golden Fleece before Apollonius Lecture (2 hr)  
Epic 2.0: after Homer. The role of writing and the poetics of 'fiction'; Hellenistic Contexts and the importance of Alexandria Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 10 1. Argonautica 2: structure and themes 2. Argonautica 3: travel, geography and ideology Lecture (2 hr)  
A new epic hero? Jason-Medea, psychology and ambivalence Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 11 1. Roman Epic before Virgil; 2. Aeneid 1: structure and narrative arc Lecture (2 hr)  
A new epic hero? The national hero: Aeneas Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 12 1. Aeneid 2: Aeneas: constructing the Roman epic hero; 2. Aeneid 3: history as epic, epic as National ideology Lecture (2 hr)  
A national epic: the Aeneid and the cultural and political identity of Rome Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 13 1. After Virgil 1: Historical Epic – from Choerilus to Lucan; 2. After Virgil 2: Oedipus and Argonauts among the Romans: Statius and Valerius Flaccus Lecture (2 hr)  
The Divine in Epic: Homeric, Apollonian and Vergilian Gods Tutorial (1 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.
  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.
  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

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

  • Required reading: The Iliad of Homer, translated by Richmond Lattimore. Second edition with introduction and notes by Richard Martin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2011)
  • Required reading:The Odyssey of Homer, translated by Richmond Lattimore. Second edition (New York: HarperCollins 2007)
  • Required reading:Apollonius of Rhodes, Jason and the Golden Fleece (the Argonautica), translated with an introduction and notes by Richard Hunter (Oxford: Oxford Worlds Classics 2009)
  • Required reading:Virgil, The Aeneid, translated by F. Ahl, (Oxford: Oxford Worlds Classics 2008)

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 an acquired body of knowledge about the epics of ancient Greece and Rome, their influence, and the epic genre
  • LO2. demonstrate familiarity with and able to evaluate scholarly interpretations of epic ranging from traditional criticism to contemporary approaches
  • LO3. demonstrate problem solving skills in the reading and interpretation of sophisticated texts and their related criticism
  • LO4. develop skills in communication and argument through the writing of critical essays and class discussion
  • LO5. develop as independent learners
  • LO6. display that you have experienced the discourse, anxieties and concerns of a culture separated from your own by time and place.

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.

The assessment was modified in line with USS survey results from 2019 and in light of my experience of teaching in 2020 during the shift to hybrid teaching modes. In particular, the literature review was replaced with the very successful tutorial preparation journal.


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