Classical Greece since the Enlightenment

Module code: HS3805

Module co-ordinator: Dr James Moore 

Module Outline

Shelley declared ‘We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts have their root in Greece.” The image of Classical Greece is everywhere in our modern world, from our ‘democratic’ system of government to the shape of our cities. Its ideas and forms are embedded in our high art, valourised in popular films such as ‘300’ and celebrated via the medium of modern competitive team sport. Why has the image of Greece provided such a rich cultural inheritance and why does it continue to be so powerful? This module will provide students with a chance to explore our complex scholarly and popular engagements with Classical Greek remains, culture and literature. We will ask analytical questions about the way Greek history, literature and material culture has been interpreted since the Enlightenment and why Greek history has influenced so many ideas about the present. 

This is Sparta

Topics Covered

The module will begin by considering how Classical Greece was ‘rediscovered’ in the late seventeenth century and eighteenth century through literature, travel, historical writing and archaeological investigation. The teaching programme will move on to examine the increasing ‘politicisation’ of Greek history and how ideas about the Greek past influenced radical and nationalist movements. We will consider the role of iconic figures such as Byron and Shelley, but also a wide range of lesser-known writers and thinkers influenced by the Romantic Movement. There will then be consideration of how Classical Greece influenced the Victorian and more modern world, from its art and architecture to its sports and politics. Over the course of the module students will be introduced to a number of different theoretical models, including various forms of reception studies. The module will focus on the period since 1700, allowing us to examine the many ways in which the ‘Greek inheritance’ shaped our notions of modernity and progress.


Assessment is via coursework (50%) and exams (50%).


  • C.O. Brink, English Classical Scholarship (Cambridge 1985)
  • J. M. Crook, The Greek Revival (1972)
  • D. Constantine, Early Greek Travellers and the Hellenic Ideal (1984)
  • R. Jenkyns, The Victorians and Ancient Greece (Oxford 1980)
  • D. Kurtz, The Reception of Classical Art in Britain (Oxford 2000)
  • T. Vrettos, A shadow of magnitude: the acquisition of the Elgin Marbles (New York 1974)