Classical and Post-Classical Latin

Module code: EN3148

Module co-ordinator: Professor Sarah Knight

NB. This module is aimed at beginners who have never studied Latin, although it may also be suitable if you have taken Latin at GCSE and/or A-level.

For educated English-speaking people up until the early 20th century, Latin was not a dusty object of curiosity - a 'dead' language - but a vital language on which depended the discussion of philosophical ideas, the writing of history, the delivery of education and the development of literary expression. Throughout its history and development, literature in English has owed a vast debt to Latin literature and culture. In this module you will study how the Latin language works and why Latin was of fundamental cultural importance not only in the world of ancient Rome but also throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

The richness and diversity of Latin texts is still remarkable to us today: from the language's first flourishing in ancient Rome to its ubiquity in the religion, philosophy and literature of the Middle Ages and then the 'rebirth' of classical ideas and art during the Renaissance, when Latin editions and English translations sprang up throughout Europe.

The texts studied on this module convey the full range of how Latin developed across two millennia and show what a vivid, flexible, elegant language it was. We will explore themes including history writing, letters, biography and hagiography (saints' lives), student writing, pastoral poetry, legal texts, mythology, geography and travel writing, erotic/love poetry, satire and humour, oratory, rhetoric and sermons.  

Topics covered

  • Virgil's pastoral poems
  • A medieval saint's life
  • An erotic poem by Catullus addressed to an unreliable mistress
  • A letter in Latin from an Elizabethan undergraduate to his brother complaining about bad college food
  • Strange, wonderful and often brutal mythological tales
  • Coins, graffiti and inscriptions

We will also consider these texts in English translation, where available, to get a fuller sense of historical and cultural context.




  • Commentary and analysis of a short Latin text (translation provided), 1,000 words (25%)
  • Essay, 2,500 words (50%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (25%)