Introduction to Greek History

Module Code: AH1010

Module co-ordinator: Graham Shipley

  • How did Greek cities change over the course of the 5th and 4th centuries?
  • Was ancient democracy actually ‘democratic’?
  • Why is Aristophanes both funny and relevant?
  • Is the portrayal of the Persians in Greek sources accurate?
  • Is this Sparta?

The Greeks are often seen as the fountainhead of Western Civilisation – giving us democracy, philosophy, East versus West ideologies, and fart jokes performed in a theatre. In this module, we will engage with the historical narrative while unpicking some of these predominant ‘legacies’ to uncover a more nuanced view of Greek culture.

This fascinating module covers the history of Greece from the 8th century BC to the time of Alexander the Great at the end of the 4th century BC, with special emphasis on Athens and Sparta. We will cover not only what happened in this crucial period of ancient history, but how we are able to reconstruct the narrative. You will look at how ancient Greek perceptions of themselves and others have shaped modern attitudes, and will engage directly with the words and thoughts of ancient authors. Source based small-group seminars run alongside the lectures, and explore ancient texts in detail, including works by Herodotos, Thucydides, Homer, Aristophanes and others.

Topics covered

  • Solon, Peisistratus and Early Athens
  • Sparta
  • Sources in translation
  • The Origins of Democracy
  • Greek Religion
  • The Persian Wars
  • The Athenian Empire
  • The Peloponnesian War
  • Theban Hegemony
  • Alexander the Great


  • 22 hours of lectures
  • 7 hours of seminars
  • 171 hours of guided independent study


  • Essay, 2,000 words (50%)
  • Exam, two hours (50%)