Classical and Post Classical Latin

Module code: HS2027

Module co-ordinator: Dr James Bothwell

Module Outline 

Ever wonder what “SPQR” means? Or “QED”? Or why doctors yell “stat” on hospital shows?  What “cf” and “cp” mean in an index, or “v.i.” and “v.s.”, etc.? Or even where “etc.” comes from? This module offers an introduction to learning the Latin language, useful if you want to go on to further study in history, law, medicine, etc. – or if you simply want to work out what many complex words in English mean by looking at their Latin bases! It also introduces students to the great diversity of literature which exists in Latin, from formal speeches and government records to the most informal of letters and poems, illustrating ancient, medieval, Renaissance and Enlightenment life in all its variety.

Topics covered

This module integrates the study of classical and post-classical Latin for students studying Ancient History, Archaeology, History or English. It is taught by staff from Ancient History, History, and English. It is designed to teach Latin from scratch, so no prior knowledge of Latin is necessary. Teaching is divided into language classes and seminars focusing on texts in translation. In the language classes, students will gain a firm grounding in basic grammar and will learn how to translate simple texts from classical and post-classical periods. Seminars will explore a range of key themes and issues, extending from documents and literature in early Latin, through to the Middle Ages, and finally to the Renaissance and the uses of Latin in the early modern period.

We will explore how Latin lived on in many forms beyond the Roman Empire up to the twentieth century, and will explore connections between classical texts (e.g. Virgil) and the post-classical texts they inspired (e.g. Alcuin, Milton). Readings will be drawn from a wide range of sources beyond standard ‘texts’ including coins, graffiti and inscriptions. This module provides a valuable skill for students studying and researching historical, literary and historical archaeological topics. Themes covered may include: history writing, letters, royal documents, biography/hagiography, pastoral poetry, mythology, travel writing, texts on magic and science, erotic/love poetry, satire and humour.


The module is taught by 10 two hour, small group Latin language classes and 10 one hour seminars which look at different types of Latin literature (chronicles, poems, charters, etc.) in translation.


Assessment is a combination of coursework and exam weighted 75:25. The coursework comprises of i) a commentary and analysis of a passage of Latin text (translation is provided) (25%) and ii) a thematic essay on a type of Latin Literature (in translation) (50%). The examination is two hours long and worth 25%. The exam will assess translation skills, but students will be allowed to take a dictionary and a reference grammar into the exam.


R.M. Griffin, A Student’s Latin Grammar (Cambridge, 1992).
C.T. Lewis, Elementary Latin Dictionary (Oxford, 1951).
D.P. Simpson, Cassell's Latin Dictionary (London, 1977).