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Classics Honour Moderations (Mods) Paper Descriptions

Homer, Iliad
Not available to Mods IIA candidates
This paper involves study of the Iliad as a poem generated by an oral tradition, and consideration of the appropriate critical methods to apply to such a work. You are expected to consider aspects such as narrative technique, structure, characterisation, heroic values, and the poetic representation of the divine world in relation to the human. Knowledge of the whole Iliad is required.

Virgil, Aeneid
Not available to Mods IIB candidates
This paper involves the study of the Aeneid both as a product of Augustan Rome and as a poem which has transcended its historical context. Besides examining plot, characterisation and style, you are expected to consider how the epic genre has developed since Homer, and how other forms of literature (including historical prose) have influenced the poem. Much attention is paid to the political and ideological factors shaping the poem. Knowledge of the whole Aeneid is required.

Texts and Contexts
Taken by all Mods candidates
This paper includes four topics for study, two Greek, two Roman, all compulsory: The Persian Wars and Cultural Identities (Herodotus), Dionysus, Drama, and Athens (Euripides, Bacchae; Aristophanes, Frogs); Love and Luxury (Cicero, pro Caelio; Catullus, Propertius 1), Class (Petronius, Juvenal). These topics feature important and attractive texts and archaeological material; as well as introducing major themes in social and historical study, they will help you to see how links can be made between different parts of the subject. The Examination Regulations prescribe the specific texts that must be studied. The balance of reading in Greek/Latin and in translation will vary according to whether you take Course IA, IB, IC, IIA, or IIB. For each year a body of archaeological images will be placed on WebLearn before the start of the course, and from this will be drawn the images used for the compulsory picture question. Reading images and monuments is a vital skill in Classics (and more broadly). To get the most out of the subject students need to learn how to talk about images, and there will be a lecture course designed to make sure the skill is acquired by all.

 

Special Subjects Group A

Early Greek Philosophy
Available to all Mods candidates
Early Greek Philosophy involves studying the surviving fragments of the earliest, so-called Pre-Socratic, Greek thinkers, who wrote (among other things) on the nature of the universe, what it is made of and how it came to have its present orderly arrangement, the structure of matter, the nature of the gods and the possibility of knowledge.
The examination involves translation (except for Mods IIA candidates), comment, and essays. The Examination Regulations prescribe the specific texts that must be studied for each course.

Plato, Euthyphro and Meno
Available to all Mods candidates
These are two lively and philosophically important dialogues, in which Socrates and others discuss issues of knowledge and definition, especially of ethical concepts such as piety (Euthyphro) and excellence (Meno). Those doing IA or IC read Meno in Greek and Euthyphro in English, those doing IB and IIB read Meno 70a–86d2 in Greek, Euthyphro and the rest of Meno in translation, while those doing IIA read both works in English.
The examination involves translation (except for IIA), passages for comment on points of philosophical interest, and essays.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura IV
Not available to Mods IA or IIB candidates
Book 4 of Lucretius’ masterwork on Epicurean philosophy deals with the causes of perception, sensation and emotion and concludes with a passionate argument for the control of one’s sexual desires. You are expected to read the whole book in Latin and study the arguments, their validity and coherence. The paper includes passages for translation and comment; candidates are also asked to answer two essay questions.

 

Special Subjects Group B

General Philosophy
Available to all Mods candidates
This paper is a topic-based introduction to key ideas in epistemology and metaphysics, including knowledge, scepticism, perception, induction, primary and secondary qualities, the relation of mind and body, personal identity, and free will. Candidates will have the opportunity to show first-hand knowledge of some canonical writings on these topics.

 

Moral Philosophy
Available to all Mods candidates
This subject is studied through reading Mill’s Utilitarianism, in conjunction with other writings, including critical responses and modern treatments of the same issues. The study of Mill’s influential but controversial moral theory will involve discussions of subjects such as pleasure, happiness and well-being; forms of consequentialism; the 'proof' of utilitarianism; ethical truth and ethical justice; justice; alienation and the demandingness of morality; virtue. Students will learn how to read and how to evaluate philosophical writings, how to identify the author’s arguments and conclusions, and are encouraged to think critically and write lucidly about the issues discussed.


Introduction to Logic
Available to all Mods candidates
This subject (usually taught in classes) is the study of patterns of valid inference, and involves some study of a formal system by means of a course designed especially for Oxford students. Students are required to do exercises and proofs in a formal system, and also to understand the relation between the elements of the formal system and the kinds of inference and argument used in ordinary language. For more detailed information about the topics to be studied students should consult the entry for Section III of Introduction to Philosophy in the Preliminary Examination for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in the Examination Regulations.

Special Subjects Group C

Thucydides and the West
Not available to Mods IIA candidates
This paper involves both literary and historical questions: with a gifted writer of history such as Thucydides, the two are inseparable. You study the two books (VI and VII) in which he describes the failure of the Sicilian expedition and other events of that period, and also Plutarch, Nicias. Larger questions include the conditions of warfare in Sicily, the political environment of Athens, and the qualities of leadership on both sides.

Aristophanes' Political Comedy
Not available to Mods IIA candidates
This paper requires study of three comedies: Wasps, Lysistrata and Knights (knowledge of the ‘Old Oligarch’, writing on the ‘Athenian Constitution’, is also expected). Passages for translation and for commentary will be set only from Wasps and some of Lysistrata. These plays explore the politics and society of Athens during the Peloponnesian War: the maintenance of power by the dominant speakers in the assembly (especially Cleon, parodied in Knights), the functioning of the law courts, the relations between male and female, fathers and sons; the freedom allowed to the comedians; the values and antagonisms of a polis at war. Lysistrata has also been interpreted as an ‘anti-war’ play, and this is another political aspect to consider. ‘Literary' elements (such as parody, stagecraft and formal dramatic structures and techniques of comedy) are also an important element in this paper.

Special Subjects Group D


Cicero and Catiline
Not available to Mods IIB candidates
This paper is more historical than literary, but involves engagement with the primary texts from which we derive most of our historical knowledge about the crisis year 63 BC, the year of Cicero's consulship and of Catiline's conspiracy. Much of our information comes from Cicero himself (especially the speeches set: In Catilinam 1-4 and Pro Sulla), and from the colourful monograph by Sallust (the Bellum Catilinae, also prescribed). (For Mods IC and IIA the prescription is reduced.) You are encouraged to interrogate these sources and test how far we can trust the reconstructions of the events which have become canonical. Was Cicero really an optimus consul? Was Catiline the fiend he was later painted? What were the real political issues of the year, and how far back did the roots of discontent and revolution go? Like ‘Tacitus and Tiberius’, this paper is a good introduction to many of the topics which you will meet in Ancient History in Greats.

Tacitus and Tiberius
Not available to Mods IIB candidates
The reign of Tiberius, covered in Books 1-6 of Tacitus’ Annales, has had a grim reputation since antiquity, and its darker aspects are unforgettably handled in these books, the historian’s masterpiece. You are expected to study Books 1 and 3 in Latin and to know the rest in English. For Mods IC and IIA the prescription is reduced. Questions which need consideration are Tacitus’ sources, motives and ‘bias’ – or is that the wrong term entirely?; the political conditions at Rome and the wider picture of the empire; the role of the armies; the power of the senate and the handling of the laws of maiestas. Crucial too is the question how far Tacitus’ conception of historical writing resembled that of modern scholars (themselves far from united in approach). This is a challenging but rewarding paper.


Special Subjects Group E


Homeric Archaeology and Early Greece from 1550 to 700 BC
Available to all Mods candidates
This subject comprises the archaeological history of the last centuries of the Minoan and Mycenaean world, and the first of the Greek Iron Age, the setting in which the Homeric poems were formed and which they reflect in various ways. This is where classical Greek culture and literature begin. The course covers the full range of material evidence and artefacts surviving from this period, of which there is an excellent representative collection in the Ashmolean Museum.
In the examination you are asked to describe briefly and comment on three objects in photographs or drawings and answer three essay questions. Some of the essay questions are more concerned with the evidence of the Homeric poems, others with the wider problems of reconstructing history and chronology from the archaeological data; you are expected to answer at least one question from each of these groups.

Greek Vases
Available to all Mods candidates
Painted vases give the fullest visual account of life and mythology in ancient Greece and provide important archaeological data for refining and adding to our knowledge of various aspects of ancient culture. The course looks at the techniques and functions of painted ceramics as well as their subjects and styles, from the ninth to the fourth centuries BC. The Ashmolean Museum has a fine collection of painted pottery of the period covered by the course, and examples from the collection are used in classes and lectures.

Greek Sculpture c. 600 - 300 BC
Available to all Mods candidates
Greek statues and reliefs in marble and bronze retain a strong visual impact, and our knowledge of the subject is constantly being improved and revised by dramatic new discoveries, from excavation and shipwrecks. The course studies the emergence and uses of large marble statues in the archaic period, the development of bronze as a large-scale medium, and the revolution in seeing and representing that brought in the new visual system that we know as ‘classical’, in the fifth and fourth centuries. The Cast Gallery, located behind the Ashmolean, has an excellent collection of plaster casts of major sculptures from this period. Practical classes are given in the Cast Gallery on ways of assessing and interpreting ancient statues and reliefs.

Roman Architecture
Available to all Mods candidates
Architecture was the Roman art par excellence, and Roman buildings provide some of the most impressive and best preserved monuments from the ancient world. The course studies the materials, technology, and functions of the buildings as well as their appearance and effect, from the Republic to the Tetrarchy, in Italy and the provinces as well as in Rome itself.

Special Subjects Group F

Historical Linguistics and Comparative Philology
Available to all Mods candidates
This paper introduces the study of the origins of Greek and Latin and their development from a common ancestor, Indo-European (also the ancestor of English). The option is taught by the specialists in the field, and the teaching begins in lectures from the first term onwards; anyone who is even considering doing this paper must attend these lectures from the start. The lectures and classes cover the methods of historical and comparative linguistics, the reconstruction of the (unattested) Indo-European proto-language, the numerous changes in sounds and forms that resulted in the Greek and Latin languages as we know them, and some of the ways in which these languages continued to change down to the classical period. Selected passages of Homer and some archaic Latin inscriptions are examined in detail with regard to points of linguistic interest, to show how an understanding of the prehistory of Greek and Latin, and of the processes of change, can illuminate early records of the languages.

Unprepared Translation from Greek
Not done by Mods IIA candidates
Different papers for different courses, as appropriate. Normally one passage in prose, one in verse.

Unprepared Translation from Latin
Not done by Mods IIB candidates
Different papers for different courses, as appropriate. Normally one passage in prose, one in verse.

Greek Language
Not done by Mods IIA candidates
You must attempt EITHER (i) questions on accidence, syntax and style based on a selection of passages from the prescribed Anthology of Greek Prose Authors, ed. D. A. Russell, plus (ii) translation into Greek of a short passage of English, OR translation into Greek prose of a longer passage of English.

Latin Language
Not done by Mods IIB candidates
You must attempt EITHER (i) questions on accidence, syntax and style based on a selection of passages from the prescribed Anthology of Latin Prose Authors, ed. D. A. Russell, plus (ii) translation into Latin of a short passage of English, OR translation into Latin prose of a longer passage of English.

Optional Paper: Verse Composition or Additional Translation or Additional Translation and Metre
Available to all Mods candidates
This paper will consist of the following parts: you will be required to do (a) or (b).
(a) Passages for translation into Greek iambics and Latin elegiacs and hexameters, of which you will be required to translate one.
(b) Passages for translation into English from a range of texts not prescribed elsewhere in Mods (some of them less central and all of them challenging), and a question on metre; you will be required to attempt either three passages of translation, or two passages and the metre question.