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Art and Archaeology of Classical Greece - 20 credits (HS2389)

Staff: Ruth Westgate, James Whitley

This module is concerned with the art and archaeology of Classical Greece (479–323 BC) and with the questions that arise from the study of these material remains. The emphasis is on Classical cities (particularly Athens), and on how archaeology can help to improve our understanding of this crucial moment in Greek history. The module also endeavours to combine traditional topics (e.g. sculpture, architecture, vase-painting) and modern concerns (e.g. gender and the household; burial and society; survey, landscape and the countryside).

Optional for: all Archaeology and Ancient History degrees
Availability: autumn and spring semesters in alternate years
Teaching: 20 lectures, 3 seminars and a field trip to the British Museum
Assessment: one essay (50%) and one 2-hour examination (50%)

Syllabus content

  • the development of monumental architecture, sculpture and vase-painting in the Classical period
  • developments in town-planning and domestic architecture, and their relationship to social and political ideologies, such as democracy and gender
  • public space and collective activities in the Classical city
  • sanctuaries and religious practices in Classical Greece
  • burial and society
  • landscape, agriculture and the economy
  • regional differences between Athens/Attica and other parts of the Greek Mediterranean


  • To acquire an understanding of the material remains from Classical Greece, including sanctuaries, cities and the countryside
  • To acquire a critical awareness of the art and archaeology of Classical Greece and the debates that surround the interpretation of these remains.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, the student will demonstrate:

  • a knowledge of the archaeological evidence of Classical date from excavations and from surveys.
  • an understanding and appreciation of the art of the period.
  • a knowledge of the literary sources relevant to monuments and works of art.
  • an understanding of the various debates that surround the interpretation of the art and archaeology of Classical Greece.
  • an ability to evaluate the relevance of various kinds of archaeological and artistic evidence with reference to these debates.
  • an appreciation of the kinds of problems encountered when trying to interpret archaeological evidence and ancient art.
  • an ability to discuss these issues in written work with coherent and logical arguments, clearly and correctly expressed.

Preliminary reading

R. Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art (1998)
R. Osborne, Classical Landscape with Figures (1987)
J. J. Pollitt, Art and Experience in Classical Greece (1972)
J. J. Pollitt, The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents (1990)
A. Stewart, Classical Greece and the Birth of Western Art (2008)
J. Whitley, The Archaeology of Ancient Greece (2001)

Related modules

Prerequisite modules: HS2102 Archaeology of the Greek and Roman World or HS3101 Introduction to Ancient Greek History

Other modules to consider taking in conjunction with this one:

HS2386 Art and Archaeology of Archaic Greece

HS3314 Expansion and Conflict in the Greek Poleis

HS3315 Kingdoms, Cities and Hellenization

HS3330 Gods and the Polis

HS3371 Athens in the Age of Demosthenes and Lykourgos

HS4356 Hellenistic Art and Architecture