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Voices of the Past: The Hidden History of the Ancient World

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The traditional story of ancient history focuses on the rise and fall of the empires of Greece and Rome, and the successes of extraordinary male rulers, who were ideally military leaders with a catalogue of victories in battle.

The achievements of empire are often seen positively, but we see less of their impact in terms of expansion, conquest and the military subjugation of foreign people. This module explores an alternative history of the ancient world, considering the experience of marginalised people, particularly in Greece and Rome. We will look for the other side of empire: the victims of expansion whose lives were dominated, threatened or ended by the reach of imperial power.

In what ways is it possible to hear the voices of the oppressed – women, slaves, disabled people, children, criminals, and the poor – in a history written almost exclusively by elite male victors? Participants will be introduced to modern ideas about empire and its aftermath, and learn how surviving written sources can be supplemented through analysis of material evidence, enabling us to explore not only the experience but also the representation of marginalised people in the ancient world.

This course is for anyone with an interest in ancient history and the enthusiasm to take that interest further. It operates as part of the Exploring the Past pathway, and will equip you with the knowledge, understanding and skills that will help you to study other courses in the pathway.

Learning and teaching

This course consists of nine units divided into themes. Each unit comprises of 2-hour face-to-face sessions. These sessions will include lectures, class discussions and group-work, source analysis activities and exercises to develop your academic skills. There will also be an opportunity for learning outside of the classroom, facilitated by the university’s Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Central.

Coursework and assessment

Students will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work: a 500-word source analysis and a 1,000-word essay. Advice and support will be provided for both assignments and you will receive detailed feedback relating to strengths and areas for improvement on both pieces of work.

Reading suggestions

  • E. D’Ambra, Roman Women (Cambridge, 2006)
  • V. Dasen, Dwarfs in Ancient Egypt and Greece (Oxford, 1993)
  • S. Fass (ed.), The Routledge History of Childhood in the Western World (London, 2013)
  • R.C. Knapp, Invisible Romans: Prostitutes, Outlaws, Slaves, Gladiators, Ordinary Men and Women — the Romans that History Forgot (London, 2013)
  • L. James, S. Dillon, A Companion to Women in the Ancient World (Chichester, 2012)
  • C. Laes, Children in the Roman Empire (Cambridge, 2011)
  • J. Mattingly, Imperialism, Power, and Identity: Experiencing the Roman Empire (Princeton, 2011)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.


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