CLAS210 Ancient Literature
Department of Classics
Monmouth College

This course is primarily directed towards students desiring to meet the sophomore requirements for graduation under the appreciation component of Beauty and Meaning in Works of Art. It is a humanities course without prerequisites, designed for the average sophomore student of any major. Ancient Literature is also a unit in the Classics Triad course on literature and covers themes and subject matter of interest to the Classics major and other students interested in Classical antiquity and its place in Western civilization.

The Monmouth College catalogue gives the following description of courses that meet the appreciation component of Beauty and Meaning in Works of Art:

Works of art--achievements of the creative imagination in literature, music, art and theater--are among the supreme accomplishments of the human spirit. Other components of the program emphasize human beings in the group; here the central interest is the creations of individuals. Yet that interest is tempered by the recognition that great works of art seem to evoke a universal response.

Human beings have found in the arts ways to comprehend their world and to celebrate their creativity, to shape and give order to their experience of life, to express their most private feelings, and to affirm their sense of a universal human community. The arts transmit the wealth of the past to contemporary civilization and give promise of transmitting to the future the best of the present.

Ancient Literature focuses on different themes and literary genres each term it is taught. Sometimes the course focuses on a particular genres, such as epic, tragedy, comedy, lyric, satire and the novel. Other times the course combines these genres in an examination of particular themes, such as "Love and Marriage", "The Gender Gap" or "The Trickster in Literature." The course surveys examples of ancient Greek and Roman literature in translation and primarily considers the aesthetic form of these works. Each work is studied as the creative effort of an individual author in the context of his contemporary society. Course readings include not only examples ancient literature, but also other period texts which help place the work in historical and cultural context. Examples from contemporary painting, sculpture and architecture will also frequently be cited. Emphasis is on the multiple levels of meaning of a literary work--meaning from the perspective of the author, from his contemporary public, and from posterity. Some attention is also given to the influence of the ancient literature on the development of the modern literary forms. The development of Latin literature on the foundation of Greek forms naturally leads to discussion of its transformation in later periods. Consequently, some attention will be paid to more modern texts in order to show how these later authors adapt ancient literature to their own particular literary contexts and goals.

This material has been published on the web by Prof. Tom Sienkewicz for his students at Monmouth College. If you have any questions, you can contact him at

Return to Monmouth College Department of Classics Homepage