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Ancient Historiography

5. History and Poetry

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In this module, we think about the appearance of history in poetry, focusing in particular on: (i) the fact that Homer writes about what almost all Greeks would have considered a historical event – the Trojan War; (ii) the extent to which Herodotus and Thucydides articulate the difference between history and myth; (iii) the central importance of Roman history in Virgil’s Aeneid; (iv) the fact that both Virgil and Livy conceive of Roman history as a series of exemplary figures; (v) the influence of Cicero’s De Consulatu Suo (‘On his consulship’) on Virgil’s presentation of Roman history in the Aeneid; (vi) Ovid’s engagement with Roman history in his Metamorphoses; (vii) Lucan’s engagement with Roman history in his Pharsalia; and (viii) the importance of national identity in ancient historical writing.


In this course, Professor Matthew Fox (University of Glasgow) provides a broad introduction the writing of history (or ‘historiography’) in the Greek and Roman world. In the first module, we think about some of the key issues when approaching ancient historical writing, including the idea of the purpose of history and the main differences between how history is written today and how it was written in the ancient world. After that, in the second module, we turn to the works of Herodotus and Thucydides, their similarities and differences, and the impact on later historiography. In the third module, we turn to the evolution of historical writing in the Roman world from Sallust to Tacitus, before moving on in the fourth module to consider the important of rhetoric in ancient historiography. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the presence of history in the poetry of the ancient world, including Homer, Virgil, Ovid and Lucan.


Matthew Fox is Professor of Classics at Glasgow University. His research focuses on ancient historical thinking, and on how both Romans and Greeks used history as a medium for reflection. His publications include Roman Historical Myths: the Regal Period in Augustan Literature (1996) and Cicero's Philosophy of History (2007).

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APA style

Fox, M. (2020, October 26). Ancient Historiography - History and Poetry [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Fox, M. "Ancient Historiography – History and Poetry." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Oct 2020,

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