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Epic & Epyllion - Syllabus

Primary Set Texts in English for all students (essential reading)

  • Catullus Poems 63, 64, 65, 66, 68
  • Virgil Georgics 4
  • Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica
  • Ovid Metamorphoses

Recommended translations:

  • The Poems of Catullus, edited with an introduction, translation and brief notes by Guy Lee (Oxford World's Classics 1991)
  • Virgil Georgics, a new translation by Peter Fallon, with an introduction and notes by E. Fantham (Georgic 4 only) (Oxford World’s Classics 2006)
  • Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica. Titled by the publisher Jason and the Golden Fleece, translated with an introduction and explanatory notes by R. Hunter (Oxford World’s Classics 1995)
  • Ovid Metamorphoses, translated and with an introduction by Mary M. Innes (Penguin 1955)

All of you (even non-Latinists) should at least look at the Latin of the texts we are studying. The relevant texts (with facing translations) are all published by the Loeb Classical Library.



  • Catullus poems 63, 64, 65, 66 and 68: available in Catullus Poems 61-68 by John Godwin (Aris and Phillips 1995); Fordyce’s OUP commentary is easily available - more advanced but very good.
  • Virgil Georgic 4.315-567: there is a commentary by R. F. Thomas on Georgics 3 and 4 (Cambridge University Press 1988)
  • Ovid Metamorphoses 1.1-567: commentary by A.G. Lee (Bristol Classical Press 1984)
  • ps. Virgil, Culex: annotated text and translation in Virgil Volume II: Aeneid: Books 7-12. Appendix Vergiliana tr. H. Rushton Fairclough, ed. G.P. Goold, (Loeb Classical Library 2000) 404-38

These Latin texts are to be read in addition to the primary set texts in English above. The primary set texts in English subsume the Latin prescriptions ­– they should be read for comprehension of how the prescribed part in Latin fits into the whole text to which it belongs.



  • Homer Iliad
  • Homer Odyssey
  • Virgil Aeneid


Other epyllion texts include:

  • Callimachus Aetia, Hecale
  • Theocritus, Idylls
  • ps-Virgil, Ciris
  • Ovid, Fasti  
  • Statius, Achilleid
  • Claudian, De raptu Proserpinae



  • Pope, The Rape of the Lock
  • Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis; The Rape of Lucrece
  • Gongora Polyphemus and Galatea  


Clarification of programme of study for Latin students

Advice on Examination and Assessment

Essays (see above) — ensure that quotations from prescribed texts (and where appropriate non-prescribed texts) are given in Latin in all your essays.

Examination (see above) — quoting in Latin in examination answers is a hazardous business. It is safest to memorise a selection of useful phrases (3-5 words) from set authors to illustrate points. Although it is better not to quote at all than to misquote, essays which display familiarity with set texts in the original language give a very good impression.

Specific help for Latin students

Your lecturers fully appreciate that for second years or for third years coming in from the Virgil or Ovid or equivalent levels that the prescription for this course represents a significant increase in the amount of Latin required from you. This is the result of deliberate design: this module will ensure you acquire experience in reading Latin, without so much intensive guidance.

Thursday passages for class discussion will frequently concentrate on parts of the Latin prescription which you can read in advance. Take advantage of this opportunity to help your coverage of prescribed texts.

In addition, specific sessions will be arranged for coverage of the material in Latin, and you are welcome to contact the Module tutor in office hours with specific queries.


lectures and seminars

Autumn Term 2014

Week 1

Thurs 2 Oct: Outline of programme: Beginnings

Week 2

Lecture Mon 6 Oct: Alexandrian poetry: consequences for epic and origins of epyllion
Seminar Thurs 9. Oct: Epic, Epyllion and Genre

Week 3

Lecture Mon 13 Oct: Survey of Apollonius Argonautica
Seminar Thurs 16 OCT: Argonautica Book 3

Week 4

Lecture Mon 20 Oct: Introduction to Catullus
Seminar Thur 23 Oct: Making sense of Catullus 63

Week 5

Seminar Mon 27 Oct: Poems 65 and 66
Seminar Thur 30 Oct: Poetry and Content of Catullus 64



Lecture + Seminar Mon 10 Nov: Catullus 68 in relation to 63-6
Thur 13th Nov: no class

Week 8

Lecture Mon 17 Nov: Epic, Epyllion, Eclogues 1, 4, 6 and Georgics

Seminar Thu 20 Nov: The Aristaeus Epyllion in Georgic 4Week 9

Week 9

Lecture Mon 24 Nov: Hellenistic epyllion, didactic, and aetiology

Seminar Thu 27 Nov: Influence of Hellenistic epyllia on Roman poetry

Week 10

Mon 1 Dec: Essay returns

Thu 4 Dec: Consolidation. Vacation briefing; next essay topic.

Spring Term 2015

Week 1

Lecture Thur 8 Jan: Introduction to Ovid

Week 2

Lecture Mon 12 Jan: How to read the Met: Structure & overview of Bk 1
Seminar Thurs. 15 Jan Met. 8: Daedalus and Icarus

Week 3

Lecture Mon 19 Jan: Art of the Met: Tristia 1.8, Arachne, Iphis
Seminar Thur 22 Jan: Art in the Met.: Narcissus, Pygmalion

Week 4

Lecture Mon 26 Jan: Ovid, Virgil and Rome
Seminar Thur 29 Jan Genre and parody in the Metamorphoses: Orpheus

Week 5

Lecture Mon 2 Feb: Culex
Seminar Thur 5 Feb Ciris, Ovid Met. 7- 8 and Catullus 64

[Week 6: READING WEEK 9-14 February

Week 7 SECOND ESSAY DUE: Wed 18 February

Lecture Mon 16h Feb Use of myth and allegory in poetry
Seminar Thurs 19 Feb *Myth in Latin didactic: Manilius and Lucretius

Week 8

Lecture Mon 23 Feb: Epic and epyllion after Ovid
Seminar Thurs 26 Feb *Claudian De raptu Proserpinae

Week 9

Lecture Mon 2 March: Reception of epyllion
Week 9 Thurs 5 March [No meeting]

Week 10 Mon 9 March Essay returns

Aetiological Poetry (Callimachus, Propertius, Ovid)

Summer Term 2015

Weeks 1-2 Revision classes