Course Name

Canonicity: Highlights from Greek literature




5/6 EC

Course date

semester 2 (2022-2023)

Registration open until

24/10/2022 - 08/01/2023




Tazuko van Berkel (Leiden) en André Lardinois (Radboud)

E-mail Contact

T.A. van Berkel (Leiden)

Course objectives


Widening of knowledge of Greek literature; introduction to new genres (including peculiarities of the language); training in independent reading of literature in the original language and exploring new genres.


Course content

What do the Pythagorean Theorem, the Hippocratic Oath and the Sermon on the Mount have in common? They are ubiquitously considered canonical, they are known in other disciplines – in fact, non-classicists are likely to mention them when you tell them you study classics. But you, identifying as a classicist, having read Sophocles and Plato, knowing everything there is to know about Homeric similes, have never actually read these canonical texts in the original language. And you feel you actually should.

Does this describe you? Come join us in this reading course, where we will explore canonical texts and genres that are rarely read in standard curricula: the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Euripides’ Cyclops (the only surviving satyr play!), Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe, the Pythagorean Theorem in Euclid’s Elements, the Hippocratic Oath and other samples from the mysterious Hippocratic corpus, the Sermon on the Mount and other highlights from the New Testament.

You will get to know these texts and genres, their linguistic and stylistic peculiarities, develop your reading skills and reflect on the question: what makes these texts canonical? In an excursion to the Leiden University Library we will also have the opportunity to see some medieval and early modern manuscripts of the texts that we read (amongst which the only surviving text witness of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter!) and acquire some understanding of the complex transmission and reception history of these texts.

Six core texts from Greek literature that are not in the BA curriculum.

1. Homeric Hymn to Demeter

2. The Pythagorean theorem (Euclides)

3. Euripides, Cyclops

4. The Oath of Hippocrates; the Sacred Disease

5. New Testament: the Sermon on the Mount; Acts/Pauline Epistle

6. Longus, Daphnis & Chloe


Written Exam 100%
on campus UU date: 11/6/23


UvA and VU
UvA/VU-students who need 6 ECTS will read more source texts and secondary literature (1 ECTS)This must be determined with your lecturer in week 1.

Background Literature and Course Materials

Reader met de Hymne aan Demeter, Stelling van Pythagoras, Corpus Hippocraticum, selectie NT; D.M. Simmonds & R.R. Timberlake (ed.), Euripides. The Cyclops, Bristol 1927; E. Bowie (ed.), Longus. Daphnis & Chloe, Cambridge 2019

Reader ca. 15 euro; Bowie 39 euro; Simmonds 24 euro

Further information

Friday mornings 11:00 -14:00

6 x 3 hours: 1 hour lecture + 2 hours seminar / responses (lecture + questions; discussions of the Greek)

10/02/23 online  
24/02/23 on campus UU Janskerkhof 15A – 106
17/03/23 online
31/03/23 on campus UU Janskerkhof 15A – 106
14/04/23 on campus UU Janskerkhof 15A – 106
28/04/23 on campus UU Janskerkhof 15A – 106
26/05/23 on campus UU (written exam) Drift 13 – 003

TBA:  excursion Leiden University Manuscript Collection