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LATIN 461 A: Latin Literature of the Republic

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
* *
Alain M. Gowing

Syllabus Description:

Latin 461: Latin Literature of the Republic -- Caesar, Lucretius, and Civil War

Autumn Quarter 2020 -- TTh 2:30-4:20 PM (see note) -- taught online

5 credits ** satisfies VLPA

NOTE: In accordance with current UW guidelines, this class will be taught online via Zoom, with meeting times as scheduled (TTh 2:30-4:20 PM).  Click HERE for the Zoom link (active for each TTh class session).

Professor A. M. Gowing
Office: Denny M262C
Phone: 543-2266 (Dept. of Classics)

Autumn Quarter Office hours (by Zoom):

Mondays 11 AM -12 PM, Wednesdays 11 AM-12 PM; and by appointment

Use THIS LINK to reach me by Zoom during my M and W office hours (Links to an external site.); email me if you need to make a different appointment (or if you have trouble initiating this Zoom meeting!)

Course description: Although not typically mentioned in the same breath, Lucretius (ca. 99 BC – 55 BC or later) and Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) were contemporaries and both major, late Republican authors. They are, moreover, linked by a common interest: civil strife.  In this class we will pursue this theme via readings in the first few weeks of the quarter in Lucretius’ poem, the De Rerum Natura (pub. early to mid- 50s BC), focusing especially on Book 5’s description of the ‘real world’, its history, and its degeneration. The second half of the quarter will be devoted to readings in Caesar’s account of the civil war between himself and Pompey the Great, focusing in particular on selections from Books 1-2 of the Bellum Civile and the so-called ‘Curio tragedy’ in Bk. 2 (pub. after 46 BC).  Among other issues, we will consider in what ways Lucretius’ poem intersects with or illuminates Caesar’s account of the civil war, the seeds of which had already been planted when Lucretius began his poem and which the poem itself may anticipate…and fear. 

Please note that this is an advanced-level Latin class.  It's my expectation that you will be comfortable reading Latin at an advanced level.  If you are in doubt, please ask (

Required TextsPlease make sure you have these texts (i.e., no will need to have these particular editions):

1) Gale, M.R., ed.  Lucretius. De Rerum Natura Book V.  Aris & Phillips 2015 (Oxbow reprint).

2) Carter, J.M., ed.  Julius Caesar: The Civil War Books I & II.  Aris & Phillips 2003.

Grading (tentative plan): 

1) general preparation (25%)...this means regular attendance to the degree you are able and, most importantly, being prepared.

2) Midterm and Final quizzettini, each worth 25%

3) Paper of 3-5 pages in length (submitted through Canvas), due on or by Wednesday, Dec. 16.  Details HERE.

Important UW policy-related things to know:

  • The UW's Religious Accommodations Policy: “Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (Links to an external site.). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (Links to an external site.).”
  • The UW's Student Conduct Code: "The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at" (Links to an external site.)
  • Access and Accommodation: Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

    If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or  (Links to an external site.)DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS.  It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

  • Academic Integrity: University of Washington students are expected to practice high standards of academic and professional honesty and integrity as outlined here: (Links to an external site.)


  • This is very  rough schedule of what I want us to read and when...we may well not get through all of every assignment, and on occasion we may go beyond an assignment, but that's OK.  It is important, however, that you come prepared to ask questions about anything assigned, even if we don't translate it in class or it's something you may have read that wasn't assigned.
  • We are reading relatively small portions of both Lucretius DRN and Caesar's Bellum Civile.  I do encourage you to try and read all of Lucretius in English translation; and ditto for any parts of the Caesar we do not read in Latin.  
  • I shall have some words of wisdom about how to use our texts -- to address the elephant in the room, I know there's a facing English translation.  I shall encourage you to use that judiciously...and, more enthusiastically, encourage you to read the commentary on a regular basis. 

Week 1: On to Lucretius!

Oct. 1: Introduction  (you might want to read, if not for today, then eventually, Gale's Introduction (pp. 1-15)

Week 2: 

6: Lucretius, DRN Book 1.1-49; Book 5.925-52 (eventually you will want to read lines 1-924 in English)

NB: See my preliminary announcement (9/28) for information on how to access the Latin text of Book 1.

8: DRN 5.953-1027

Week 3:

13: DRN 5.1028-77

15: DRN 5.1078-1135

Week 4:

20: DRN 5.1136-82

22: DRN 5.1183-1235

Week 5:

27: 5.1236-1285

29: 5.1286-1340

Week 6: 

Nov. 3: 1340-1457; Quizzettino #1 available, due 11/10

On to Caesar!

Nov. 5: Caesar Bellum Civile 1.1-6; read Carter's Introduction 1-29. 

Week 7:

10: BC 1.7-15

12: BC 1.16-23

Week 8

17: BC 1.24-33

19: BC 1.34-87 in English and 2.1-22 in English; 2.23-28 in Latin

Week 9:

24: 2.29-33


Week 10:

Dec. 1:  2.34-36

3: 2.37-44

Week 11:

8: catching/mopping up (I am pretty sure we'll need to do this!)

10: Grand finale: read in English Book 3.72; 85-101 (battle of Pharsalus); 102-106 (death of Pompey);

Final quizzettino (available as of 12/10) and paper due on or by Wednesday, 12/16

Catalog Description: 
Readings and discussion of selected authors from the era of the Roman Republic.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
June 28, 2020 - 9:20pm