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The Epistolary Genre in Rome

Code: 104202 ECTS Credits: 6
Degree Type Year Semester
2503702 Ancient Studies OB 3 1
2504394 English and Classics Studies OB 3 1


Joan Carbonell Manils

Use of Languages

Principal working language:
catalan (cat)
Some groups entirely in English:
Some groups entirely in Catalan:
Some groups entirely in Spanish:


The linguistic knowledge learnt in the first-year and second-year subjects, specially in "Historiografia i Oratòria Llatines" are taken for granted, and will not be explained again.

To attend this subject it is highly recommended to have passed "Historiografia i Oratoria Llatines".


Objectives and Contextualisation

After taking the course, students will be able to:

  1. Apply quick comprehension techniques of a Latin text with the help of the dictionary.     
  2. Understand a Latin prose (eventually in vers) text (1st-2nd centuries aD)  without using the dictionary.     
  3. Translate a text in prose epistolary form up to 20 lines in a 1.30h.
  4. Make a grammatical, metric and stylistic commentar about a latin text written in epitolary form.
  5. Resolve issues about authors studied and their works and context .
  6. Associate the content of texts translated in class with aspects of its reception & subsequent tradition.



    Ancient Studies
  • Apply grammatical knowledge acquired in the analysis and comprehension of Latin and Greek texts.
  • Be able to express oneself orally and in writing in the specific language of history, archaeology and philology, both in one's own languages and a third language.
  • Interpret texts written in Latin and Greek to understand the history and Classical civilisations.
  • Interrelate linguistic, historical and archaeological knowledge of the ancient world with knowledge of other areas of the humanities, mainly ancient literature, philosophy and art.
  • Make a commentary on a literary texts applying knowledge of genres, metrics and stylistics.
    English and Classics Studies
  • Apply the methodology of analysis and knowledge of genres, metrics and stylistics to comment on literary texts and analyse the culture and history of English-speaking countries and the ancient world.
  • Demonstrate grammatical knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages and its application to the analysis and comprehension of Greek and Latin texts.
  • Identify and interpret literary texts of different languages, analysing the generic, formal, thematic and cultural features according to concepts and methods of comparative literature and literary theory.
  • Interpret written texts in Latin and Greek to learn about classical history and civilizations.
  • Interrelate linguistic and historical knowledge of the ancient world with knowledge of other fields of the humanities, mainly literature and archaeology.
  • Produce effective written work or oral presentations adapted to the appropriate register in distinct languages.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Analyze the morphosyntactic components of a Latin text identifying those are specific of a literary genre or a particular linguistic variant.
  2. Explain the gist of a text without any need for a prior morpho-syntactic analysis or the use of a dictionary.
  3. Extract information from the Greek and Latin texts on aspects of realia especially related to their historical and cultural context.
  4. Extract information from the Latin texts on aspects of realia especially related to their historical and cultural context.
  5. Identify in the Latin texts the characteristics of a particular literary genre.
  6. Preparing an oral and written discourse in the corresponding language in a proper and organized way.
  7. Recognise the themes and clichés contained in the Latin works being studied in the European literary and artistic traditions.
  8. Recognise the themes and topics emanating from the Greek works studied in the European literary and artistic traditions.
  9. Translate fragments of the Latin works proposed.
  10. Translate fragments of the proposed Latin works.
  11. Use rapid text-comprehension techniques based on the semantic resources provided by a knowledge of Catalan, Spanish and, where appropriate, other Romance languages.
  12. Use rapid text-comprehension techniques based on the semantic resources provided by the knowledge of Catalan, Spanish and, where necessary, other Romance languages.
  13. Write a morpho-syntactic commentary on a Latin text.
  14. Write a stylistic commentary on a Latin text.


I. The epistolary genre in Rome

1. The epistolary genre in antiquity. Limits and definition. 'Letter' vs. 'epistle'.

2. The epistolary genre in Rome. Stages, characteristics, and authors.

3. The letters before Cicero. Cornelia to her son Caius Gracus.

4. Cicero's letters, a personal diary.

5. The epistles in verse.

    5.1. Horace. Literary epistles.

    5.2. Ovid. Fiction (Heroidum epistulae) vs. reality (Tristia and ex Ponto)

6. The Epistles of Pliny the Younger. Naturality vs. facticity

7. The Epistles of Seneca. A didactic-moral correspondence.

II. Anthology of texts

Cornelia to her son Caius Gracus (C. Nepos, de viris illustribus fragmenta 1)


          Ad familiares 2, 4 (Kinds of letters)

          Ad familiares 9, 1 (The friendship of books)

          Ad familiares 9, 21 (The colloquial Latin)

          Ad familiares 14, 19-24 (Everyday issues)

          Ad Atticum 1, 2 (Fatherhood. Catilina)

          Ad Atticum 3, 5 (In exile)

          Ad Atticum 4, 1 (Triumphal Return from Exile)

          Ad Atticum 15, 15 (Hate for Cleopatra)

Horace, Ad Pisones (excerpts)


         Heroidum epistulae, 7 (Dido to Eneas. Excerpts)

         Tristia 3, 7 (Letter to an unknown poetess)

Pliny the Younger, Epistularum libri decem

1, 6 (Hunting with writing instruments)

1, 15 (Invitation to dinner)

3.1 (A normal day)

7, 5 (Love for Calpurnia)

7, 27 (Story of a Ghost)

9, 7 (The villae of Lake Como)

10, 96 (Christians)

6, 16 (The eruption of Vesuvius)

Seneca, Ad Lucillium epistulae morales

1, 7 (Secluded life)

1, 8 (True Freedom)

 III. Grammar

Students must have assimilated the linguistic contents of the previously studied subjects of “Latin Philology" in the first and second courses. Grammar will focus on:

  •     the syntax of cases (infrequent and / or singular uses)
  •     the syntax of the complex sentence, especially the completive and adverbial subordinate clauses (causal, conditional, concessive, final, and comparative sentences)
  •     the consecutio temporum
  •     ways of expressing purpose
  •     the indirect style
  •     nominal uses of the participle

IV. Prosody and stylistics

  •     The elegiac couplet
  •     Rhetorical figures

V. Reception and tradition of authors and texts

In this subject, gender perspective will be taken into account in the following aspects:

  1. Including contents of both a general nature (role of women in the Roman society of the 1st century BC) as specific (female senders and recipients).
  2. Not allowing a sexist use of language in the students’ oral and written contributions.
  3. Guaranteeing in the classroom an atmosphere respectful with the diversity and plurality of ideas, people and politics.
  4. Avoiding gender stereotypes in examples.
  5. Writing, in the references, the full names of authors, instead of only the initial.



The classes will be eminently practical. The professor will dedicate time to:

  • Read, translate and comment on the proposed selection of texts.
  • Provide students with mechanisms that allow them to progressively increase the volume of translated text.
  • Read and understand texts in sight without the use of the dictionary.
  • Correct the texts translated daily by students.
  • Discuss the linguistic, literary and sociocultural content of translated texts, with a singular emphasis on aspects related to their later tradition.
  • Explain the grammatical, metrical and stylistic contents based on the text.
  • Explain de realia contents that help contextualise the text.
Students will have to use a bilingual university dictionary; they will not be allowed to use a school dictionary

Annotation: Within the schedule set by the centre or degree programme, 15 minutes of one class will be reserved for students to evaluate their lecturers and their courses or modules through questionnaires.


Title Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Type: Directed      
Reading comprehension 4 0.16 6, 2, 11, 9, 10, 12
Theoretical contents 6 0.24 5, 8, 7
Translation & comentary of texts 40 1.6 1, 14, 13, 6, 3, 4, 5, 8, 7, 9, 10
Type: Supervised      
Exercies of prosody and translation 5 0.2 14, 3, 4, 5, 8, 7
Reading comprehension and morphosintactical exercises 5 0.2 1, 13, 6, 2, 11, 12
Type: Autonomous      
Daily translation exercices 45 1.8 1, 13, 6, 11, 9, 10, 12
Required readings 15 0.6 3, 4, 8, 7
Study of lexicon & grammar 15 0.6 1, 14, 13



I. Assessment

The final grade will be calculated as follows:

  • Final exam (50%). Translation and commentary of a passage not previous commented in class (up to 20 lines)
  • Midterm (15%). Translation of a short passage (up to 10 lines) not previous commented in class.
  • Homework and/or in-class exercises (20%)
  • Translation and commentary of a passage previous commented in class (10%)
  • Active participation in class (5%)

II. Please note:

  1. The delivery of 2 of the assessment items (assignments / exercises / exams) excludes the possibility of obtaining the status of No avaluable as a final course grade.
  2. To obtain the status Pass as a final course grade is obligatory:
  • Having done the final exam and obtaining ≥ 4.
  • Having completed 75% of homework and class exercises

III: Reassessment

For the Re-assessment the following conditions are applicable:

  • The student must previously have obtained an average overall grade equal to or higher than 3.5.
  • The student must previously have been evaluated for activities that equal to 2/3 parts of the final grade.
  • The student will only can do a content-synthesis test (= 50%).

IV. Calendar of assigments:

  • Midterm exam. Tuesday 25-10-2022
  • Final exam. Friday 13-01-2023
  • Translation and commentary of a passage previous commented in class. Tuesday 10-01-2023

V. Procedure for Reviewing Grades Awarded

On carrying out each evaluation activity, lecturers will inform students of the procedures to be followed for reviewing all grades awarded, and the date on which such a review will take place.

VI. Plagiarism and copying

In the event of a student committing any irregularity that may lead to a significant variation in the grade awarded to an assessment activity, the student will be given a zero for this activity, regardless of any disciplinary process that may take place. In the event of several irregularities in assessment activities of the same subject, the student will be given a zero as the final grade for this subject.



Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Active participation in class 5% 2 0.08 1, 6, 2, 3, 11, 5, 12
House or in-class exercices 20% 7 0.28 1, 13, 2, 11, 9, 10, 12
Translation and commentary of a passage previous commented in class 10% 3 0.12 1, 14, 13, 6, 3, 4, 5, 8, 7, 9, 10
Translation of a fragment not previously commented in class (up to 20 lines) 50% 2 0.08 1, 14, 6, 3, 4, 5, 8, 7, 9, 10, 12
Translation of a short passage not previous commented in class (up to 10 lines) 15% 1 0.04 14, 6, 11, 9, 10, 12



ANTÓN MARTÍNEZ, Beatriz, “La epistolografía romana: Cicerón, Séneca y Plinio”, en Helmantica 142-143 (1996), pp. 105-148. 

CASTILLO, Carmen, “La epístola corno género literario de la Antigüedad a la Edad Media Latina”, en EClás 18 (1984), pp. 427-442. 

CUGUSI, Paolo, “L'epistolografía: Modelli e tipologie di communicazione”, en Lo spazio letterario di Roma antica (dir. G. Cavallo, P. Fedeli, A. Giardina), Roma, II, 1989, pp. 379-419.

GÓMEZ PALLARÉS, Joan, “Epistolografía”, en Studiosa Roma. Los géneros literarios en la Antigüedad en la cultura romana, Barcelona, UAB, pp. 203-216.

MUÑOZ MARTÍN, Mª Nieves, Teoría epistolar y concepción de la carta en Roma, Granada, 1985. 

SCARPAT, G., “L'epistolografia”, en Introduzione allo Studio della Cultura Classica, Milano, I (1972) 473-512. 



BAÑOS BAÑOS, José Miguel (ed.), Cierón. Correspondencia con su hermano Quinto. Alianza, Madrid 2003. 

BEAUJEU, Jean (ed.- trad.), Cicéron. Correspondance, Belles Lettres, Paris 1969. 

BELTRÁN CEBOLLADA, José Antonio, Cicerón. Cartas III: Cartas a los familiares 1-173, Gredos, Madrid 2008.  

CARCOPINO, Jerôme, Les secrets de la correspondance de Cicéron, Paris 1957, 2 vols. (= 1947).

MAGALLÓN GARCÍA, Ana Isabel, Cartas IVCartas a los familiaresII, Madrid, 2008. 

RODRÍGUEZ-PANTOJA, Miguel, CartasI. Cartas a Ático (cartas 1-161D), Gredos, Madrid 1996.  

RODRÍGUEZ-PANTOJA, Miguel, Cartas II. Cartas a Ático (162-426), Gredos, Madrid 2008.

SHACKLETON BAILEY, David Roy (ed.), M. TulliCiceronis Epistulae ad Atticum IX-XVI), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1961.

SHUCKBURGH, E. S., Letters of Cicero, Hoboken, N.J.: Generic NL Freebook Publisher, [s. d. Disponible a: [http://search.ebscohost.com.are.uab.cat/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=2008443&site=eds-live]

WATT, William Smith (ed.), M. Tulli Ciceronis Epistulae ad familiares, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1965.

WATT, William Smith (ed.), M. Tulli Ciceronis Epistulae ad Atticum (I-VIII), Oxford University Press, Oxford 1982.

WHITE, Peter, Cicero in Letters: Epistolary Relations of the Late Republic, 2010. 



AUBRION, Etienne, "La correspondance de Pline le Jeune," in H. Temporini and W. Haase (eds.), Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, II.33.1, 1989, pp.  304-74.

BERGMANN, Bettina, "Visualizing Pliny's Villas," in Journal of Roman Archaeology 8, 1995, pp.  406-420.

BRUÈRE, Richard T., "Tacitus and Pliny's Panegyricus", in CP 49, 1929, pp. 161-179.

GONZÁLEZ FERNÁNDEZ, Julián (trad.), Plinio el Joven. Cartas, Gredos, Madrid 2005. 

GRIFFIN, Mariam T. 1999. "Pliny and Tacitus," SCI 18, pp. 139-158, 1999.

MYNORS, Roger Aubrey Baskerville (ed.), Plini Caecilii Secundi Epistularum libri decem,  Oxford University Press, Oxford 1963.

OLIVAR, Marçal (ed.-tr.), Plini el Jove. Lletres, Fundació Bernat Metge, Barcelona 1927.

SHERWIN-WHITE, Adrian Nicholas, The Letters of Pliny. A Historical and Social Commentary, Oxford, 1966. 



CARDÓ, Carles (ed.-trad.), Lletres a Lucili, Fundació Bernat Metge, Barcelona 1928, 4 vols. 

LANA, Italo, “Le "Lettere a Lucilio" nella letteratura epistolare”, en Sénèque et la prose latine (dir. P. Orirnal), Vandoeuvres-Genève 1991, 253-311. 

MAZZOLI, G., “Le "Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium" di Seneca”, ANRW II.36.3 (1989), pp. 1823-1877. 

REYNOLDS, Leighton Durham (ed.), L. Anaei Senecae ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1965, 2 vols.

REYNOLDS, Leighton DurhamThe medieval tradition of Seneca's Letters, Oxford 1965. 

ROCA MELIÁ, Ismael (trad.), Séneca. Epístolas morales a Lucilio, Madrid 1986. 

SOCAS, Francisco (trad.), Cartas a Lucilio, Cátedra, Madrid 2018.