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Classical Latin: the language of ancient Rome

This module combines a beginners’ course in Latin with the study of Roman culture and literature in translation. You'll learn the core principles of the language, reading texts adapted from Livy, and supported by specially designed online resources. Alongside the language, you'll explore a range of Latin texts in translation (including Livy, Virgil, Ovid, and Horace) from literary, cultural, and historical angles. The module focuses on the theme of ‘Roman identity and exemplarity’, considering Augustan culture’s preoccupation with identity, Rome’s origins, and exemplary stories from the past. You will also have the opportunity to reflect upon how translation affects our interpretation of ancient literature and culture. 

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU levels correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
2 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

This module provides an in-depth study of Roman culture and literature, focusing on the Augustan period (mid-first century BCE to early first century CE) and the works of authors such as Livy, Virgil, Ovid and Horace. Approximately half of your study time will be spent reading this literature in translation, and studying its historical and cultural contexts. The rest of your time will be devoted to studying Latin so that you can start to read and appreciate these texts in their original language.

The module assumes no prior knowledge of Latin and will start from beginner’s level. You'll begin to read Latin texts and learn the principles of Latin grammar using teaching materials which have been written especially for adult distance learners. From the outset, you will read short pieces of Latin adapted from Livy’s History of Rome. These texts will introduce you to some of the most fascinating and famous episodes of early Roman myth and history, from the story of Romulus and Remus to the war with Hannibal. Supported by careful explanations of the grammar and vocabulary, they will gradually increase in complexity.

You will also be set a variety of exercises and quizzes which will allow you to develop and test your understanding of Latin grammar and syntax. Some will be part of your print materials, while others will be accessed through our suite of online language learning tools which include interactive grammar quizzes, vocabulary testers and a ‘Story Explorer’. The module provides you with resources that cover all the key principles of Latin grammar, so that by the end of the module you should be able to read fairly complex texts.

Alongside the language you will explore further aspects of Augustan literature and culture in depth. In each study week you’ll read (in translation) extracts of Augustan literature to develop your skills in close reading and interpreting poetry and prose, as well as deepening your understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of the literature. The thematic focus of this literary and cultural study is on Roman identity and exemplarity. Taking a cue from the stories from Livy that you'll be translating, the module explores the ways in which Livy and his contemporary Augustan authors were preoccupied by the question of what it meant to be Roman. Augustan authors regularly used stories of Rome’s origins and early history to exemplify, and question, ideal models of Roman behaviour. This was partly in service to the new Augustan regime, which replaced the centuries-old Republican government with an emperor as sole ruler, and partly in reaction against it.

After laying down some foundations in Block 1, which focuses primarily on Livy, Blocks 2 and 3 will explore this theme in more depth. You will read and study excerpts from a diverse range of Augustan texts – including Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars, and the poetry of Horace and Propertius – alongside key examples of Augustan visual culture. Audio features and interviews with leading scholars in this area, will enhance your understanding of this theme.

Throughout the module you’ll also be encouraged to make connections between this literature and your study of the language. You’ll be carefully guided to look at bits of ‘real Latin’ from an early stage in the module, showing what can be gained from an awareness of the original language. At the same time, you’ll have the opportunity to reflect on the different challenges and opportunities faced by modern translators of Latin, and to think about the role that the Latin language continues to play in the modern world.

You will learn

You will gain a knowledge of the core grammar, vocabulary, and syntax of the Latin language. By exploring a range of Latin texts in translation you will gain skills in close reading and critical analysis, alongside an understanding of the historical and cultural context.

You will develop your ability to think logically and to communicate effectively in written English, and develop your digital and information literacy skills through a range of online activities and through assessed work.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Your tutor will use a blend of methods that may include online tutorials and moderated online discussion forums. This blend of methods is designed to help you benefit from tuition whatever your circumstances.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit some of your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). Your assignment booklet will tell you which method of submission you should use for each assignment.

The TMAs for this module test your progress with the Latin language and your understanding of literary and cultural topics (which you study in translation). Language-testing TMAs help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses: these combine short-answer questions with the translation of simple Latin stories into English, testing the skills you are taught in the module. Your understanding of the literary and cultural elements of the module are tested by short essays and ‘close reading’ questions requiring you to comment on short extracts of Latin prose and poetry (in translation). All of these areas will also be assessed in the exam at the end of the module.

Future availability

Classical Latin: the language of ancient Rome starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2021. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2026.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 2 module, which builds on the OU level 1 module Discovering the arts and humanities (A111), or The arts past and present (AA100) and Voices, texts and material culture (A105). (both now discontinued). These modules offer an introduction to the range of subjects in the arts and humanities. They will also help you to develop some of the skills which will be important for A276, such as logical thinking, clear expression, and the ability to construct an argument. Although we recommend that you study these modules before A276, an OU level 1 language module also provides suitable preparation. Although you don’t require any knowledge of the Latin language, this module does demand consistent work and commitment from the beginning, and an awareness of what is required in order to successfully study a language would be an advantage.
    If you have not studied at university level before, you are strongly advised to study at OU level 1 before progressing to OU level 2 study.
    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    The specially prepared interactive website, Introducing Classical Latin is recommended as preparatory work for this module. You may also find it useful to work through the Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin course on OpenLearn.


    Start End England fee Register
    02 Oct 2021 Jun 2022 -

    Registration now closed

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2026.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2022. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 28/09/2021.

    What's included

    You’ll be provided with three printed module books, each covering one block of study, along with a Readings and Resources Book, and a Language Reference Book. You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • module materials, including online versions of the printed books
    • audio materials, from interviews with experts in the field to audio versions of the Latin texts that you’ll be reading
    • innovative interactive online resources designed to support your language learning, including vocabulary and grammar tests and quizzes 
    • a Story Explorer to help you navigate the texts that you'll translate
    • assessment guide
    • access to online tutorials and forums.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Livy: Warrior, V.M. (trans.) The History of Rome Books 1-5 Hackett Publishing Company £14.99 - ISBN 9780872207233
    • Virgil: West, D. (trans.) The Aeneid Penguin £10.99 - ISBN 9780140449327

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying A276 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.