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Reading classical Latin

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This beginner’s module in reading classical Latin introduces you to key vocabulary and the basics of Latin grammar, as you work towards tackling original texts on your own – such as passages from Roman drama and Cicero’s famous speeches. The language is taught in its historical and cultural context, complementing your studies with an awareness of Roman society and literature. No previous knowledge of Latin is needed, but you’re strongly advised to familiarise yourself with grammatical terms in English beforehand – a preparatory booklet is available. Reading about Roman civilisation is also a helpful and enjoyable way to gain a cultural background to the module.

Modules at Level 2 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.

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This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2013.

What you will study

This module introduces the vocabulary, grammar and language structures needed to study Latin passages. You will progress from basic to more complex grammatical exercises which tease out the constructions you are meeting in your texts. Much of your time will be devoted to studying passages adapted from real texts so that you gain a sense of the structure and style of Latin sentences. You begin by reading passages adapted from the second-century-BCE comic playwright Plautus. Towards the end of the module, however, you’ll begin to read adapted extracts from the legal speeches which shot Cicero to fame: namely his prosecution of the Roman governor Verres (first century BCE).

The module is also a useful introduction to the history and society of the Roman Republic and explores terms, concepts and figures that appear in Exploring the classical world (A219) and the Level 3 module Myth in the Greek and Roman worlds (A330).

The study materials make the language as accessible as possible for the distance learner and no prior experience of language learning is assumed. The book around which this module is based, Reading Latin: Grammar Vocabulary and Exercises (GVE), provides you with steady support throughout your studies and plenty of opportunities to reinforce the vocabulary and grammatical concepts you meet. The exercises will help you familiarise yourself with word endings and Latin sentence structure. The Study Guide is a purpose-written tutorial text designed as a companion to GVE. For example, it suggests a range of strategies for learning vocabulary and getting to grips with grammatical forms and structures. The Study Guide provides answers to the exercises and English translations of all the Latin passages.

The book of texts, Reading Latin: Text, contains a brief introduction to the Roman world and the life of Plautus. The passages that follow, which are based on scenes from three of his plays, provide you with extensive practice at reading Latin and an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the language’s basic structure. Section four moves on to the volatile political situation of Cicero’s day and introduces you to passages based on his prosecution speeches against Gaius Verres. The assignments test the grammar you meet in these four sections and give you an important opportunity to evaluate your progress as you work through the module.

The Reading Latin books and the Study Guide have regular discussions on features of Roman culture that are bound to arise from a lively engagement with the language. The survival of so many Latin words, terms and phrases in modern languages is just one aspect of Latin's cultural continuum.

Two audio CDs give you an opportunity to listen to Latin and to practise pronunciation yourself. You’re also taken through a piece of Latin poetry to demonstrate the way in which Latin’s flexible word order can be manipulated in the hands of a skilful poet – a taster of the richness of Latin literature that awaits you if you continue your study at Level 3.

This module should certainly set you on the path to reading unadapted Latin in a variety of genres. The follow-on module, Continuing classical Latin (A397), will allow you to take your study of Latin to the next level and to read a broad range of Latin texts in the original. Because the study materials offer a wide range of subject matter drawn from the long history and broad geographical spread of the Latin language, Reading classical Latin has a truly cosmopolitan appeal.


This is a Level 2 module and builds on the Level 1 modules The arts past and present (AA100), Voices and texts (A150) and Making sense of things: an introduction to material culture (A151). These Level 1 modules develop skills such as logical thinking, clear expression, essay writing and the ability to select and interpret relevant materials. They also offer an introduction to a range of subjects in the arts and humanities.

If you have not studied at university level before, you are strongly advised to study at Level 1 before progressing to Level 2 study.

Your regional or national centre can advise you on where you can see reference copies of Level 1 study materials. Some are also available from Open University Worldwide Ltd. We particularly recommend looking at these materials if you have not successfully completed Level 1 study or studied at an equivalent level elsewhere.

Although you do not require any knowledge of the Latin language, this module does demand consistent work and commitment from the beginning. If you have experience of learning an ancient language you will be aware that regular study sessions are the only way to gain and retain a reading knowledge of the language.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

If you would like our preparatory leaflet, please send an A4, self-addressed envelope without a stamp  to the A297 Curriculum Manager, Faculty of Arts, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA.


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

If you have a disability

Sample pages of text are available from the A297 Curriculum Manager, at the address above. The study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Written transcripts are available for the audio material. The written study material is available in comb-bound format. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

Books, other printed materials, audio CDs, website.

You will need

CD player.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2007 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.6 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

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. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service 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 submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2013 when it will be available for the last time. It will be replaced by Classical Latin: language of ancient Rome (A276) in October 2015.

How to register

We regret that we are currently unable to accept registrations for this course. Where the course is to be presented again in the future, relevant registration information will be displayed on this page as soon as it becomes available.

Student Reviews

“A very enjoyable course albeit one which requires a great deal of work but thoroughly enjoyable. At the end of ...”
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“I enjoyed this course very much. The course materials were thorough and the tutorials challenging and well worth attending. I ...”
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Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code A297
Credits 30
OU Level 2
SCQF level 8
FHEQ level 5
Course work includes:
4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

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