Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


The adoption of writing by the Greeks and Romans was transformative of their own cultures and came to dominate them in fundamental ways. Our understanding of their civilisations and histories is overwhelmingly reliant on their written records, and on the processes of survival of these records—from inscriptions and speeches, to poems, narrative histories and philosophical investigations—up to the age of printing and beyond. This unit focuses on the technology of writing from its earliest beginnings in Mycenaean Linear B, through to the development of Greek and Roman alphabets, and the different materials used to preserve writing, such as stone, animal skin, metal and papyrus. The physical nature of books and libraries in the classical world is studied, with particular attention to the transition from roll to codex, the book format which remains the standard today. Finally, some attention is paid to the different forms of writing from antiquity to the beginning of printing, especially the emergence of minuscule in the eighth and ninth centuries.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Honours option in Classics and Ancient History [Bachelor of Arts (Honours)]

Students are able to (1) demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the emergence of the Greek and Roman alphabets; (2) to describe, and synthesise the scholarship on, the physical nature of ancient writing materials, especially books, and the commercial and scholarly networks which distributed and preserved them in the ancient world; and (3) evaluate the scholarship on the changes of book forms and writing from late antiquity through to the early modern period.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) tutorial participation; (2) essay; and (3) exam. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Neil O'Sullivan and Dr Kirk Essary
Unit rules
Enroled in the Classics and Ancient History honours programme.
Contact hours
2 hour per week for 12 weeks
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.