Practice questions

Here are some practice questions, which might be helpful in preparing for the exam. The first is what we often call a ‘gobbet question’: try writing an answer to it in an hour, or spend no more than ten minutes writing a bullet-point plan.

Below that you’ll find some practice essay questions. Think carefully about how you’d approach each of them.



Compare and contrast these two extracts. How is Rome’s destiny presented by Ovid and Virgil?


Ovid Metamorphoses 15.750

The death of Julius Caesar

When Venus, the golden mother of Aeneas, saw this, and also saw that a grim death was being readied for Caesar, her high-priest, and an armed conspiracy was under way, she grew pale and said to every god in turn: ‘See the nest of tricks being prepared against me, and with what treachery that life is being attacked, all that is left to me of Trojan Iülus. Will I be the only one always to be troubled by well-founded anxiety: now Diomede’s Calydonian spear wounds me: now the ill-defended walls of Troy confound me, seeing my son Aeneas driven to endless wandering, storm-tossed, entering the silent house of shadows, waging war against Turnus, or, if we speak the truth, with Juno, rather? Why do I recall, now, the ancient sufferings of my race? This present fear inhibits memory of the past: look at those evil knives being sharpened. Prevent them, I beg you, thwart this attempt, and do not allow Vesta’s flames to be quenched by the blood of her priest!’

    Venus in her anxiety voiced her fears throughout the heavens, but in vain, troubling the gods, who though they could not break the iron rules of the ancient sisters, nevertheless gave no uncertain omens of imminent disaster. They say weapons, clashing among black clouds, and terrifying trumpets and horns, foretelling crime, were heard from the sky: and that the face of the sun, darkened, gave out a lurid light, over the troubled earth. Often, firebrands were seen, burning in the midst of the stars: often drops of blood rained from the clouds: Lucifer, the morning star, was dulled, with rust-black spots on his disc, and the moon’s chariot was spattered with blood.


A.S.Kline, 2000




Virgil, Aeneid 1.228

Venus speaks to Jupiter about Juno’s attack on Aeneas

But while he anxious mused,
near him, her radiant eyes all dim with tears,
nor smiling any more, Venus approached,
and thus complained: “O thou who dost control
things human and divine by changeless laws,
enthroned in awful thunder! What huge wrong
could my Aeneas and his Trojans few
achieve against thy power? For they have borne
unnumbered deaths, and, failing Italy,
the gates of all the world against them close.
Hast thou not given us thy covenant
that hence the Romans when the rolling years
have come full cycle, shall arise to power
from Troy’s regenerate seed, and rule supreme
the unresisted lords of land and sea?
O Sire, what swerves thy will? How oft have I
in Troy’s most lamentable wreck and woe
consoled my heart with this, and balanced oft
our destined good against our destined ill!
But the same stormful fortune still pursues
my band of heroes on their perilous way.
When shall these labors cease, O glorious King?
Antenor, though th’ Achaeans pressed him sore,
found his way forth, and entered unassailed
Illyria’s haven, and the guarded land
of the Liburni. Straight up stream he sailed
where like a swollen sea Timavus pours
a nine-fold flood from roaring mountain gorge,
and whelms with voiceful wave the fields below.
He built Patavium there, and fixed abodes
for Troy’s far-exiled sons; he gave a name
to a new land and race; the Trojan arms
were hung on temple walls; and, to this day,
lying in perfect peace, the hero sleeps.
But we of thine own seed, to whom thou dost
a station in the arch of heaven assign,
behold our navy vilely wrecked, because
a single god is angry; we endure
this treachery and violence, whereby
wide seas divide us from th’ Hesperian shore.
Is this what piety receives? Or thus
doth Heaven’s decree restore our fallen thrones?”

Theodore C. Williams, 1910


‘There is nothing simple about Livy’s use of exempla‘. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

How did the elegiac poets poke fun at the Augustan agenda? Answer with reference to at least two poets.

To what extent did Augustus control his own image? Use at least three examples from the module in your answer.

‘Women in Augustan literature were either wholly good or wholly bad’. Do you agree with this statement?

Were Livy and Virgil offering the same moral lesson?

What can the elegiac poets tell us about the complexity of Roman identity in the Augustan age?

To what extent did the Augustan poets promote exemplary behaviour?

How was the virtue of pietas represented in Augustan literature?

What made a hero in Augustan Rome?

How and why were the foundation myths revived under Augustus?