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COURSE NAME: "History of Ancient Rome and Italy"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Massimo Betello
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 4:30-5:45 PM
OFFICE HOURS: After class

This course surveys the history of ancient Rome and Italy, focusing on the origins and metamorphoses of Rome from its archaic foundations as an Italic-Latinate kingship to an imperial city. The course examines the establishment, expansion, and conflicts of the Republican period; the political and cultural revolution of the Augustan ‘Principate’; the innovations of the High Empire; and the transition into Late Antiquity. Course materials include the writings of ancient authors in translation (these may include Polybius, Sallust, Cicero, Livy, Augustus, Suetonius, and/or Tacitus) as well as modern historians and archaeologists, along with considerations of Roman art, architecture, and archaeology.
This course is designed to allow students to reach a solid knowledge of the main phases of ancient Roman history, with a special focus on political and social changes, not only via our textbook, but also by discussing the most significant Roman archaeology, monuments, coins, sculptures, epigraphs and selected historical passages. Some emphasis will also be placed on how such history still influences our modern society (politics, tv series, historical novels, journalism, architecture, literature, etc.).
Taking this course will allow students:
1)      to have at their fingertips the facts and personalities that make Roman History and Culture one of the most studied and fascinating fields of study;
2)      to become aware of the geography and topography of the Mediterranean basin and of the city of Rome;
3)      to be able to employ critical thinking to contextualize, discuss and evaluate how Roman history was created and justified:
a.       Which/Who are the sources used in creating history?
b.      Have these sources changed over time?
c.       Are they reliable?
d.      Is/was there an “occult” power trying to mold the narration of history to serve its scopes? If so, what are these scopes?
4)      to have reached an understanding of some Roman archeological remains and understood their connection and importance with the history of the city of Rome;
5)      to have the ability to illustrate and discuss some of the traits of the living legacy of Rome: for an attentive mind Roman history is not the empty study of old facts, but a source of inspiration for European and American culture.
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
The Historians of Ancient Rome. An anthology of the major writings (3rd ed)Mellor Ronald Routlegde978-0-415-52716-3E-BOOK (freely available from JCU library)E-BOOK (freely available from JCU library)
A Brief History of the Romans. 2nd edBoatwright, Mary Taliaferro, Daniel J Gargola, Noel Emmanuel Lenski, and Richard J. A Talbert.Oxford University Press (2013)9780199987559DG209 .B582 
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
A history of Rome down to the reign of ConstantineCary and SchullardBedford/St. Martin’s, Third Edition (1976). 978-0312383954DG210.C33 
Considerations on the causes of the greatness of the Romans and their declineMontesquieu CharlesHackett Publishing Company (1999)0-87220-496-0DG210 .M778Available on line at the address: http://www.constitution.org/cm/ccgrd_l.htm. A similar translation is available at the address https://archive.org/details/cu31924028288722.
Rome: day oneCarandini AndreaPrinceton University Press (2011)9780691139227DG233.3 .C375 
As the Romans did: a sourcebook in Roman Social Shelton Jo-AnnOxford University Press (1988)9780195089738HN10.R7 S45 

Readings, classroom participation and assignmentsThe students are asked to complete the readings before coming to class: in this way they will get the most out of this course, and the time of the exams will be much less stressful. The students are welcome to participate appropriately to class discussion and to express their problems, ideas and perplexities about the readings. During the semester students will be asked to complete assignments based on the assigned readings.10
2 testsDates TBA. These short tests (20 minutes) are intended to foster a regular study of the subject and get the students ready for the exams. Most questions will test factual knowledge (events, date, people etc.), but some questions may be about concepts. Format: short answers, multiple choices, true-false, identifications, map questions etc.20 (10% each)
Midterm examDate TBA. The topics tested will be those of the first half of the semester. It will be made up by two parts: • one testing the student’s factual knowledge (events, date, people etc) using identifications, multiple choices, true-false, etc.; • the other testing the student’s understanding and knowledge of the concepts explained using open questions, essays, etc. More specific details will be given during the semester.30
Final ExamDate TBA The topics tested will be those of the second half of the semester. The format will follow that of the midterm exam. More specific details will be given during the semester. Please, do not make travel plans until the dates of the final exams will be released.30
One projectThe project can take the shape of either a group presentation or a paper. Each group needs to be of either 2 or 3 students. Project proposals need to be emailed to the professor by the beginning of the 5th class: failure to do so will result in a zero for this whole portion of your final grade. Proposals need to describe both the subject and the format of the project (paper or presentation with a list of group members). A list of suggestions is available on Moodle. The guidelines are as follow: A) the project needs to be relevant to the field of Roman history, B) the project needs to be original (using the same project for more than one class is considered cheating), C) the project needs to be approved by the professor before starting to work on it, D) the project can follow one of the following two formats: 1) a group presentation, or an exploratory paper. Students are welcome to suggest topics they may be interested in. 10

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


Attendance will be taken at every class.
More than 6 absences regardless of the reason (that is missing more than 20% of the course) will have you fail the class.
Every student who has accumulated ONE or less absences (regardless of the reason) by the day of the midterm will be allowed to answer to the extra credit questions on the midterm. Every students who has accumulated THREE or less absences (regardless of the reason) by the day of the final exam will be allowed to answer to the extra credit questions on the final exam.

As from the university catalog:
Attendance Policy
Specific requirements for attendance in any given course, except as described below, are the prerogative of the instructor and will be stated in the course syllabus distributed by the instructor at the beginning of the term. 

The Dean’s Office may grant exemptions from specific attendance policies in the case of a chronic medical condition or other serious problem. Students seeking such an exemption must ask a Dean as soon as they are aware of a situation impeding their required attendance. Students who cannot meet the attendance requirements for a particular class may be advised to withdraw from it.

Absences from major examinations require a Dean’s Office excuse, insofar as the student may seek to take a make-up exam. The Dean’s Office will only excuse such absences when they are caused by serious impediments, such as a student’s own illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which the student is attending the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students seeking such an excuse must notify their instructor, or the Dean’s Office, as soon as possible, and no later than the beginning of the exam. 

Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday must notify their instructors by the end of the Add/Drop period (during the first week of classes). Students missing a class for this reason also must make prior arrangements with their instructor to make up any work

Exams - Absences and Makeups
Instructors may, at their discretion, give makeups on quizzes or other less important graded work to students absent without an official excuse. However, because make-up exams require new exams to be prepared, written and proctored at times outside the regular class period, major examinations (midterms, finals) may only be re-administered with approval from the Dean’s Office. 

A student absent from a class meeting in which a major examination has been scheduled, who wishes to make-up that exam, must ask the Dean’s Office for an official excuse. Such absence will be excused only if the student: 

  1. has notified the Dean’s Office or his or her instructor of his or her inability to attend before the beginning of the class meeting in which the examination was scheduled
  2. subsequently presents to the Dean’s Office with documented evidence of a serious difficulty preventing attendance. 

A serious difficulty entitling a student to make-up a missed exam includes a student’s own illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which the student is attending the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Missed exams owing to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel plans or difficulties, student misunderstandings, alarm clock failure, or personal convenience, will not be excused.”

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week 1


Introduction to the course: syllabus, assessments, logistics, textbooks.


What are we going to deal with in this class? Roman History: What is history? How to write history. Cyclical vs Unpredictable nature of History. A quick general outlook to all Roman History.


How do we know what we know? Our main sources: ancient historians, archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics.


At the beginning it was just Early Italy (Latins, Etruscans, Greeks in Italy).




Other readings: none

Questions: none


BOATWRIGHT: 1-14 (Chapter 1)

Other readings:

- Batuman, Elif. “The Sanctuary” The New Yorker, December 19, 2011 – to be found on line.

- Mellor: Intro pages xvi-xvii, xxix-xxx

- Mellor: Polybius pages 10-15 (introduction and I.1-4)

- Mellor: Livy pages 118-21 (to the end of the Preface)


- According to Batuman’s article, how did the standards of living change from the hunter-gathers to farmers?

- According to Mellor (Introduction), among the Romans which were generally the most important reasons for writing history?

- Why does Polybius think that studying history is important? And what is instead the position of Livy?

- Between Polybius and Livy, which of the two is more interested in the moral lessons that history can give?


Week 2


Mythical and archaeological origins of the city of Rome.

Monarchy and the 7 mythical kings.

The deposition of the last king and the Early Republic.

The Struggle of the Orders



BOATWRIGHT: 15-21 (Chapter 1)

Other readings:

- Carandini 1-15, 50-63. Check the images of this book: they are very useful to visualize archaic Rome’s surroundings and the religious operations used to found a new city.

- Mellor: Livy 121-129 (I.4-13).


- What is an archaeologist, according to Carandini?

- Describe the rite that Romulus used to physically found the city of Rome.

- Human sacrifices in Ancient Rome? Which is the archaeological evidence that Carandini thinks he has found for such cruel acts? And to which events do these sacrifices seem to refer?

- Who or what was the she-wolf?


BOATWRIGHT: 21-30 (Chapters 1 and 2)

Other readings:

- Mellor: The laws of the 12 tables, pages 1-4 (only in the 3rd edition)

- Mellor: Polybius 30-40, 48-49 (VI.1-9,11-18, 56-57)


- Which is your “favorite” among the laws of the 12 tables and why?

- Why does Polybius think that the Roman Constitution is the best?

- Create a chart showing the sequence of the different constitutions-polities as described by P.

- Which are the characteristics of the worst form of constitution according to Polybius?

- Polybius: Cyclical history or unpredictable history? Why?

- Polybius: Religion or not? What is religion for?

Week 3


Conquest of Veii, and the sack of Rome in the fourth century


Roman political institutions in the fourth century


The conquest of Italy (Samnite-Latin wars, and wars with the Greeks of Italy)





BOATWRIGHT: 30-41 (Chapter 2)

Other readings:

- Mellor: Livy 167-80 (V.34-49)


- Which are the reasons that Livy adduces for the defeat of the Romans against the Gauls?

- What saved the Citadel from being taken by the Gauls?

- Which are the reasons (not the persons) that Livy adduces for the comeback of the Romans against the Gauls?


BOATWRIGHT : 41-49 (Chapter 2)

Other readings:

- Montesquieu 39-41 (chapter 3)


- According to Montesquieu, which is the reason that brought Rome to become so powerful during the early phases of the Republic?

Week 4


How Rome dealt with her newly conquered Mediterranean empire.


A new way of doing politics: the assassination of the Gracchi.



BOATWRIGHT : 50-66 (Chapter 3)

Other readings:

- Mellor: Livy 198-200, 212-16(XXI.35-8; XXX.30-7)


- What exotic animals did Hannibal have in his journey to Italy?

- Which two forces does Hannibal mention as his possible guides? Which one does he favor and why?



BOATWRIGHT : 74-77,80-84,86-92 (Chapter 4)

Other readings: none

Questions: none

Test 1 (20 minute long): (chapters 1-2)

Week 5


External forces attack the Republic: the war with Numidia, and the menace of the German populations Cimbri and Teutones

The first of a series of civil wars: the clash between the generals Marius and Sulla.

The end of Sulla, the beginning of Pompey.

Slave revolts, pirate wars, Catiline’s attempted revolution.



BOATWRIGHT : 94-110 (Chapter 5)

Other readings:

-Mellor: Appian, pages 478-90 (book I, chapters 1-2;6-26)


- Does Appian have different opinions about Tiberius Gracchus and his brother Gaius Gracchus?

- Where are the supporters of Tiberius from? How are they different from the plebeians that Tiberius courted while he was trying to get elected tribune for the second time?

- Is Appian in favor or against the Gracchi brothers?

- Are there any historical figures of the modern times which remind you of the Gracchi brothers? Why?

- Why does Appian say that his history is worth of attention?


BOATWRIGHT : 11-115 (Chapter 5) and 126-128 (Chapter 6)

Other readings:

- Montesquieu: Chapter 8 up to page 85 (The dissention what always existed in the City), 9 (Two causes of Rome’s ruin).


- Which form of state is more fortunate, according to M?

- Which are the two causes of the ruin of the Roman Republic, according to M?

Week 6

The penultimate chapter in the history of the Roman Republic: the first Triumvirate and another civil war.


Gaius Iulius Caesar: his rising, assassination and his dream of a new order for Rome.


BOATWRIGHT : 116-121,241-126,130-135 (Chapter 6 all)

Other readings:

Mellor: Sallust, pages 50-57, 64-65 (The Catilinarian Conspiracy 1-16, 60-61).

Questions about Sallust’s reading:

- According to Sallust, why did the Romans have a lack of good writers of history?

- Which is the problem in Rome at the time of Catiline, as suggested by Sallust?

- How does the description of the associates of Catilina (and their implied immoral qualities) fit with their end during the final battle?


BOATWRIGHT : 136-141, 144 (“Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul”)(Chapter 7)

Other readings:

Mellor: Suetonius, pages 396-400, 404, 418-424 (Life of Iulius Caesar 1,18,19,20,31,32,76-89),


- Why is Sulla comparing Caesar to Marius?

- Why did Caesar use the specific expression “Iacta alea est”?

- According to Suetonius, which acts by Caesar caused him to be killed?

Week 7


Octavian Augustus: the establishment of new order within the hollowed out Republican institutions.



BOATWRIGHT : 148-159 (Chapter 7)

Other readings:

- Montesquieu: Chapter 11 (Sulla. Pompey and Caesar)

- 6 myths about the killing of Caesar: http://www.vox.com/2015/3/15/8214921/ides-of-march-caesar-assassination

- Russell 1980 - 'Julius Caesar's Last Words. A Reinterpretation. (on Moodle)


- Find the passage in which M explains why the Republic was crushed

- Find the passage where M explains what was the proverbial “straw which broke the camel’s back” of the Senate against Caesar.

- Why did Caesar say in Latin “Tu quoque, Brute, fili mi”?


MIDTERM (Chapters 1-6)

Duration: the entirety of the class time.


Week 8


The Julio-Claudian Emperors: Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero.


The secret of the empire



BOATWRIGHT : 160-179 (Chapter 8)

Other readings:

-Mellor : Suetonius pages 424,425,427,429,437-439,459-60 (Life of Augustus 5-7,13,17,41-43,99,100,101)


- Why do you think that Augustus distributed so much money and appeared so much in public?

- What is the word “Augustus”? What does it mean?

- Where was Augustus buried?


BOATWRIGHT : 179-192 (Chapter 8)

Other readings:

-Mellor: Augustus pages 255-62 (Introduction plus Res Gestae), Tacitus pages 311-312 (I.9-10)


- Divide the Res Gestae in sections according to the themes treated.

- Whose names did not Augustus mention in the Res Gestae? Why so?

- Find the lines where Tacitus refers the various judgments about Augustus.

- What is Tacitus’s judgment on Augustus and his rule?

Week 9


Imperial Cult


The Flavian Emperors




OATWRIGHT : 193-200 (Chapter 9)

Other readings:

-Mellor: Tacitus pages 351-4, 360-3 (XII 65-69, XIII1-5, XV 37-44: death of Claudius, Accession of Nero, Great Fire).

- Rice, J.E. 2000. “The emperor with the shaking head: Claudius’ movement disorder.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 93 4: 198. – To be found on Moodle.


- Why was Agrippina, Nero’s mother, kept “out of sight, but not out of hearing”? Book 13.5

- What are the features of the Golden House, as described by Tacitus?

- How is Nero planning to rebuild Rome after the fire of 64 AD? What is the reason for those plans?

- Christians: first persecution. Why?


BOATWRIGHT : 201-212 ( Chapter 9),

Other readings:

- Shelton Jo-Ann: Deification pages 386-388, Patronage pages 12-3 (Patrician and Plebeian, Patrons and Clients in Republican Rome, Patrons and Clients in Imperial Rome)

- Mellor: Pliny the Younger pages 388-392 (Letter to Tacitus on the Vesuvius),


- How old was the practice of deification among Romans?

- Who was the first Roman to be deified?

- Who was the second Roman to be deified?

- How can the patronage system be applied to the new imperial system? How would it work?

Week 10


The Age of the Adopted Emperors (the five good emperors): a new golden age for humanity?



BOATWRIGHT : 213-217 (Chapter 10)

Other readings:

Mellor: “The law bestowing power on the emperor” Lex de Imperio Vespasiani, pages 8-9.

Or you can find a more precise translation at this link:


Questions: Find the passage in which it is said that Vespasian has the right to make and pass laws.


TEST 2 (20 minute long) (7-9)

BOATWRIGHT : 217-227 (Chapter 10)

Other readings: watch the movie “The Gladiator”

Questions: after watching the movie answer:

- Which is the population of the first battle scene? And which one was in reality?

- Mark on a map all the movements of Maximus

- How did Marcus Aurelius die in the movie and in reality?

- What are the similarities between the Commodus on the screen and the historical one? Find two of each and explain them


Week 11


The Severan Emperors.


Caracalla and the granting of citizenship to all the free inhabitants of the Empire.


Christianity and the Romans




BOATWRIGHT : 237-247 (Chapter 11)

Other readings:

- None

Questions: none


BOATWRIGHT : 247-251, 256-260 (Chapter 11)

Other readings:

- Mellor: Pliny the Younger pages 392-4 (Letters between Pliny and Trajan on the Christians)

- Shelton Jo-Ann: Judaism pages 404-6, Christianity pages 406-416, Syncretism page 417


- What was the Roman religious policy for the Christian at the time of Pliny the Younger and Trajan, as you can deduct from their letters?

- Think about Roman reaction to Christianity. How did Christianity differ from the other religions?

- Was Christianity considered different from Judaism, in the eyes of the Romans?

- Which religion seemed more tolerant? The official Roman religion or Christianity? Why so?




Week 12


The Soldier emperors: Aurelian, a case study


The Tetrarchy: Diocletian



BOATWRIGHT : 261-266 (Chapter 12)

Other readings:

- None


BOATWRIGHT : 266-270, 273-279 (“Administrative reorganization) (Chapter 12)

Other readings:

- Montesquieu: Chapter 17th (Change in the State), Chapter 18th (New Maxims adopted by the Romans).


- Montesquieu’s judgment on Constantine. Is it good or bad? Which are the things which Montesquieu analyzes on Constantine?

-What actions weakened Rome, as the Capital of the Western Roman Empire, according to M?

- The Roman army had become a burden from being originally an asset. How did it happen, according to M?

- According to Montesquieu, what was the reason that made the Romans become pray of all peoples?

Week 13


Constantine: the first Christian Emperor


The fall of the Roman Empire: part one




BOATWRIGHT : 270-73, 281-285 (Chapter 12)

Other readings:

Mellor : Eusebius 537-541 (Life of Constantine I.26-38)

Mellor : Lactanctius 525-526 (On the death of the persecutors)


- How can we say that the main recipient of the Edict of Milan were the Christians?

- How does the description of the life of Constantine by Eusebius differ from the lives of previous emperors and in general by older authors?

- What is the role of the deity in Constantine’s life, according to Eusebius? Is it similar to the role of other deities in the lives of previous emperors?



CARY AND SCHULLARD: 550-553 (Chapter 44)

Other readings:

- Montesquieu: Chapter 19 (Attila’s greatness, Cause of the settlement of the barbarians, Reasons why the Western Empire was the first to fall).

- How The 'Game of Thrones' Wildlings Are Like 'Barbarian Soldiers' Who Swept The Roman Empire. http://www.forbes.com/sites/drsarahbond/2016/06/19/the-use-of-barbarian-soldiers-in-game-of-thrones-and-the-roman-empire/


- According to Montesquieu, how did the strategy “Divide and rule” came to be used first in favor of the Romans, and then later against them?

- Why did the Western Empire fall first?

- What was an effective way of dealing with the barbarians once there was nothing left to pillage?

Week 14

The fall of the Roman Empire: part two





CARY AND SCHULLARD: 553-558 (Chapter 44)

Other readings: none

Questions: none



Review and final questions

Week 15







Do not make travel plan for this week