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COURSE NAME: "Introduction to the History of Ancient Rome"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Alice Poletto
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 11:30 AM 12:45 PM
OFFICE HOURS: Mondays and Wednesdays 10-11

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.

Satisfies "Ancient History" core course requirement for History majors.

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 the political and constitutional changes of the Roman state and the reasons for such changes. The class discussions and lectures intend to lead students to comprehend the inner working, the strengths, and the shortcomings of the Roman polity, helped by the analysis of selected passages from Roman historians and by a study of the most significant Roman monuments, coins, sculptures, and inscriptions.
The course mainly aims at:
* presenting the students with a well-structured overview of the history of ancient Italy and Rome from the foundation of the city to the end of the Western Roman Empire;
* discussing the significance of selected archeological, epigraphical, numismatic and literary sources of Roman history;
* illustrating the geography of Europe and the Mediterranean basin;
* developing an interest in Roman history and civilization that will help to better appreciate the city of Rome and may possibly guide towards future reading, research, studies;
* showing some of the living effects of Roman civilization.

Taking this course will allow students to:
* identify the main phases, facts, characters and geographical locations of Roman History
* compare and contrast the functions and powers of the political institutions of the Roman state
* illustrate how Roman historians were influenced in their creation of Roman history
* explain the relevance of some of most important Roman monuments and artworks
* give examples of how archaeology has enhanced our understanding of the Roman past
* demonstrate how Roman society and politics were interconnected, and how changes on one created reactions on the other
* evaluate and prioritize the evidence to be used in the analysis of an historical topic
* create a coherent discourse in the analysis of an historical topic
* critically evaluate the stereotyped notions surrounding ancient Rome
* integrate Roman political tactics into modern history
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
A Brief History of the Romans (2nd edition – 2013)Boatwright, Mary Taliaferro, Daniel J Gargola, Noel Emmanuel Lenski, and Richard J. A TalbertOxford University Press, 2013 (2nd edition)9780190076795 (ebook ISBN)TXT DG209 .B582 2013Should you need a PDF of this book, please email the professorHard Copy  
The Historians of Ancient Rome. An anthology of the major writingsMellor RonaldRoutlegde, 2012 (3rd edition) 9780415527163EBOOK available from JCU library Ebook  

Readings and commentsStudents are asked to do the assigned readings and watch the assigned videos on Perusall before coming to class. Readings and videos posted on Perusall are part of this assessment method and must be accessed from Moodle through Perusall links. Perusall.com is the online platform where the readings are to be done, and no other ways are accepted for these assignments. Perusall will calculate a grade based on A) the amount of time spent doing active reading; B) if the readings are done on time; C) comments posted about the readings; D) the quality of such comments.5
Tests (two)Dates 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.25
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
Project (one)The project can take the shape of either a group presentation or a paper. You can either present or write about an aspect of Roman culture and society (no art), or assume the persona of an ancient person living in Roman times. A group can also cook and present a couple of ancient Roman foods. Each presentation-group needs to be of either 3 or 4 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: a group presentation, or an exploratory paper. Students are welcome to suggest topics they may be interested in. Each presenter will be given 5 minutes, so presentations will be allowed at most 20 minutes. If a student chooses to write a paper, a first draft needs to be emailed to the professor by the end of Week 06. The late submission policy applies only to papers, not to presentations. More detailed guidelines are available on moodle and are integral part of the syllabus.10
Participation in classParticipation to class discussion will be evaluated at every class.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.
Up to 4 absences are allowed in this course without consequences. More than 4 absences regardless of the reason (that is, missing more than 15% of the course) will have you fail the course.
No justification for any absence is allowed in this course: 4 absences are enough to cover any event.
Only extended medical emergencies are justified absences. No other reason count as a justified absence: finger-print appointments, sickness, trips, etc. are not justified.

As from the university catalog:

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend 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 who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that 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 should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________

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: 

Lecture 1: Introduction to Roman History and Course Overview  

Lecture 2: The Geography of Italy and the Foundation of Rome  

Week 2: 

Lecture 3: The Roman Monarchy and the Etruscan Influence  

Lecture 4: The Transition to the Roman Republic

Week 3:

Lecture 5: The Punic Wars: Rome vs. Carthage

Lecture 6: Roman Expansion and Conquests in the Hellenistic World

Week 4: 

Lecture 7: The Roman Republic: Political Structure and Institutions

Lecture 8: Roman Society: Patricians, Plebeians, and Slaves

Week 5: 

Lecture 9: Roman Culture: Religion, Mythology, and Festivals

Lecture 10: The Republic in Crisis: The Gracchi

Week 6: 

Lecture 11: Marius and Sulla

Lecture 12: Cicero and Catiline


Week 7: 

Lecture 13: The First Triumvirate and the Rise of Julius Caesar

Lecture 14: The Assassination of Caesar and the Second Triumvirate

Week 8:

Lecture 15: Augustus and the Founding of the Roman Empire

Lecture 16: Roman Literature: Poetry, Prose, and Drama

Week 9:

Lecture 17: The Julio-Claudian Emperors: Tiberius to Nero

Lecture 18: The Flavian Emperors: Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian

Week 10:

Lecture 19: The Five Good Emperors: Nerva to Marcus Aurelius

Lecture 20: Commodus and the Severan Dynasty

Week 11:

Lecture 21: Daily life in the Roman Empire

Lecture 22: The Imperial Cult


Week 12: 

Lecture 23: Crisis of the Third Century: Economic and Political Challenges

Lecture 24: Diocletian and the Tetrarchy

Week 13: 

Lecture 25: Constantine the Great and the Christianization of Rome

Lecture 26: The Fall of the Western Roman Empire: Causes and Consequences (part one)

Week 14:

Lecture 27: The Fall of the Western Roman Empire: Causes and Consequences (part two)

Lecture 28: Legacy and Impact of Roman History

Week 15: Final Exam (date TBA: do not make travel plans for this week!)