AP/HIST4130 6.0 A: Problems in Roman History

Offered by: HIST

(Cross-listed to: AP/CLST4130 6.0A )


Fall 2024






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

Selected topics in one or more areas of concentration in the history of ancient Rome. Prerequisites: AP/HIST 2100 6.00 or AP/HUMA 3104 6.00 or AP/HUMA 3106 6.00 or AP/HUMA 3110 6.00 or AP/HIST 3120 6.00 or AP/HIST 3125 3.00 or AP/HIST 3130 6.00 or AP/HIST 3131 6.00 or AP/HIST 3135 3.00 or AP/HIST 3140 3.00 or AP/HIST 3150 6.00 or AP/HIST 3152 6.00 or AP/HIST 3154 3.00 or AP/HIST 3160 6.00 or departmental permission. Note: Priority is given to History, Classical Studies or Hellenic Studies Honours majors and minors who have successfully completed at least 84 credits.PRIOR TO FALL 2009: Course credit exclusion: AS/HIST 4130 6.00.

Course Start Up

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    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details


    Expanded Course Description

In Fall-Winter 2024-2025 the seminar will engage in an in-depth analysis of a pivotal period in Roman history, 31 BC–AD 14, when Julius Caesar’s heir, the man who from 27 BC onwards was known as Augustus (or, to give him his full title, ‘Imperator [Commander] Caesar Augustus son of the Deified One’), gradually crafted a new political system at Rome after emerging victorious from fifteen years of bloody civil war that had embroiled the whole of the Roman world, and beyond.

Augustus’ task was to reunify the ‘Roman Republic’ and ensure that the new, autocratic regime proved sufficiently palatable to the key sectors of Roman society: the senatorial elite, municipal elites in Italy and the provinces (the domi nobiles), the army, ordinary Roman citizens, and provincial subjects across the Empire. The seminar will explore the ways in which Augustus sought to build that consensus: the development of a new political system that proved acceptable to most; his use of images, monuments, ritual, and literature to boost his own authority and acceptability; his radical redesign and refurbishment of the city of Rome, making it a worthy imperial capital; his programme of social and moral reform; a series of overseas conquests achieved by his armies that brought more territory than even before under Roman control and boosted Rome’s prestige; and his reforms of provincial administration designed to control some of the abuses of past Roman officials and to ensure the fiscal stability of his new regime. We will also take full account of protests and opposition in Rome and elsewhere to what Augustus was trying to achieve.

In the seminar, we shall read critically a selection of the most important primary source material for Augustus’ achievements – historical accounts of his reign (esp. Suetonius, Tacitus, Cassius Dio), selections from literature of the Augustan period (Vergil, Livy, Horace, Propertius, Ovid), inscriptions (including Augustus’ own Res Gestae), portraits and sculpture, architectural complexes in Rome and elsewhere, coins, and archaeological and iconographic evidence – and some of the rich historical scholarship on Augustus, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the varied interpretations that his principate continues to elicit.

    Required Course Text / Readings


Res Gestae Divi Augusti (“The Accomplishments of the Deified Augustus”)

Velleius Paterculus, Roman History, Book 2

Suetonius, Life of Augustus; Life of Tiberius

Cassius Dio, Roman History, Books 50-56

Werner Eck, The Age of Augustus, 2nd ed., Wiley-Blackwells, 2007

Jonathan Edmondson (ed.), Augustus, Edinburgh University Press, 2009

Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, Michigan University Press, 1988

Karl Galinsky (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus, Cambridge university Press, 2005.

    Weighting of Course

*TENTATIVE Grade Breakdown*

Ancient source analysis 15%
Research proposal, with annotated bibliography 10%
Analysis of an article or book chapter 10%
Brief presentation of research project    5%
Major research paper 35%
Brief reading responses 10%
Seminar Participation (based on performance in weekly seminars, including presentations of material) 15%
    Organization of the Course

Each week’s class session will be devoted to a discussion of a selection of ancient source material and modern scholarship on a range of different topics relevant to the history of Rome under Augustus. Students will be expected to have read the assigned material critically prior to class and be ready to discuss in during the class sessions. Throughout the course they will also be asked to lead the discussion by making brief presentations to introduce an assigned reading. In the second term, students will give brief presentations of their research project, to gain feedback before writing their final version.

    Course Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate detailed knowledge of the period of Augustus’ supremacy (31 BC–AD 14) and have an awareness of the limited and contested nature of that historical knowledge;
  2. identify, describe, and analyze the various methodological and theoretical approaches most relevant to this particular field of study;
  3. assess critically a range of different types of relevant primary sources – literary, inscriptional, visual, archaeological, numismatic – and demonstrate understanding of the specific nature of each type of source, identifying and assessing the problems that arise for historians in using them;
  4. read and critically assess some of the modern scholarship on Augustus, and demonstrate an understanding of the important debates and disagreements in this scholarship;
  5. demonstrate skills in proposing a coherent research topic, in identifying and analyzing the primary sources and scholarly discussions that are most relevant to that topic, and in organizing and writing a clear and effective paper. In this paper, they should demonstrate that they have the ability to make use of different sources, to follow appropriate standards of presentation, and to develop a cogent historical argument.
    Relevant Links / Resources