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BA Latin and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
From Republic to Empire: Introduction to Roman History, Society & Culture 218-31BC

Unit code CAHE10022
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Classics, Ancient History & Egyptology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


From its origins as a city-state republic, Rome grew into a Mediterranean spanning empire in the course of just two centuries. In the process the republic collapsed and was replaced with a system of emperors that would transform world history for the next millenium. This course introduces students to Rome in the period of its transformation from republic to empire from the city's first imperial ventures outside Italy in 264 BC down to the final struggle in 31 BC between Octavian and Mark Antony for supremacy over the Roman world. Through a wide range of evidence we will study some of the principal historical figures in this period, such as the Gracchi brothers, Marius, Sulla, Pompey the Great, and Caesar, as well as the gradual expansion of the Roman world, changes in Roman society, and the collapse of its political structures.  


This course aims to provide a broad knowledge of the main events of Roman history from 264 too 31 BC and a basic understanding of the structures of Roman society and its political, religious and cultural life; awareness of the nature and content of the main primary sources, a familiarity with some major areas of current debate and controversy.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to

  • demonstrate acquired knowledge of key historical developments in the period;
  • demonstrate critical skills for analysing ancient sources effectively.
    (for further specific outcomes, see also below)


The course offers a wide-ranging survey of the life of Rome within the framework of a narrative of events from 264 to 31 BC. As well as giving a self-contained introduction to the subject, the course also provides a basis for further study for those who wish to go on to take more advanced courses in Roman history at Levels 2 and 3.

The principal themes of the course include: the Roman political system; the republican oligarchy and challenges to its authority; political violence and civil war; social and cultural change; the effects of Hellenism on Roman life; social mobility and its effects; economic change, agrarian developments and attempted reforms; Roman imperialism and provincial administration.

Teaching and learning methods

  • 2 x 1-hour lectures per week;
  • 1 x 1-hour seminar per week;
  • Blackboard: course material, handouts and other supporting materials.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will have developed the following abilities:

  • understanding of the political structures of the middle and late Roman republic and their decline;
  • understanding of the expansion of Roman power and its internal and external effects;
  • understanding of the main social forces acting on Rome  in this period;
  • show familiarity with a range of types of ancient evidence, and an awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of these different types of material.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will have developed the following abilities:

  • evaluation of competing forms of evidence, critical reading of ancient literary material, critical reading of historical accounts of the period;
  • demonstrate the ability to construct an argument in written and oral form and to present the arguments in a professional manner with appropriate reference to sources and modern published scholarship.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will have developed the following abilities:

  • oral presentation;
  • writing of cogent, coherent English.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will have developed the following abilities:

  • oral presentation;
  • writing of cogent, coherent English;
  • critical evaluation of evidence;
  • library use.

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and examine a large amount of often difficult information, an ability to see both sides of an argument, the ability to synthesise an argument in a cogent form, the ability to retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion.

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Formative commentary

500 words



1500 words



2 hours





Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on formative and summative assessment (see above); all summative coursework feedback is designed to contribute formatively towards improvement in subsequent assignments. Students are encouraged to seek formative feedback ahead of the first assignment of the unit by discussing work plans and approaches during seminars (where appropriate) 
  • Additional one-to-one feedback

Recommended reading

  • P A Brunt, Social Conflicts in the Roman Republic (London 1971)
  • H H Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero (4th ed., London 1982)
  • M H Crawford, The Roman Republic (2nd ed., London 1992)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Mary Beagon Unit coordinator

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