HST294: Rome and its Empire (14-235 AD)

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader: Dr Julia Hillner

Women torturing captives, from a plaster-cast reproduction of the triumphal column of emperor Trajan

Women torturing captives,
from a plaster-cast reproduction of the triumphal column of emperor Trajan (113AD)
(Museum of Romanian History in Bucharest, Romania).

Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons


Pass in at least two of the Level One modules offered by the Department of History.


Module Summary

As one of the most enduring among past empires, Rome has cast a long shadow. British colonial forces, the architects of American independence, and Italian Fascists have all looked to Rome for historical lessons and inspiration. Yet, what was life really like in an empire that grew from a small city-state in central Italy to stretch from Hadrian’s Wall and along the deserts of North Africa all the way to the Euphrates? How ‘Roman’ did the inhabitants of the empire become and did it matter? This module provides an introduction to the themes, sources and methods involved in studying the Roman empire at the height of its power, between the consolidation of a monarchical style of government at the death of Augustus and the beginning of this government’s ‘crisis’ in the third century. It draws on a wide variety of sources, including narrative history, letters, legal texts, inscriptions, coinage, architecture and artefacts. We will particularly focus on traditional and current scholarly debates surrounding the ‘Romanisation’ of the vastly different territories under Roman rule, the relationship between local and Roman identities, as well as definitions of Roman forms of ‘imperialism’ and strategies of cohesion.


Module Aims

This unit aims to provide an understanding of the profound and often still noticeable influence of the Roman empire on the political and cultural history of Europe (including Britain, and South Yorkshire), the Middle East and North Africa. It will also aim to give intellectual context to other parts of the History curriculum, particularly to modules concerned with issues of empire and globalisation. The module will aim to illuminate such concepts from the Roman perspective and invite students to understand their specific expressions in the spatial and chronological context of the ancient world.


Teaching and Assessment

Lectures Seminars
1 The Origins of the Imperial Regime The Imperial Persona
2 Imperial Administration I: The Emperor
and his People
A Governor at Work
3 Imperial Administration II: Minimalising
the Empire
Roman Britain
4 The Imperial Army Frontiers
5 Economies of Empire Roman Cities
6 Imperial Identities I Citizenship and Ethnicity
7 Imperial Identities II Class, Status and Gender
8 Religions of Empire Pagans, Christians and Others
9 Beyond the Frontiers: Comparing Rome Rome and China
10 Receiving Rome Rome and the British Empire
11 Preview: The Third Century Crisis The Longevity of Rome

Further guidance is provided in the module course booklet, available through MOLE.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level2


Course Assignment Information

Themes to explore further in extended student projects could include: army mutinies; slavery and the Roman economy; Roman mining; medicine in the Roman empire; death and commemoration; Roman and local marriage; being a child in the Roman empire; mystery cults; Africans in the Roman Empire; Roman perspectives on other civilisations; America as the New Rome.


Selected Reading

Primary Sources:

  • D. Cherry, The Roman World. A Source Book (2001)
  • J.-A. Shelton, As the Romans Did (2nd edn, 1998)


  • M. Goodman, The Roman World (1997)
  • D. Potter, A Companion to the Roman Empire (2006)
  • C. Wells, The Roman Empire (2nd edn., 1995)

‘Romanisation’ and ‘Imperialism’:

  • L. Revell, Roman Imperialism and Local Identities (2009)
  • D. Mattingly, Imperialism, Power and Identity. Experiencing the Roman Empire (2010)
  • G. Woolf, Becoming Roman (1998)


Intended Learning Outcomes
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