The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

ARCH6107 The Archaeology of Roman Imperialism

Module Overview

The expansion of the Roman Empire presents a pivotal moment of change in the archaeology of the Mediterranean and temperate Europe, which has continued to resonate through succeeding societies, and has been appropriated in the later history of the nation-states and empires of Europe and North America. In this module, you will examine the character of Roman imperialism, and the impact of Roman rule on multiple aspects of provincial society. Within the seminars, we will discuss general characteristics, whilst the research paper allows you to focus on one region in detail. Through the fieldtrips, you will be encouraged to think about the specific character of the impact on the archaeological record from a single province: Roman Britain. In this module, you will be expected to engage with key theories of imperialism, as to integrate this with the development of your knowledge of archaeological evidence.

Aims and Objectives

The aims of this module are to:

  • Familiarise you the theories and models of Roman imperialism used by archaeologists over the last century
  • Familiarise you with the material evidence associated with the impact of Roman imperialism on the provinces of the empire
  • Familiarise you with key elements through which Roman imperialism may have been exercised, and the material evidence for that

Knowledge and Understanding
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Key theories explaining the expansion of the Roman empire, and the impact on provincial communities
  • Changes in the material culture of the provinces
  • Specific contexts where we can see the impact of Rome

Cognitive (thinking) skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse and interpret primary materials and draw conclusions from them
  • Critically evaluate existing paradigms of interpretation
  • Demonstrate in-depth understanding of selected theoretical ideas and data
  • Evaluate your own efforts in the light of your critique of other students’ work

Practical (subject specific) skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • evaluate and critique past and current theoretical approaches
  • apply current theoretical approaches in Roman archaeology
  • interpret Roman data

Key transferable skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate the work of others and present your interpretation according to professional expectations
  • Prepare and present summary papers in verbal form
  • Present an extended argument in written form


Typically, the syllabus will cover:

  • Introduction: history of study and theories of imperialism
  • Materialities of imperialism; field trip to English Heritage Archaeological store, or Fishbourne store
  • Temporalities of imperialism
  • Violence and armies; field trip to Caerleon and Caerwent
  • Urbanism
  • Landscapes of imperialism
  • The Emperor; field trip to St Albans
  • Imperialism and the economy
  • Imperialism and localism
  • Imperialism and identity
  • Comparative imperialisms
  • Course conclusion 

Special Features

This module includes a fieldtrip to appropriate sites in Roman Britain, and a session learning about the formation and storage of paper and material archive of a key local Roman excavation.

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:48
Private study hours:252
Total study time: 300 hours

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will include: lectures, student presentations, discussion seminars, handling classes and fieldtrips.

Resources and reading list

Ando, C. 2000. Imperial ideology and provincial loyalty in the Roman empire. Berkeley: University of California Press

Blagg, T.F.C., & M. Millett (eds). 1990. The early Roman empire in the west. Oxford: Oxbow

Champion, C.B. (ed.) 2004. Roman imperialism: readings and sources. Oxford: Blackwell

Harris, W.V. 1979. War and imperialism in republican Rome. 327-70 BC. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Mattingly, D.J. (ed).1997 Dialogues in Roman imperialism, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplement 23

Mattingly, D. J. 2004. ‘Becoming Roman: expressing identity in a provincial setting', Journal of Roman Archaeology, 17: 5-25

Millett, M. 1990. The Romanization of Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Revell, L. 2009. Roman imperialism and local identities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Woolf, G. 1997. Becoming Roman: the origins of provincial civilization in Gaul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press


Assessment methods

Assessment is through two assignments:

  • Assignment 1 is a 1000 word book review of an important work on Roman imperialism, allowing you to critically evaluate the theoretical literature on the subject; this is worth 20% of the final mark.
  • Assignment 2 is a 5000 word research paper, the precise topic to be chosen through negotiation between you and the module co-ordinator. It will focus on a specific region of your choice, and explore the impact of conquest and rule by Rome in relation to any of the themes covered in the module. This is worth 80% of the final mark.

All students will be expected to give presentations during the seminars; although these are not assessed, these will allow for feedback and evaluation of your progress before the final assignment is submitted.


Programmes in which this module is compulsory

This module is compulsory for the MA Rome and the Mediterranean programme

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