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The University of Southampton

ARCH2003 The power of Rome: Europe’s first empire

Module Overview

The Roman empire has held the imagination of successive generations. Conquest by Rome brought social, cultural and economic change to large swathes of what is now Europe, the Middle East and north Africa. Never before or after will these parts of the world enjoy centuries of stability and peace as they did under the Romans. It was a unique political institution that encompassed a mosaic of peoples, languages and cultures that was unprecedented in its richness, leaving a legacy that has profoundly shaped the course of Western civilization. Its success and longevity has fascinated many, and long after its demise it remained a model for the European and American imperialism in the nineteenth, twentieth and even twenty-first centuries. The great wealth of the archaeological evidence has produced a long tradition of scholarship, but in the last twenty years, new approaches have reawakened these debates, making the study of the Roman world one of the most dynamic fields within archaeology, with major implications for other areas of the Humanities. Post-colonial discourse, theorists of Globalization and North African states trying to raise their agricultural output, to name just few, have all looked back to the Roman Empire for clues. So what was the secret of the Roman empire’s success? How did it come to be and how was it maintained? In this module, you will look at the causes, consequences and the changing nature of Roman imperialism and its political, social, cultural and economic foundations. You will touch upon key issues and debates in Roman archaeology and learn about major sites and artefact types from all parts of the Roman world. Assessment is through coursework and an exam.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Social, political, economic and cultural basis of the Roman Empire
  • Key theories relating to the causes and consequences of Roman imperialism
  • Strong (warfare) and soft power (political and cultural influence) that underpinned the creation of the Roman empire
  • Archaeological evidence and theories relating to cultural change among the provincial communities
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically analyse complex issues
  • Evaluate and synthesize complex bodies of data
  • Undertake independent research on a specific theme
  • Present evidence and arguments in written form, with and without time constraints
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Integrate the analysis of different kinds of archaeological and historical data
  • Be critical in your thinking about the nature of imperialism
  • Better understand the complex interplays of academic argument in Roman archaeology
  • Test competing theories through knowledge of the archaeological evidence
  • Interpret varying forms of archaeological evidence
  • Evaluate evidence for and think critically about a variety of archaeological issues
  • Undertake a comparative approach to past societies


The module provides an introduction to the archaeology of the Roman empire, including key issues and debates, major themes, sites and evidence types. Lectures will be used to introduce the topic, outline the theoretical framework and background to the subject. Small group tutorials will be used to explore specific issues and materials and to help consolidate your knowledge. Typically, topics covered will include: 1. Introduction to the Roman Empire 2. Roman Imperialism and Government 3. The Army and Administration 4. Imperial ideology 5. The Roman Economy 6. Living under Rome: towns, cities and technology 7. Diversity of Religious Beliefs and Practices in the Roman Empire 8. What does it mean to be Roman? Cultural change/Becoming Roman 9. Resistance and Rebellion 10. The Transformation of the Roman Empire 11. Revision seminar

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Tutorials • Revision seminars Learning activities include • Preparatory reading for tutorials • Follow up reading after lectures (including lecture PowerPoint on Blackboard) • Essay writing, source evaluation and learning through oral presentation • Hands on learning with different forms of material culture • Revision for exam

Preparation for scheduled sessions5
Completion of assessment task50
Follow-up work45
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Zanker, P (1988). The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus. 

Scott, S. and Webster, J. (eds.) (2003). Roman imperialism and provincial art. 

Lintott, A (1993). Imperium romanum: politics and administration. 

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

Greene, K (1986). The archaeology of the Roman economy. 

Garnsey, P., and Humfress, C. (2001). The evolution of the late antique world. 

Woolf, G (2013). Rome: An Empire's Story. 

Ando, C (2000). Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire. 

Edwards, C (ed.) (1999). Roman Presences: receptions of Rome in European culture, 1789–1945. 

Garnsey, P., and R. Saller. (2014). The Roman empire: economy, society and culture. 

Oleson, J. P. (2008). Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World.. 



Individual Project Interim Report


MethodPercentage contribution
Research essay  (2000 words) 50%
Written assignment 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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