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The University of Southampton

HIST1164 Consuls, Dictators & Emperors

Module Overview

The first century BC witnessed the fall of the Roman Republic and the establishment of the first emperor, Augustus. The first two-thirds of the century were marked by increasingly divisive Civil Wars and the emergence of a series of infamous political figures whilst the final third saw the beginning of the Principate – rule by a single man or Princeps. Augustus ruled alone for more than 40 years, and by the time of his death, the political landscape had changed to the extent that there was no serious thought of returning to the traditional Republic. The first part of the module examines the late Republic: the system of magistracies, the democratic element, and the emergence of charismatic leaders who disrupted this system such as Marius, Sulla and Caesar. The second part deals with the events following the assassination of Julius Caesar, the emergence of Augustus as sole ruler, and the transformation of the Republican institutions to allow for a sole ruler.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the key political institutions of the political system of the Roman Republic, and the historiographical debates surrounding its reconstruction
  • key political figures from the first century BC
  • the key political, and social changes of the Augustan period, as well as the latest historiographical debates surrounding their interpretation
  • key primary sources for historians of the Roman period, covering a range of media
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • understand and contextualise primary source material relating to the late Republic and the Augustan periods
  • engage with the secondary literature on the late Republic and the Augustan period, and contribute to the debates relating to the significance of political and social changes during the period
  • participate fully and constructively in group discussion, arguing your case by drawing on your reading, knowledge and understanding
  • analyse critically a variety of textual, visual and material culture sources
  • structure your ideas and research findings into well-ordered presentations and essays
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • participate effectively in group discussion
  • develop your time-management skills
  • locate and use effective textual, visual and material culture sources in the library and on-line
  • develop your presentation skills
  • research historical questions and communicate your findings convincingly and concisely in written reports


The first century BC was a time of political upheaval at Rome, when the quasi-democratic system was threatened through elite competition and the emergence of factions, culminating in the reign of the first Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, described by some as a Roman revolution. This is one of the most important periods in Roman history, and has been influential in the establishment of new political systems in the modern world, both democratic republics and dictatorships. From Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra to HBO’s Rome, this period has been the subject of popular fascination. In this module, you will examine the events leading up to and the nature of this change, and question how far we can term this a revolution. You will explore the workings of the system of the Republic, the responsibilities of the magistrates, and the role of the democratic assemblies. You will then examine the careers of some of the leading politicians of the late Republic and their impact on the workings of the system through the assassination of Julius Caesar. The module then covers the career of Octavian, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who as Augustus became the first emperor of Rome. You will examine the character of his relationship with Antony, first as allies and then as enemies at Actium, and then turn to how Augustus established his position as a sole ruler, and what happened to the Republican political institutions under this new system. Topics to be explored include:   Introduction: context and sources  The Roman Republic: the aristocratic element  The Roman Republic: the democratic element  Marius  Sulla  Pompey  Caesar  Octavian, Antony and Cleopatra  A new political system  Augustus and the Senate  A new era for Rome?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include:  weekly lecture and weekly seminar  lecturer-led examination and discussion of sources  short presentations by students  group discussions including feedback from the tutor Lectures will provide you with general knowledge and understanding about chronology, sources and key concepts. This will be consolidated through readings and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material. Discussion in seminars will help you to develop your own ideas about a topic, analyse a range of source material and articulate a critical argument. Learning activities include:  preparatory reading, individual research and study prior to each class  preparing and delivering short presentations relating to specific aspects of the module  studying textual and visual primary sources  participation in group and class discussion In this module learning and teaching activities focus on helping you to explore and investigate the ideas and themes outlined above. Throughout the module you will also engage in directed and self-directed study, for example through pre-seminar reading and through library research. The presentations (by you and your fellow students) and your reading will provide you with a broad overview of the secondary literature, using the bibliography provided at the start of the module. The discussion generated by these presentations will provide you with the opportunity to explore the relevant major historical debates on a weekly basis. In addition, you will study in depth a range of primary written, visual and archaeological sources from the city of Rome and selected provinces. These sessions will allow you to prepare for the essay and examination exercises. Feedback on your progress and development will be given via seminars and group discussions. Responses from tutor and your fellow students to your presentation will also give you formative feedback.

Wider reading or practice24
Completion of assessment task36
Follow-up work12
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Wallace-Hadrill (1993). Augustan Rome. 

Rosenstein, N. and Morstein-Marx, R. (2007). A companion to the Roman Republic. 

Patterson, J (2000). Political life in the city of Rome. 

Beard, M. and Crawford, M (1999). Rome in the late Republic: problems and interpretations. 

Lintott, A (1999). The constitution of the Roman Republic. 

Steel, C. (2013). The end of the Roman Republic. 

Syme, R. (1939). The Roman revolution. 

Raaflaub, K.A. and Toher M. (eds.). Between Republic and Empire: interpretations of Augustus and his Principate. 

Galinsky, K (2005). The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus. 

Eck, W (2007). The age of Augustus. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback:  non-assessed oral presentations  tutorials to provide consultation on assessed essays  guidance and advice in class on preparation, completion and presentation of assignments  regular work with primary sources to prepare for the essay and examination exercises


MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary exercise  (1000 words) 20%
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Examination  (1 hours) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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