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The University of Southampton

HIST2055 Ancient Rome: the First Metropolis

Module Overview

This module focusses on the city of Rome and its development from its early foundation through to the third century AD. It explores the evidence for one of the most important cities of the ancient world, which at its height was home to approximately a million people. During this time, it developed from a small village to a metropolis, but at the same time, changing social and political structures also resulted in changes to the architecture of the city, at its most radical, changing it from the canvas for elite competition to the playground of the emperors. Roman was a place of large-scale events, whether political, religious, military, or entertainment, carried out in the public space of the city. Space and society were interlinked. In this module you will examine the development of key areas in the city, such as the Forum Romanum, the imperial fora, the colosseum and temples. You will not only look at the architecture of these, but also the evidence for how they were used. At the same time, you will look at the social and political structures of the city, and how activities such as voting, religious festivals, military triumphs used the public spaces of the city.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• study the development of Rome from foundation to metropolis • study the development of Roman social and political structures • examine the use of space for large-scale social and political events • study the impact of the emperors on the cityscape • study the architectural and textual evidence for the city

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the topography of Rome as a city
  • the different types of Roman buildings, public and private, and their uses
  • the organisation of Roman politics and political activity
  • different types of social, political and religious rituals
  • the impact of political and social change in altering the image of the city
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • relate the development of the city of Rome to social and political change
  • interpret the connection between architecture and politics synchronically and diachronically
  • relate textual and architectural evidence


This module will look in depth at the City of Rome, its structure, development, society, politics and intellectual life. It will begin by looking at the origins and historical development of the city and the growth of its population. It will then focus on political and military activity in the last two centuries BC, and in particular, the idea of the city as the stage for elite competition. We will then explore the impact of the emperors on the city, their building programmes, and how it became an imperial city. Finally, we will look at everyday life in the city, such as religion, entertainment (including gladiatorial games), housing, burial and supply. Each theme will be introduced by a lecture, whilst the seminars will be used to examine the evidence, and discuss particular questions relevant to each theme. Topics may include • the origins of Rome • the population of Rome • politics in the Republic • the victorious general • the imperial city 1: the imperial fora • the imperial city 2: palaces and tombs • religious ritual and temples • entertaining the masses • houses and housing • death and commemoration • feeding Rome

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • lectures • seminars focussing on reading and analysis of primary sources, including texts, buildings and images Learning activities include • independent study • library research • independent group work

Follow-up work22
Completion of assessment task50
Preparation for scheduled sessions22
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Coarelli, F. (2007). Rome and its environs: an archaeological guide. 

J.R. Patterson (1999). Political Life in the City of Rome. 

M. Boatwright, D. Gargola, R. Talbert (eds) (2004). The Romans. From Village to Empire. 

Claridge, A. (1998). Rome: an archaeological guide. 

H.I. Flower (ed.) (2004). The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic. 

J. Coulston (2000). Ancient Rome: the Archaeology of the Eternal City. 

M. Beard and M.H. Crawford (eds) (1999). Rome in the Late Republic: Problems and Interpretations. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Examination  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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