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HIST3199 Being Roman Part 1

Module Overview

What was it to be a Roman, and how did the individual fit into the various social groups within Rome and Italy? Questions of identity and identity formation have formed a key part of Roman studies within the last three decades, whether answered from textual sources, iconography or material evidence. In particular, nineteenth and early twentieth century assumptions (and prejudices) about the normative experience of the elite male have been questioned, and the idea of the woman, the poor and the child all been found wanting. In this module you will have the opportunity to look at the evidence with a new perspective, and engage with debates which question whether the Romans really were just like us.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• investigate the nature of identity and means of identity formation and expression in Rome and Roman Italy from c.200BC-AD250 • examine in detail aspects of rank (status), gender and age • explore some of the theoretical ideas surrounding the investigation of identity in the present and the past • investigate the organisation of Roman society and the norms and expectations of specific forms of behaviour

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the organisation of Roman society during the late Republic and early Principate, and any changes during that period
  • the nature of social and political power, and its expression
  • the character of gender identities, and their formulation through Roman law and through attitudes to the body
  • the life course, age-boundaries and attitudes towards the young and the elderly
  • key primary sources which provide evidence for the nature of society and attitudes towards specific groups within society
  • the latest research on Roman identity, the Roman family, and Roman social relations
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • explain and discuss the nature of Roman identity
  • evaluate the assumptions underpinning accounts of Roman identity in the past
  • evaluate the methodological approaches used by modern scholars in reconstructing discourses of identity in the past
  • express familiarity with and interpret critically a variety of primary sources from the Roman period
  • explain your own views on debates within the fields of Roman identity and Roman social history


Part one of the module will focus on the social history of Rome and Roman Italy between c.200BC and AD250. Through the detailed examination of a variety of primary sources, including historical narratives, legal codes, love poetry, iconography and houses, we will investigate the ways in which identities were constructed and maintained. We will focus on both everyday activities, but also the ideals and discourses involved. We will begin by considering the definition of identity, and the question of whether it differed in the past, before moving on to consider three key aspects of personal identity: status/rank, gender and age. Through a series of specific case-studies, we will consider a variety of factors, ranging from social regulations through laws to family attitudes from epitaphs. Indicative sessions include: 1. Introduction 2. Political activity: the magistrate and the citizen 3. Working identities in Rome and Pompeii 4. Slaves and freedmen 5. Houses and households 6. Gender ideals: the law of the family 7. Gender and the body 8. Gender and the other in art and literature 9. Infants and children 10. Adults and the elderly

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods focus on weekly seminars analysing key events, chronology and concepts, including examination and discussion of primary and secondary source material and the key issues of debate they raise. Learning activities include: • Preparatory reading before each seminar • Participation in group and seminar discussion • Independent reading of the sources provided and of related secondary works • Preparing and delivering short oral presentations on primary sources • Independent research of additional information and source materials Seminars 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, to analyse a range of source material and to articulate a critical argument.

Completion of assessment task56
Follow-up work100
Preparation for scheduled sessions100
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Bradley, K.R. (1991). Discovering the Roman Family. 

Dixon, S. (1992). The Roman Family ch4. 

Gardner, J.F. & Wiedemann, T. (1991). The Roman Household: A Sourcebook. 

Huskinson, J. (2000). Experiencing Rome: culture, identity and power in the roman empire. 

Millar, F. (1998). The Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic. 

Rawson, B. and Weaver, P. eds. (1997). The Roman family in Italy: status, sentiment and space. 

Shelton, J-A (1988). As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History. 

Laurence, R. & A. Wallace-Hadrill eds. (1997). Domestic Space in the Roman World: Pompeii and Beyond. 

Lefkowitz, M.R. and Fant, M.B. (1992). Women’s life in Greece and Rome: a source book in translation. 

Wiedemann, T. (1989). Adults and Children in the Roman Empire. 

George, M., Ed. (2005). The Roman family in the empire: Rome, Italy and beyond. 

Gleason, M. (1995). Making Men. Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome. 

Parkin, T. (1992). Demography and Roman Society. 

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

Williams, C.A (1999). Roman Homosexuality. Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity. 

Dupont, F. (1988). Daily Life in Ancient Rome. 

Nicolet, C. (1980). The world of the citizen in republican Rome. 


Assessment Strategy

Feedback Method Guidance and advice on preparation, completion and presentation of assignments will be available to you in special seminar discussions You will be encouraged to discuss preparation for your formal assessments with your tutor You will have the opportunity to seek individual advice on your module progress from your tutor You will have the opportunity to discuss written feedback on assignments with your tutor


Group work activities


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 40%
Essay  (3000 words) 40%
Take-away exam 20%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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