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HIST3200 Being Roman Part 2

Module Overview

Was there such a thing as Roman ethnicity, and if so, what form did it take? Ethnic identity has proved one of the most controversial subjects of the last century, and this is also true for ancient ethnicity: how do we define it, and how do we investigate it in past societies. In this module, you will debate the validity and definition of the idea of a Roman ethnic identity, and through close engagement with a range of primary material and secondary texts, assess the evidence. In the ancient world, Rome was unique in the extension of Roman citizenship to its conquered subjects, and a second question we will address is the impact of this on subject ethnicities, and whether Roman imperialism saw the spread of Roman ethnicity.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• investigate the nature of ethnicity in the ancient world • examine the characteristics of Roman ethnicity • explore the use of ‘the other’ in the construction of Roman ethnicity • investigate the extension of Roman ethnicity within the context of the Roman empire • examine the case of multiple ethnicities • consider debates surrounding ethnicity in general and the Roman world in particular

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the cultural and ethnic context of Rome and how this changed over time between the fifth century BC and the third century AD
  • a selection of the theoretical literature on the nature of ethnicity in the ancient world
  • some of the characteristics involved in the definition of a Roman ethnicity
  • debates surrounding the spread of Roman ethnicity alongside the growth of the Roman empire
  • key primary sources that provide evidence for the idea of a Roman ethnicity
  • the latest research into ancient ethnicity, Roman ethnicity and Romanization
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • explain the factors involved in the construction and maintenance of Roman ethnicity
  • evaluate the ways in which Roman writers described other peoples and how that related to Roman ethnicity
  • analyse the evidence for the extension of Roman ethnicity
  • evaluate critically the theoretical and methodological approaches used by scholars working on ancient ethnicity
  • express familiarity with and interpret critically a variety of primary sources from the Roman world
  • explain your own views on debates within the fields of Roman ethnicity and Romanization


Part two of ‘Being Roman’ will focus on ethnic identity within Rome itself and its extension throughout the Roman empire. We will explore ideas of ethnicity in the secondary literature relating to both modern ethnicity and to ancient ethnicity. We will then apply a range of these ideas to the Roman world and Roman ethnicity for the late Republican period through to the third century AD. We will evaluate a range of textual sources to consider ideas of shared customs and a shared past as part of the ways in which an ethnic identity is formulated. We will also focus on the idea of ‘the other’ i.e. that an ethnic identity is formed through the construction of the opposite. We will examine how the Greeks and the barbarians (such as the Celtic and German peoples) were used as a means of constructing a Roman ethnicity. We will also consider the spread of Roman ethnicity and the retention of local ethnicities in both Italy and the wider empire under the umbrella term of Romanization. Topics considered may include: 1. Ideas of ethnicity past and present 2. A shared past: the origins of Rome 3. Shared customs: urban living 4. Shared customs: religion 5. Shared customs: daily living 6. Romans and the other: the Greeks 7. Romans and the other: the Barbarian 8. Spread of Roman ethnicity: the Italian allies 9. Spread of Roman ethnicity: the western provinces 10. Spread of Roman ethnicity: the eastern provinces

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods focus on weekly seminars analysing 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.

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

Resources & Reading list

Wallace-Hadrill, A. (2008). Rome's cultural revolution. 

Dench, E. (2005). Romulus's asylum. 

Herring, E. and K. Lomas (2000). The emergence of state identities in Italy in the first millennium BC. 

Cornell, T. J. and K. Lomas, Eds. (1997). Gender and ethnicity in ancient Italy. 

Revell, L. (2009). Roman imperialism and local identities. 

Spawforth, A. (2012). Greece and the Augustan cultural revolution. 

Derks, T. and N. Roymans, Eds. (2009). Ethnic constructs in Antiquity: the role of power and tradition. 

Farney, G. D. (2007). Ethnic identity and aristocratic competition in Republican Rome. 

Revell, L.. Ways of being Roman. 

Hoff, M. C. and S. I. Rotroff (1997). The Romanization of Athens : proceedings of an international conference held at Lincoln, Nebraska (April 1996). 

Gruen, E. S. (1992). Culture and national identity in Republican Rome. 

Gruen, E. S. (2011). Rethinking the other in Antiquity. 

Woolf, G. (1994). Becoming Roman, staying Greek: culture, identity and the civilizing process in the Roman East. Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society. ,40 , pp. 116-143.

Antonaccio, C. M. (2010). (Re)defining ethnicity: culture, material culture and identity. Material culture and social identities in the Ancient World. , pp. 32-53.


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




MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Examination  (3 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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