Introduction to Roman History

Module Code: AH1011

Module co-ordinator: Dr Andy Merrills

  • How did Rome transform from a small city state to the ruler of the world?
  • What changes did the Romans bring to the territories that they conquered?
  • How can we piece together the earliest history of the Mediterranean world from texts and archaeology?
  • What was the deal with all of the crazy emperors?

Everybody knows about the Romans. They conquered the world with their terrifying legions, brought sewers and aqueducts to backwaters like Britain, and spent their free time getting drunk at orgies. This module investigates all of these aspects of Roman civilisation, but also looks deeper – at the social and political changes undergone by Rome through its long history, and at the great works of art and literature that survive from the period.

Introduction to Roman History covers thirteen centuries from the mythic foundation of the City in the eighth century BC to the fall of the empire in the fifth century AD. Along the way you will explore the dramatic conquest of Italy, and the creation of the Republic; from the rise of warlords like Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar through to the eventual emergence of Augustus and the foundation of the Roman Empire. We will look at the Empire at its height, and the state that teetered into collapse. Together we will examine the social institutions of Rome – slavery, the army, family life, civic institutions – and we will look closely at the texts and material culture that allow us to make sense of this world.

Topics covered

  • The origins of Rome
  • The war machine and the conquest of the world
  • Sources in translation
  • Roman art and literature
  • Roman cities
  • Augustus
  • The Golden Age of Rome
  • Writing history in Rome


  • 20 one-hour lectures
  • 6 one-hour seminars


  • essay, 2,000 words (50%)
  • exam, two hours (50%