The Romans (Classics 84, History 102A), Spring Quarter 2019

This course was a survey on ancient Roman history, society, and culture ranging from 753 BCE to the fifth century CE, with a brief outlook on the various successor empires up until 1870. In his lectures, Walter Scheidel covered the major periods and events in Roman history as well as central climatic, demographic, economic, social, and cultural aspects. I had the opportunity to lecture on early Rome, life in the provinces, as well as the Roman frontier and the worlds beyond the empire’s borders.

Textbook & Readings

Apart from the textbook (Boatwright, Mary T. , Gargola, Daniel J., Lenski, Noel, and Talbert, Richard J. A. (2012). The Romans: From Village to Empire. A History of Rome from Earliest Times to the End of the Western Empire. 2nd edition. Oxford et al.: Oxford University Press), the students also had to read a collection of ancient sources in translation (extracts from: Livy, Ab Urbe Condita; Polybius, Histories; Appian, Bellum Civile; Sallust Bellum Catilinae; Josephus, Jewish War; Tacitus, Annals, Germania, Agricola, Histories; Pliny the Younger, Letters to Tacitus; Augustus, Res Gestae Divi Augusti; Cassius Dio, Roman History; Pliny Minor, Letters; Lactantius, On the Death of the Persecutors; Eusebius, Life of Constantine; Zosimus, New History; collected in Mellor, Ronald (2012). The Historians of Ancient Rome: An Anthology of the Major Writings. 3rd edition. New York NY and London: Routledge).

Students’ Assignments

In addition to submitting weekly discussion questions and writing a brief reply to a question posed by me, each student had to sign up to either give a 10-minute presentation and lead a 20-minute discussion or submit a written report on the section’s topic; write a midterm assignment (10002000 words, depending on number of units) on the question of how democratic the Roman Republic was; and write a research paper (30006000 words, depending on number of units) on a topic of their own choosing. For the research papers, each student had to submit an abstract, an extended outline including the introduction, and a final draft to me, on all of which they received written feedback to be incorporated into the next version, a grade, and a rationale for their grade.

Section Meetings

In weekly section meetings, I expanded on certain issues form the lectures and discussed a range of topics with the students, often focusing on the primary sources, how to read and interpret them, and how we come to our understanding of ancient Roman society. Specifically, we’ve discussed the fabrication of historical tradition; the constitution of the Roman Republic; concepts of ‘Just War’; the inner workings of Republican politics; the Augustan regime; the social, economic, and cultural background of emperors, aristocrats, and provincial elites; cult, community, and imperial power; and the rise of Christianity. In addition to these topics, I taught the fundamentals of scholarly work including the issues of paraphrasing, quoting, and citing; how to write an abstract; citing ancient sources and modern literature (including an exercise); source criticism; and how to write a good paper. Given the large number of students, there were three section meetings each week; however, as not each section had enough students to present in each meeting I took over some of the 10minute presentations.


In order to prepare the students for their presentations, papers, and discussions, I prepared several handouts:

Feedback & Evaluation

The students seemed to be pretty happy with the way I taught the section, and appreciated that I had incorporated much of their mid-quarter feedback. In the final evaluation, 95% of all students said that they learned a great deal or a lot from me and that my instruction was extremely or very effective, and all students were of the opinion that I helped them a great deal of a lot in developing critical thinking skills. They particularly liked the feedback I provided them with on their written assignments, my expertise on the subject, and my clear teaching style. That being said, they continued to encourage me to take a more active role in leading the discussions.


Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on this website can be used, adapted, and shared under the CC BY 4.0 licence, meaning you’re welcome to use anything you might find useful as long as you give credit. Please note that I no rights to most images used in the lecture presentations.