What you will study
The module consists of five main blocks and a conclusion. Each block emphasises a different aspect or way of thinking about the Roman empire.
The module begins by asking big questions about what we mean when we write about ‘the Roman empire’, introducing you to the different ways in which it can be investigated. Equipped with an understanding of the different types of source that can be used to examine the empire, you will then begin to explore it from a number of alternative perspectives. This begins with the view from Rome, at the centre of empire, before moving on to consider the military, governmental and economic mechanisms and structures which enabled the empire to function successfully. After this you will explore the cultural forces that shaped what it meant to be ‘Roman’ before assessing the impact of changes that took place during the later empire, as well as the continued significance of the empire for later generations.
As the module progresses, you are expected to develop a degree of independence in learning to the extent that you are able to complete independent analyses using the skills you have learned in the course of your study.
The module makes use of a number of interactive resources, accessed via the module VLE, including an interactive map which will enable you to locate and explore a variety of different sites and regions across the empire. You will also watch a series of videos presenting evidence from key sites in different parts of the empire, including Britain, Italy and Morocco. Audio discussions and features will allow you to listen to experts debating the key issues raised in the written material as well as helping you to develop skills related to the evaluation of particular types of ancient source material. ICT is also used to give access to the range of specialist websites that comprise works of reference and scholarship in the field.
The module content is as follows:
Block 1: Framing the empire
In this block you will be introduced to the history and geography of the empire, considering the different narratives constructed to tell its story. Using Hadrian’s Wall as a case study you will then learn how to evaluate the range of primary sources through which we construct our knowledge of the empire.
Block 2: The heart of empire: the city of Rome
Your study will concentrate on the benefits and problems of empire from the perspective of its centre. You will examine snapshots of Rome at key periods to investigate how the development of the empire impacted upon its monumental landscape. You will study key sites within the city, the emperors who shaped them, and the community who lived there, before following in the footsteps of Hadrian to journey away from Rome towards the provinces.
Block 3: Structures of empire
The emphasis of this block is on the different mechanisms used by Roman emperors to govern, control and support such a vast empire. You will evaluate the role of the army, examine the nature of local government and the importance of cities as focal points for Roman authority and law, before looking at how the empire’s economy not only allowed it to prosper but connected its disparate parts.
Block 4: A cultural empire
You will examine the cultural influences which united the empire, focusing on issues of identity, religion, diversity and shared ideas about Roman urban life and leisure. As you explore how people lived and died in the empire you will also be introduced to ongoing and dynamic debate about varied responses to Roman culture and the process of ‘Romanization’.
Block 5: Legacy of empire
Your attention will turn to a series of case studies which consider the extent to which late antiquity was a period of continuity or change. How did the empire respond to the pressures of ‘barbarian’ incursions and economic crisis, and how did it draw upon its own history to create a new imperial focus at Constantinople? In what ways has the Roman empire continued to have an impact in the modern world?
Block 6: Conclusion
You will examine a short case study which brings together the themes, materials, sources and debates that you have studied in order to consider what the empire was, the impact that it had on the people who lived within it, and why it was so important.
You will learn
By studying this module you will:
- gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the history and archaeology of the Roman empire and learn to consider the different approaches that can be taken to its study
- study and analyse a variety of sources – such as historical texts, artefacts, architecture and monuments, inscriptions, archaeological plans, writing tablets, coins and art – evaluating the context of the evidence and its value for addressing specific questions about the empire
- develop the ability to write a well thought-out critical analysis of ancient primary sources and to construct and communicate a logical argument at an appropriate level
- become familiar with a range of theoretical approaches and modern scholarship relating to the Roman empire and develop an awareness of the contested nature of our current knowledge
- develop a degree of independence in learning that will enable you to use the skills that you have learnt to complete source analyses and investigations of bibliography via the internet, libraries, etc.