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CL3366: The Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History

Course Outline

What makes a society? What makes a society work? Since the birth of political economy in the eighteenth century we have understood there to be a fundamental link between politics and economics and that societies are shaped by their economics. Most pre-industrial writers, insulated by their individual wealth from the vagaries of the economy, simply assumed that economics worked themselves and that political structures reflected a natural economic and social system. This appears to have been the view of Roman elites. Yet, economics underpinned the operation of Roman society and politics, whether it be in the emergence of the imperial drive in the early Roman Republic, a drive centred on the poverty and land hunger of the Roman population, the emergence of a wealthy and distinct landed aristocracy in the third and second centuries BC, and the further development of that aristocracy on the back of empire, the growing crisis of the Republic (associated with the Gracchi and Marius) or the Republic’s Fall, brought down by soldiers seeking economic and political rewards. This course will explore the relationship between economics and politics, a relationship as complex in antiquity as it is today, and seek new ways, to understand that relationship and the course of Roman history. 

Course Schedule

1.     Theories of Economy and Society: Finley, Marx and Agricultural Systems

2.     Theories of Economy and Society: Land, Power and Politics

3.     The Origins of the Roman Economy: Land in Archaic Rome

4.     The Origins of the Roman Economy: Money, Land, and Social Hierarchies

5.     SEMINAR 1: Essay Reviews

6.     Cato’s farm

7.     Hannibal’s Legacy: Arnold Toynbee and the Crisis  of the Roman State

8.     Slaves and Slave Systems of Antiquity

9.     Sites and Settlements in Roman Italy

10.  SEMINAR 2: Cato’s farm: Business Planning and How to be a Roman Farmer

11.  The Gracchan Crisis I: Tiberius Gracchus and the Roman Poor

12.  The Gracchan Crisis II: Gaius Gracchus and Ager Publicus

13.  SEMINAR 3: Reading the Sources on the Gracchan Crisis

14.  Army and Land in the Roman Revolution I: Marius and the Capite Censi

15.  Economic Growth in Roman Italy: Cities and Towns

16.  Economic Growth in Roman Italy: Villas and Trade

17.  SEMINAR 4: Being a Pleb

18.  Urban Life: Feeding Rome

19.  Urban Life: Cities of Death

20.  Army and Land in the last century of the Republic



Formative: Essay Plan:        Submission at a date to be arranged

Summative: Essay (2500 - 3000 words):  Date to be determined by Department (70%)

Group work project: Submission at a date to be determined by the Department (30%)

                      (Subject to validation at 6/02/15)                                                       

Group Work

Business Plan: Apply for funding for your Roman Farm; Work out your investment decisions, income generation strategies, outgoings, markets, land prices, labour costs. (Group work)


Assessed from submission of powerpoint slides, financial plan, narrative business plan of the farm, risk management strategy. Groups will be assessed together and all get the same mark.


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