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seminars > fall 2014 schedule > seminar: The Ides of March, 44 B.C.


Honors Seminars Fall 2014

The Ides of March, 44 B.C.

HON 290 Sec:002  
3 hours  
GEP Category:
Humanities (History); Global Knowledge  
HVC Multipurpose Room (201)  
Dr. Molly M. Pryzwansky

This course focuses on the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. by a group of fellow Roman senators who called for liberty, exploring the historical, political, legal and social events leading up to the murder, the act itself and its chaotic aftermath. We will consider textual and material sources (such as art, architecture and coins) dating to the 1st cent. B.C. – including writings by Caesar himself and by Cicero, who was Caesar’s contemporary and rival – together with later Roman reflections upon Caesar’s career (mostly from the 2nd-3rd cents. A.D.) and modern portrayals of it in HBO’s series “Rome.”

The main question, both then and now, is whether Caesar was a good ruler who helped to stabilize the shaky Roman Republic and who strove to address serious social and political issues, or whether he was tyrannical in amassing sole power and abundant personal glories and brought about the Republic’s downfall. We will also ask whether we should look to any one, elite individual as driving and defining history or instead seek to understand broader trends over time. By the end of the semester, students will be able to articulate a thoughtful response to such questions.

In the first half of the semester, there will be three short response papers (3 pp. each) that will teach the mechanics of critical reading and writing in history. In the second half of the semester, each student will produce a research paper on a topic of his/her choice (10 pp.). The final paper will be written in stages so as to emphasize the process of research and revision. There will be no formal tests, but there will be two short quizzes (20 min.) to test factual knowledge. Active, informed seminar participation will be emphasized and will make up 20% of the final grade.