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current students > seminars > fall 2011 schedule > seminar: HNSPTP- History: Fall of the Roman Republic


Honors Seminars Fall 2011

HNSPTP- History: Fall of the Roman Republic

HON 290 Sec:001  
3 hours  
GER Cat:
Humanities: History  
Clark Hall 00205  
Dr. Molly M. Pryzwansky

In the popular imagination, the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE is often seen as the pivotal point in the fall of the Roman Republic. While Caesar's murder was an important event, the collapse of Rome's Republican government and subsequent rise of its Empire was actually a long historical process involving many players over the course of more than a century. This class examines the last century of the Roman Republic from the reforms of the Gracchi in the 130s BCE to Octavian's defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31. After Octavian's victory, he solidifies his power to become Rome's first emperor, better known by his honorary title Augustus. When discussing the fall of the Republic, the ancient sources tend to stress moral themes, especially the ruthless ambition, greed and self-interest of a few key men (for example, Sulla, Pompey, Caesar and Antony). They also frequently point to the overall moral decline of Roman society, which they depict as grown soft with the influx of new wealth from foreign conquests. We shall challenge these assumptions and ask how else we can approach the fall of the Republic. What roles are played in this process by the army, land distribution, territorial expansion, voting and citizenship rights, or the very structure of the government itself? Our ancient sources usually focus on a few elite men, but what about the rest of the population, not to mention Rome's provincial peoples? Rome's famous generals might have been ambitious, but the state also lacked institutions to solve problems, forcing it to turn increasingly to individuals instead. This class focuses on primary source readings from Roman authors such as Cicero, Caesar and Sallust. In addition to two quizzes, there are three short Response Papers (3 pgs. each), which teach the mechanics of history-writing and introduce basic concepts in critical reading and writing. The class culminates in a Research Paper on a topic of the student's choice (approx. 10 pgs.), written in stages so as to stress research and revision.