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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

CLAS2390 The Rise of Rome: Myth and History

20 creditsClass Size: 24

Module manager: Dr Henry Clarke

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is mutually exclusive with

CLAS3390The Rise of Rome: Myth and History

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module will explore the literary and material evidence for the early history of Rome, from the first Roman communities down to the rise of the city of Rome as a major power in the Mediterranean. Our lectures will cover topics including the archaeological evidence for the first Roman communities and Roman literary accounts of Rome’s early history. We will also investigate important stages in Rome’s early development, such as the modern and ancient views of the story of Romulus’ foundation of Rome, the tales of the kings of Rome and the expulsion of Tarquin the Proud, the political and social conflicts of the Roman Republic, and the expansion of Roman power in Italy and beyond. We will consider how much of the Roman past detailed in the works of later historians, poets, playwrights and other literary authors is accurate, given that the events described took place well beyond the range of living memory in a pre-literary age, and our authors are often working with very particular agendas and audiences in mind. The module will therefore equip students with the analytical tools required to extract authentic evidence from our surviving sources and to identify what historical realities can be deduced from the realm of myth.


This module will enable students to:
- analyse and consider the nature of our surviving literary and material evidence for the early history of Rome
- develop an understanding of the difficulties involved in interpreting later Roman stories about early Rome and its pre-literary history, such as Romulus’ foundation of Rome, the rape of the Sabine women, the expulsion of the Roman kings, and the emergence of the Republican form of government.
- explore and evaluate a wide variety of primary evidence related to Rome’s early history, including literary and historical texts, inscriptions, coinage, structural remains, artefacts and monuments.
- develop the analytical tools required to extract authentic evidence from our surviving sources and to identify what historical realities can be deduced from the realm of myth, and to appreciate the uncertainty, ambiguity and limitations of our knowledge of pre-literary and early Rome
- learn to differentiate between different authorial agendas and to consider how these affect our understanding of early Rome
- engage critically with secondary scholarship on topics such as the nature of the first ‘Roman’ communities, Rome’s unwritten history, the relationship between myth and history in accounts of early Rome, the lived experiences of the early Romans, and the impact of expansion on Roman politics, society and culture.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module, students are expected to be able to:
1. accurately describe the main events, figures, and cultural, political and social developments of early Roman history
2. understand and analyse the literary and material evidence of Rome’s early history, including demonstrating a capacity to explore the differences between mythical stories and historical realities, and to describe accurately the implications of the impact of later authorial agenda on our ability to reconstruct and understand early Roman history
3. make a good selection from the primary evidence (both literary and material) relevant to Rome’s early history in order to communicate ideas effectively
4. demonstrate knowledge of the main schools of thought within the scholarship relevant to Rome’s early history
5. construct reasoned and well-supported arguments


This module will involve historical, historiographical and archaeological analysis of the evidence for Rome’s early history. The module will begin by considering the problematic nature of the anachronistic literary sources that describe the early history of Rome, and the blurred lines they create between myth and history, whilst also suggesting how this evidence can still be used in combination with material remains to identify historical realities. It will consider the material remains of the first communities to establish permanent settlements at Rome, explore the evidence for early political, social and religious structures, and interrogate the mythical/historical foundation of Rome by Romulus. Other topics may include the reign of the kings, their expulsion, and the emergence of the Republican form of government. The module may also consider Rome’s relationship with its Latin neighbours and the other communities in Italy, the politics of the Roman Republic and the conflict of the plebeian and patrician orders, and how war and the expansion of Roman power affected domestic politics, culture and society during the Republican era.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

• 4 hours reading for each of the 14 lectures = 56 hours
• 5 hours preparatory work for each of the 6 seminars = 30 hours
• 47 hours researching and writing the first coursework assignment
• 47 hours researching and writing the second coursework assignment

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will have the opportunity to receive formative feedback during module contact hours, both at lectures via in-class exercises and group discussion, and especially in seminar classes via feedback on the two formative presentations. Seminars will support preparatory work for coursework, for discussion with the seminar tutor and the group. Students will receive comprehensive summative feedback on the first coursework assignment, which will clearly indicate their progress on the module ahead of the final creative assignment. Students will also be encouraged to attend the module co-ordinator’s office drop-in hours to discuss their work on the module. These sessions will also provide students with the opportunity to discuss feedback already provided on assessed work in greater detail.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Written Work2,500 Word Essay50.00
Written Work2,500 Word Creative Assignment50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The creative assignment will consist of a guide of ancient Rome for an ancient historian travelling back to a point in early Roman history covered by the module. Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:12:25


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