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Final Exam Review Topics


The exam will consist of different kinds of questions:

  • Identifications (5 or so) — you’ll be provided with a term and you’ll need to give (a) a description of what it refers to and (b) its significance or importance. All identification terms will come from this sheet.
  • Essay (2) — a discussion giving your interpretation and analysis of a major theme we’ve covered over the entire course.

For all the sections except multiple choice, you will be able to choose from several possibilities and write about the ones you’re most familiar with. For example, if you need to answer 5 or 6 identifications, I’ll give you a choice of 10 or 12. There will be several essay questions to choose from.


  • Make a list of the most important milestone events in the periods we’ve discussed.
    • CAUSES — Make sure you can identify the most important factors that helped cause these events — including long-term factors (“the environment”) and short-term factors (“the spark”)
    • LEGACIES — Make sure you can identify the legacies of the milestone event. How did it change the culture, society, etc.? What impact did it have on future milestones and events?
  • For each of the questions below, see whether you have a strong idea how to answer, an okay idea how to answer, or a weak sense of how to answer. Review from the books and notes at least the “weak” ones.
  • Take note of the terms below and review ones you’re unfamiliar with.
  • Try to come up with possible essay questions and map out in advance the kinds of examples and interpretations that might pertain.
  • Discussion groups can be helpful in comparing others’ interpretations of topics and ideas with your own.
  • You should be able to talk about important documents from the Reader that illustrate major issues of the course.


Early Rome

  • What are the different kinds of sources we have for Roman history? How is each problematic?
  • If the stories about the founding of Rome and the early kings are not reliable, why are they important?
  • What are some geographic factors in Rome’s history?
  • What is the significance of the gens in the formation of early Roman society?
  • What is the effect of the Tyrrhenian community (the interchange of Etruria–Latium–Campania)?
  • What do we know about the Etruscan city-states? Why are Etruscans eventually eclipsed by Romans?
  • How were government and society ordered in the three major eras of Roman history (regal, republic, principate)?
  • TERMS: Apennine Mountains – Magna Graecia – haruspice – gens (pl. gentes) – paterfamilias – Latin rights – cognomen – Vestal Virgins

The Roman Republic

  • What is the significance for Romans of their rejection of the kings? What effect does this have on the Roman idea of the state?
  • What institutions and traditions might have carried over from the regal period to the republic? How is this significant for the republic?
  • How is the Roman constitution a hybrid one (according to Polybius, for example)? How does it relate to the idea of the polis?
  • What role does nexum (debt-bondage) play in the early republic?
  • What is the significance of the Twelve Tables?
  • What role is played by religion in the Roman state?
  • How did the Roman system attach the elite firmly to the state? How to the nonelite gain a greater voice in the state?
  • In what ways is the republic’s government and customs designed to favor the collective rule of the aristocracy?
  • What role does the senate play? How does this change over the course of the republic, and why?
  • TERMS: consul – patrician – tribune of the plebs – SPQR – colonia – imperium – mos maiorum – collegiality – auctoritas – patron/client – cursus honorum – auspices – centuriate assembly – tribal assembly – citizen – provocatio

Rome and Carthage

  • What issues — large and immediate — brought Rome into conflict with Carthage?
  • What is the nature and outcome of the three Punic Wars?
  • What is the significance of the siege and sack of Syracuse?
  • TERMS: Hannibal – Carthago delenda est

Republic and Empire

  • Why do the Romans abandon hoplite warfare? How is their new manipular legion more effective?
  • What made Rome able to become the master of Italy in the middle republic?
  • What are the secrets to Rome’s success in dominating the entire Mediterranean world?
  • How does Rome deal with the Western Mediterranean differently from the Eastern Mediterranean?
  • How do the Romans view the Greeks?
  • What effect does Roman dominion have on the Mediterranean World?
  • What major problems does the acquisition of empire create for Rome?
  • What are the limitations of Roman religion in its efforts to export its culture? How do the Romans meet this challenge?
  • TERMS: municipia – civitas sine suffragio – province – proconsul – equestrian order – senatorial order – farmer-soldier – publicani – freedman – Roman diaspora

Fall of the Republic

  • Why did Rome have so much trouble adjusting politically and militarily to its empire?
  • In what way are the crises involving the Gracchi not a beginning of the republic’s downfall but a culmination of long-brewing trouble?
  • What factors are involved in the collapse of the republic?
  • How does Marius pave the way for Sulla’s terrible actions?
  • What issues were involved in the Social War (Rome against the Italians) in the late republic?
  • What’s the relevance of Catiline’s conspiracy?
  • How are the two triumvirates similar and different?
  • How do warlords of the late republic — Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Caesar, Augustus — attempt to stabilize the state in their own ways?
  • Why is there disagreement about when the republic ends?
  • What role does Egypt play in the last stages of the fall of the republic, and why?
  • What challenges does Augustus face after his defeat of Antony and Cleopatra?
  • TERMS: ager publicus – Gracchi – Marius – Sulla – Pompey – Caesar – Clodius – maius imperium – proscription

The Principate

  • Given that Romans rejected kings and even the word rex, why did they accept the one-man rule of Augustus and his successors?
  • How is Augustus a different kind of rule from his adoptive father, Caesar?
  • What accomplishments relate to Augustus being called a refounder of Rome?
  • What difficulties are involved in succession under the principate? What key factors in succession develop in the principate?
  • What factors help bring about a surge in Latin literature and culture under Augustus?
  • Who were the Julio-Claudians? What conflicts typify this period?
  • What is the significance of the Year of Four Emperors (69 CE) and the resulting principate of Vespasian?
  • What role do female members of the imperial family play in society and succession?
  • What role is played by the army in principate society? How is the army of the principate different from the army of the early republic?
  • How does the economy of the empire develop during the early principate?
  • Why do some argue that Rome’s golden age ends with Marcus Aurelius?
  • TERMS: Augustus – princeps – Diocletian – provocatio – praetorian guard

Later Transformations

  • What are the causes and effects of the third century crisis? How is this crisis resolved?
  • What institutional and political factors are important for holding the empire together? What social and cultural factors are important?
  • How does Christianization affect the Roman world?
  • What factors bring about the destabilization and fall of the western empire? Why does the eastern empire remain stable and survive?
  • TERMS: monotheism – Julian the apostate – Arianism