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“Can any one be so indifferent or idle as not to care to know by what means, and under what kind of government, almost the whole inhabited world was conquered and brought under the dominion of the single city of Rome?”

Course and section: HIA 321, section 81W
Spring 2013
Meetings: Room CA-212
Mondays, 6:00 – 8:40 p.m.
Instructor: Mark Wilson
(718) 960-8288 [History office]
Office Hours: Room CA-292
Mondays and Wednesdays
12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

Rationale  The colossal achievement of the Romans—a single city indelibly suffusing its unique sensibility through the entire ancient Mediterranean world—is only part of the Roman story. The people of Rome gained economic, political, military, and cultural dominance over the ancient West and laid the foundations for the medieval and modern worlds through a fascinating mixture of synthesis and adaptation, on the one hand, and unshakable faith in the Roman identity, on the other. How the Romans acquired an empire, and how that empire constantly reshaped Roman society, tells us not only about the Western civilization that descended from them, but about the dynamics of society, empire, and power.

Aims  Foundation and development of the Roman state, including the rise and decline of the Roman Republic and the establishment and fall of the Empire, with emphasis on its political, economic, social, and cultural achievements.

Specific Learning Objectives  In this course we’ll be pursuing a number of goals, including:

  • Exploration of the emergence of Roman civilization and its implications for humanity;
  • Relation of the cultures and beliefs of other ancient Mediterranean societies to those of Rome;
  • Exploration of the transformation of Roman social, military, religious, and other norms from the emergence of Rome as a city-state to its dominion of the Mediterranean world;
  • Discussion of the relationship between the ideals of Roman tradition and the modern Western ethos; and
  • Development of the skills associated with the study of history, including the interpretation of primary sources and other evidence.


Course Readings

The following books are required:

Mary T. Boatwright et al.
The Romans: From Village to Empire, 2nd edition.
Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-199-73057-5.

  • The text is available from Lehman College Bookstore, either in person or online.
  • It’s also available from Amazon and other online retailers. If you order online, make sure you’ll receive the books in time for the assignments.

Course Reader:
De Roma: Excerpts from Ancient Writers About Rome.

  • Photocopies of the Course Reader will be provided during the first class meeting.
  • A PDF and an HTML version is posted online at the course web page.


Class attendance is required. Missing classes will damage your grade. The textbook is designed to give you the basics; it’s in class that we try to make sense of things and sift out what’s important. Missing classes means you miss out on a key part of our trying to put things together. Plus, if you miss classes, you’ll miss quizzes, which will put a big crimp in your course grade. Religious observances that affect class attendance should be discussed in advance.

Make-up exams are given only in cases of documented medical emergencies.

Submitting Assignments

You may email me your written assignments, but it doesn’t “count” unless you get an email back from me saying I received it. Unless I reply back to you, I didn’t receive it. If there’s any question about whether I’m receiving your emails, please talk to me about it in class.

Late assignments will be marked down. Written assignments will be marked down one letter grade per class meeting after the assignment due date, up to a maximum of 30 points. That means you’re still better off turning in your paper late, and having it be marked down, than not turning it in at all.

Grading Procedures

I do not give extra credit opportunities except to the entire class. I do not grade on a curve.

>97 93–97 90–92 88–89 83–87 80–82 78–79 73–77 70–72 68–69 63–67 60–62 <60
A+ A A– B+ B B– C+ C C– D+ D D– F


Your grade for the course will be determined from the following:

15% Quizzes  We’ll have very short quizzes at the start of most class meetings, to help gauge our relationship with the material in the readings.
  • Quizzes are based on the readings for that class in both the textbook and the additional readings. If you did your reading for the class, you should be prepared for the quiz.
  • Missed quizzes are not made up. If you come late to class and miss a quiz, you’ll get a zero for that quiz. Therefore, please make sure you come to class on time and prepared.
  • Quizzes are always based on the readings listed on the assignment sheet, even if I am slightly behind the syllabus in the topics I discuss in class. Make sure you do the assigned readings.
20% Presentation and Write-Up on a Primary Source (2)  You’ll make two short presentations on a primary source excerpt from the Reader: one during the first half of the course, and another during the second half.
  • Your presentation will give the class your perspective on what this reading means and how it relates to the material being discussed in the course.
  • Your presentation will be given the day that that reading is assigned on the schedule.
  • A 2–3 page write-up of your take on the reading is due the following class.
10% Representations and Images Paper  For this paper, you’ll take in your choice of various nonwritten artistic depictions of ancient Rome, including sculpture, painting, performance, or film, and compare them with primary sources in order to compare the history of Rome with how it has been represented.
  • We’ll talk about what’s expected, and I’ll a handout with the specific assignment.
25% Position Paper  You’ll write an essay discussing a turning point in Roman history of your choice, examining the source material, causes, and effects of the event or transformation and drawing your own conclusions about its meaning.
  • We’ll talk about what’s expected, and I’ll have a handout with the specific assignment.
  • Your essay will be based on your assessment of the reading and its context in the society that produced it, both of which will be discussed thoroughly in class.
  • I’ll ask you to submit a proposal for the paper partway through the semester, so I can give you feedback on what you’re planning to write about.
  • You can submit a draft of the paper up to two weeks before it’s due; I’ll give general feedback (but not a grade). Because I accept drafts, I do not allow students to submit revised versions of their final paper after the final due date.
30% Final Exam  A final exam will be given in which you will interpret the major themes of the course.


Don’t waste this opportunity! Make the most out of this class.

Please use me as a resource. Come to my office hours, talk to me after class, or send me emails with any questions you have—whether they relate to the requirements of the course or ideas we’re reading about or discussing in class.

Be on time and prepared. By prepared, I mean you should come into class having done the readings for that day and thought about them. Come in ready to talk about your reactions to the readings and the questions they raised in your mind.

Check your email. Make sure I have a good email address for you and check it, as I occasionally send information and updates by email. If you have not gotten an email from me within the first week after school begins, check your spam folders. If you can’t find an email from me, email me to let me know.

Cell phones and electronics need to be silenced and stowed. A phone ringing during class is hugely disruptive. Texting during class is just as rude and insulting as talking on the phone.

Talk to me if you’re struggling. Come to me in office hours or after class, and the sooner the better. Don’t wait until it’s too late to turn things around.


Academic Integrity

Lehman College is committed to the highest standards of academic honesty. Acts of academic dishonesty include—but are not limited to—plagiarism (in drafts, outlines, and examinations, as well as final papers), cheating, bribery, academic fraud, sabotage of research materials, the sale of academic papers, and the falsification of records. An individual who engages in these or related activities or who knowingly aids another who engages in them is acting in an academically dishonest manner and will be subject to disciplinary action.

Plagiarism includes the incorporation of any material that is not original with you without attribution, whether from a book, article, web site, or fellow student, in any paper or assignment. Assignments that include any plagiarism will receive a zero and the offending student will be subject to additional action by the College. Students engaging in repeated instances of plagiarism will fail the course outright and will be remanded to the College for disciplinary action.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Lehman College is committed to providing access to all programs and curricula to all students. Students with disabilities who may need classroom accommodations are encouraged to register with the Office of Student Disability Services.

  • For more information, please contact the Office of Student Disability Services, Shuster Hall, Room 238; phone number: (718) 960-8441.