The Crisis of the Late Republic c.100-27 BC - CLAS6004

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Autumn Term 6 15 (7.5) Christopher Burden-Strevens checkmark-circle


This module will provide a detailed and research-led study of the century of political instability now known commonly to historians as the 'crisis' of the Roman Republic. It begins at the end of the 2nd century BCE amidst a period of rising populism, demagoguery, and socio-economic strain and fragmentation among the traditional elite. Proceeding through the civil wars of the 1st century BCE, from Sulla and Marius, Pompey and Caesar, and finally Antony and Octavian, the study ends with the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE and the accession of Octavian/Augustus as monarch over the Roman Empire.

The lectures will give detailed discussion of the varying scholarly interpretations of this much-discussed and famous period of Roman history, introducing students to the sources of evidence (historiography, biography, political philosophy, art, coinage, architecture, inscriptions) and providing models of their effective combination. In addition to the chronological survey of the period discussed, lectures will also develop major themes essential to the students' understanding of the century of political crisis that precipitated the transition from Republic to monarchy. Topics covered may include tradition and innovation; art and the political; consensus models; crisis theory; women and the sub-elite as political actors; rhetoric and its abuse; warfare and imperialism.

The seminars will provide hands-on training in the interpretation of the evidence for these periods and themes, both material and literary, arising out of the content of the immediately preceding lecture. Some seminars will also be reserved for discussion in order to clarify best practice for the assessments.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130
Total Study Hours: 150


Autumn or Spring

Method of assessment

Collaborative Wiki Entry (1,500 words) – 30%
Thematic Portfolio Project (2,500 words) – 70%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Brunt, P. (1988). The Fall of the Roman Republic and Related Essays. Oxford: Clarendon Press
Burden-Strevens, C. (2020). Cassius Dio's Speeches and the Collapse of the Roman Republic. Leiden & Boston: Brill
Crook, J., Lintott, A., & Rawson, E. (eds.) (2001). The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 9. 2nd Edition. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press
Flower, H. (2010). Roman Republics. Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press
Gruen, E. (1995). The Last Generation of the Roman Republic. Berkeley: University of California Press
Millar, F. (2002). Rome, the Greek World, and the East: Volume 1. The Roman Republic and the Augustan Revolution. Chapel Hill/London: University of North Carolina Press
Morstein-Marx, R. & Rosenstein, N. (eds.). (2010). A Companion to the Roman Republic. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell
Steel, C. (2013). The End of the Roman Republic: Conquest and Crisis. 146 to 44 BC. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the main aspects of the political, cultural, and economic history of the Roman Republic from the late 2nd century BCE to the late
1st century BCE;
2. Critically interrogate the main theoretical and scholarly interpretations of the political and socio-economic instability of the 1st century BCE;
3. Regularly interpret material and archaeological evidence (including coinage, inscriptions, art, and architecture) in combination with historiographical evidence;
4. Perform detailed investigation of contemporary and later literary sources (letters, biographies, formal historiography, poetry, and political philosophy), giving attention to bias,
ideological views, contemporaneity, and reliability;
5. Recognise the principal features of the institutions, laws, and constitution of the Roman Republic and assess their significance in the political process.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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