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The Archaeology of Early Roman Imperialism


Admission requirements

To make the most of this inspiring course and for all participants to begin at the same page, at the start of the course you are required to study Bradley, G.J., "The Roman Republic: Political History", in E. Bispham (ed.) Roman Europe (Oxford, 2008), the Cambridge Ancient History chapters by Harris and Morel, L. Curchin 1991 chapter 6, and S. Keay 2001 (listed below under Reading List).


The question how Rome won its empire is as old as the study of Roman history, and continues to dominate modern scholarship. An important difficulty these studies encounter is that the available textual sources from the imperial period (1st-3rd centuries AD) describe and explain Roman imperial success from hindsight, i.e. centuries after the key phase of Roman expansion in the Mediterranean (4th-2nd centuries BC) and its initial phases (6th-5th centuries BC).

Now, recent and ongoing research increasingly demonstrates that radically different models and motivations may have been at the basis of early Roman expansionism. The character of early Roman expansionism and its dynamics are best grasped by looking at the development of Rome itself and its Mediterranean competitors from a comparative perspective, using primarily contemporary archaeological and epigraphical data analysed through firm methodological approaches.

In this course we will explore the functioning of the formative phases in Roman expansionism using primarily archaeological data from the Western Mediterranean, and confronting these with current models of Roman expansion.
We will focus on the archaeology of the Italian and Western Iberian peninsulas, study various theoretical and methodological approaches, and establish parameters to explain early Roman society and its performance in military, demographic and socio-economic respects.
In particular, we will evaluate influential models of Roman colonisation, conquest and expansion in light of the growing body of archaeological evidence, including Leiden-based research projects on Roman colonialism.

Course set-up

Weekly 2-hour sessions combining lecturing and discussion, prepared by autonomous study of reading materials, and ultimately the writing of an essay.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the main theories on Roman imperialism;

  • Knowledge of the recent debate about (models of) Roman colonisation in the Roman Republican period;

  • Ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of these theories and debates;

  • Ability to assess practical, archaeological approaches to test these theories;

  • Ability to translate these theories into archaeologically testable models;

  • Ability to report and discuss such archaeological model testing both in a clear and well-structured written text, and orally.


Course schedule details can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures, short videos and self/group-study;

  • Tutorial.

Course load

  • 7 × 2 hours of lectures and tutorials (1 ec);

  • Ca. 280 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • Essay of 3,000-3,500 words (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Essay (60%);

  • Class participation (40%).

Both participation and essay should be graded with at least a 5.0 to pass, and the combined average grade of the two parts should be at least a 5.5 or higher.

A retake is only possible for the final essay (in case of a retake, a new topic needs to be submitted).

Assessment deadlines

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button. To view the assessment deadline(s), make sure to select the course with a code ending in T and/or R.

Reading list

  • Bradley, G.J., 2008. "The Roman Republic: Political History" in: E. Bispham (ed.), Roman Europe. Oxford;

  • Curchin, L. 1991. Roman Spain: Conquest and Assimilation. London and New York: Routledge, 103-129;

  • Keay, S. 2001. "Romanization and the Hispaniae", in: Italy and the West: Comparative Issues in Romanization, edited by S. Keay & N. Terrenato, 111-44. Oxford: Oxbow Books;

  • Harris, W.V., 1989. "Roman Expansion in the West", in: Astin et al. (eds), Cambridge Ancient History Volume 8: Rome and the Mediterranean to 133 BC (2nd edition);

  • Morel, J.P, 1989. "The Transformation of Italy, 300-133 B.C. The Evidence of Archaeology", in: Astin et al. (eds), Cambridge Ancient History Volume 8: Rome and the Mediterranean to 133 BC (2nd edition).

Per meeting there will be one or two chapters/papers to read. The reading list will be distributed 1 week prior to the start of the class and/or during every class. Make sure you are enrolled in this course (and therefore in Brightspace) in time.


Registration in uSis is mandatory. You can register for this course until 5 days before the first class.

Registration in uSis automatically leads to enrollment in the corresponding Brightspace module. Therefore you do not need to enroll in Brightspace, but make sure to register for this course in uSis.

You are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time. The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, you are not required to do this in uSis.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. A. (Anita) Casarotto.


Compulsory attendance. Max. 1 session can be missed, but only with permission request beforehand and an additional assignment to show you have studied the materials (to be handed in within one week).