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Religions of the North: Impact of the Roman Empire on Religion in the Northwestern Provinces


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


Curse tablets found in the temple of Sulis Minerva in Britannia, the inscriptions on Nehalennia altars, the unsurpassed find of the new temple at Herwen near Zevenaar, Mithras temples nearin the vicinity of the German limes - these are just a few examples of sources showing how those living in the Northwestern part of the Roman Empire shaped and reshaped their religions. What was the impact of the Roman Empire on the religious life of inhabitants of the limes regions?

We will look into developments of acculturation in the field to religion in this specific part of the empire, with as background the rapid expansion of the Roman Empire and its diverse and colourful religious and social life - of course always with a keen eye on relevant texts and archaeological finds.

This research seminar will focus on the concept of acculturation in the field of ancient religions and how it developed during the first three centuries. Students will explore the different debates about the impact of empire, and check them against different sets of primary sources (literary, epigraphical, numismatic and archaeological).

The course will start with an entry test. The assignment will be published on Brightspace 10 days before the start of the course and should be handed in 48 hours in advance.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  5. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  7. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  9. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  10. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation Ancient History, focusing particularly on the unification processes in the Graeco-Roman World, 400 BC – 400 AD; insight into the recent large-scale debates in the field with respect to both the history of mentality and socio-economic history.

  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following:

-in the specialisation Ancient History: the comparative method; application of socio-scientific methods; specialized source knowledge, in particular of documentary sources, and more specifically epigraphy.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

    1. will acquire knowledge of the religious history of Roman Empire;
    1. will gain insights in the complexity of the impact the Roman Empire had on religion and how it is related to historical processes, events and target groups;
    1. will acquire thorough knowledge about selecting and interpreting a corpus of ancient sources

ResMA only:

The student will:

    1. learn to focus on the higher complexity of the corpus of sources that is analysed in comparison to regular MA students;
    1. learn to reflect about the methodological issues surrounding the borrowing of modern theory;
    1. have the ability to set up and carry research from new approaches which raises new questions


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

  • ! Please note to also keep Thursday 29 February free for an obligatory lecture and masterclass by Prof. Greg Woolf (UCLA).

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If you are not able to attend, you are required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If you do not comply with the aforementioned requirements, you will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written paper (6,500-7,500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography); ResMa students write a paper of 7,500-8,500 words.

measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-12, 13-15 (ResMa only: 16-18)

  • Entry test

measured learning objectives: 4, 7, 11, 12

  • Oral presentation

measured learning objectives: 3-7, 9, 10 (ResMA only)

  • Assignment 1 (Heuristic assignment 1)

measured learning objectives: 15, (ResMA only) 16

  • Assignment 2 (Peer review)

measured learning objectives: 9, ResMa only: 17


  • Written paper: 70%

  • Entry test: 10 %

  • Oral presentation: 10 %

  • Assignment 1: 10 %

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised. 

Reading list

  • Students do not need to buy literature. Reading lists will be made available through Brightspace.

  • The list of literature for the entry test will be made available through Brightspace around two weeks before the start of the course.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Please note: there is an entry exam (see Brightspace)