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Roman North Africa: a stolen continent


Admission requirements



This course will allow students to become familiar with the literary, epigraphic and archaeological evidence relating to Roman North Africa. From the fall of Carthage in 146 BC to the Vandal conquest of the mid-5th century AD, Africa is central to understanding the historical processes that lay behind the increase in Roman power during the late Republic, as well as the eventual decline and fall of the western Roman empire. In geographical terms, the course covers an area corresponding to modern Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Authors of the period, such as Appian, Sallust, Caesar, Cicero and Tacitus will be critically examined, along with inscriptions relating to various aspects of Romano-african life: the conditions of tenant farmers, public building programs, the appointment of local magistrates, promotions to urban status, and so on. Key themes that will be addressed include: the fate of Carthaginian territory after the Roman conquest, the changing nature of Roman imperialism, its consequences for African social structure, economy, urbanism and identity, and for production and long-distance trade.

Course objectives

Students will be expected to develop a knowledge and understanding of:

  • Colonial and post-colonial approaches to North Africa during the Roman period.

  • The main forms and sources of evidence – literary, archaeological and epigraphic – which are necessary to constructing a narrative of North Africa under Roman rule.

Students should also develop and improve the following skills:

  • The ability to analyze and evaluate literature and sources for the purpose of producing an original scholarly argument

  • Insight into the social relevance of history

  • Knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations and its historiography, more specifically in the Ancient History specialisation: 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.

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation, more specifically in the Ancient History specialisation: the comparative method; application of socio-scientific methods; specialised source knowledge, in particular of documentary sources, and more specifically epigraphy;

Extra course objective for Res Ma students:

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis a vis other disciplines
    This includes:

  • Develop the ability to evaluate the influence of broader societal change on the sorts of questions asked by ancient historians and social scientists more generally.

  • Gain the ability to implement some of the primary sources of evidence –archaeological, literary and epigraphic – in the construction of a characterization of Roman-period North African society.


View Timetable History

Mode of instruction

  • Literature Seminar

Course Load

Total: 280 hours

  • Seminars (2 hours per week during 6 weeks), 12 hours.

  • Study of compulsory literature, 68 hours.

  • Preparation oral presentation, 80 hours.

  • Writing of essay/review article, 120 hours.

Assessment method

  • Attendance and General Conduct (20%)

  • Oral Presentation and Participation (20%)

  • Theoretical Essay (20%)

  • Research Essay (40%)

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

Attendance and General Conduct
Students are required to attend and to carry out the set readings for all of the six seminar sessions. For each session the student should have taken and printed written notes on the themes and content of the readings, and have prepared themself to summarise their notes and personal views to the group.

Research MA students are expected to cover a slightly greater depth of reading, both in terms of broader theoretical works, and in engagement with more specific primary and secondary source material. In practical terms this means providing written and oral summaries of whole books and deabtes between authors, rather than simply assimilating single articles or book sections.

Oral Presentation and Participation
Students are expected to be actively engaged in discussion of the content and issues raised within the set texts each week, and to be able to summarize the material they have covered for the rest of the group in English. Research MA students will be required to summarize slightly lengthier works, and will be expected also to deliver a short presentation to the rest of the group, which will be assessed in terms of structure, clarity, use of visual aids, and the fulfilment of course objectives 1-7.

Theoretical and Research Essays
Students are required to submit two pieces of written coursework in essay form: a 3,000-word theoretical essay midway through the course, and a 4,000-word research essay at the end of the course (5000 words for Research MA students).

The theoretical essay is intended to cover some of the major points of theoretical and epistemological controversy surrounding one of the course’s main themes, while the research essay is intended to give the student the opportunity to research in more detail a sub-topic within broader course framework. Research MA students will be expected to select their own essay questions in consultation with the course tutor.

Each piece of written work will be assessed in the terms of course objectives 1-7, and in reference to the standard mark scheme for postgraduate essays (provided to students at the beginning of the course).


Blackboard is used for this course:

  • For announcements and course documents.

Reading list Preparation for the first seminar.

Please read:

  • Appian’s Roman History, Libyca X.67-XX.136

  • Maróti, E. 1983. ‘On the causes of Carthage’s destruction.’ Oikumene 4: 223-231.

  • Students are expected to take detailed notes in electronic form, print them (and bring them to the seminars), and be prepared to present them to the group in oral form.
    Additional readings and select bibliographies will be provided in class.


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Contact information

Course tutor: dhr. Dr. M. S. Hobson