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Administration, society and culture in Roman North Africa, 46 BC - AD 429


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.


In 46 BCE Caesar defeated a large army mobilized by his opponents in the civil war at Thapsus, a town in present-day Tunisia. In the twenty or thirty years that followed veteran colonies and civilian colonies were founded at Carthage and other North-African sites. At a later stage, mainly from the early second century CE onward, large numbers of North-African cities became municipia and acquired Roman-type institutions. Simultaneously profound changes can be observed in local and regional economies, in local political culture and in the sphere of religion. Traditionally, these changes are grouped together under the umbrella term ‘Romanization’, for instance in by T.R.S. Broughton in his monograph The Romanization of Africa Proconsularis (1928) and by R. MacMullen, in Ch. 2 of his Romanization in the Time of Augustus (2000). From the 1990s onward the use of the concept of ‘Romanization’as has been heavily criticized but it has proved difficult to replace it with a more convincing alternative. Instead of trying to resolve this theoretical debate, this seminar will pursue the more modest (but still difficult) aim of trying to identify changes in the societies and cultures of North-Africa during the period 46 BCE-429 CE. Students will be allowed (jndeed encouraged) to follow their own interests, as long the as the focus remains on discontinuities, or continuities, in the fields of administration, local political life, social life, culture or religion (including both traditional forms of religion and late-Antique Christianity).

An entry-test will be held in week 2 (one week after the introductory session). Literature: Susan Rave, Rome in Africa (London 1993).

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 or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Ancient History: 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 have acquired a deep knowledge of the impact of Roman rule on the North-African provinces
  2. will have improved his/her ability to carry out historical research using primary sources
  3. will have significantly improved his/her ability to assess the merits/weakness of existing publications dealing with various parts of Roman North Africa as well as her/his ability to develop a sustained argument dealing with a specific problem in the field of urban-historical studies
  4. (ResMA only – will have singnificantly improved her/his ability to deal with difficult primary sources, large amounts of literary, epigraphic or archaeological evidence and complex historical debates. She/he will have significantly improved her/his ability to carry out original research which raises new questions, pioneers new approaches and/or points to new directions of future research.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students must attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, she/he is 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 a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student 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)
    measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-15 (ResMA also: 10, 16)

  • Entry test
    measured learning objectives: 11, 13

  • Oral presentation:
    measured learning objectives: 5-7

  • Assignment 1: participating in discussion on African chapter of R. Macmullen, Romanization in the Time of Augustus (2000), with focus on differences between Raven 1993 and Macmullen 2000.
    measured learning objectives: 8-9, 13

  • Assignment 2 (short paper (2-3 pages) dealing with (traditional (i.e. non-Christian) forms of religion in Roman North Africa)
    *measured learning objectives: 8-9, 13

Half-way the course students will be asked to hand in half their essay. These half-finished papers will be discussed by the entire group. This can be seen as a third assignment (learning objective 9). However, since assessing contributions to group discussions can be subjective, these contributions will not be graded.


  • Written paper: 70%

  • Entry test: 10%

  • Oral presentation:10 %

  • Assignment 1: 5%

  • Assignment 2: 5%

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

  • Susan Raven, Rome in Africa, third edn, London 1993. NB: this is an updated version of a book which was first published in 1969; this basic fact in itself suggests there is plenty of room for an update


General information about registering for courses and exams can be found [here] (

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • 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] (