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How I Met Your Mother: Relations of Family, Friendship and Clients in Ancient Rome


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


In ancient Rome, one’s relationship did not have to be biologically determined. Roman society was a complex system of relations, friends and patronage. For each social background (freeborn, liberti or slaves), several laws regulated the social traffic. Three kind of marriages, for instance, existed in Roman society, new kinship bonds could be created by adoption, and a Roman’s family prestige depended on its various alliances of friendship and patronage. Yet, during the Roman Empire, in which one family dominated the political system, the former social systems, especially of clientship, had to develop in order to gain prestige. Moreover, from the second century onwards, shifts are seen in the guardianship of women, inheritance regulations for non-biological members, and Roman citizenship. What can these changing social regulations suggests? Do they reflect an adaptation due to historical changes? Does Christianity had an impact on any of these changes? And, in which way did the Roman social system and its development determine our own lives, family structures, inheritance regulations, et cetera ?

The course will contribute to the understanding of ancient relationships in general, and will pay attention to the complex and developing character of it. We will look into these developments on the background of the emerge of the Roman Empire, its extension, and the creation of the imperial family with its court politics. In these debates, Roman law texts, such as Gaius and the Digest, will form an excellent starting point, together with literary anecdotes and epigraphic material.

Course objectives

General learning objectives
The student has acquired:

    1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
    1. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
    1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
    1. 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;
    1. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
    1. 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;
    1. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
    1. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

    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.
    1. 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; specialised source knowledge, in particular of documentary sources, and more specifically epigraphy.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

    1. Students will acquire knowledge of the social history of Roman society
    1. Students will gain insights in the complexibilty of the development of social structures and how they relate to historical processes and events
    1. ResMA students learn to focus on the higher complexity of the corpus of sources (such as the ancient law texts) that is analysed in comparison to regular MA students; and they have the ability to set up and carry research from new approaches which raises new questions.


See Timetable and deadlines History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hrs= 280 hours

  • Lectures: 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature, 23 hours

  • Presentation of an article/corpus and discussion panel by the students: 56 hours

  • Research and writing Paper (incl. related assignments): 175 hours

Assessment method


  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 10-13 (ResMA: 9; 14)

  • Oral presentation with panel discussion, and overall participation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-7, 11-13 (ResMA: 9; 14)

Written paper (incl. related assignments): 70%
Oral presentation with panel discussion, and overall participation: 30%

Research Ma students are expected to give extra attention to theoretical and methodological problems in all their work and in particular in their final paper.

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

Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline.

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


Blackboard will be used for announcements, literature list, and student grades.

Reading list

Will be announced during on Blackboard some weeks before the seminar starts.


Via uSis

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


mw. Dr. L.M.G.F.E. Claes