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The Archaeology of Roman Imperialism in the Western Mediterranean


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Archaeology programme.
To make sure we make the most of this challenging course and begin at the same page, an entry exam is scheduled on the first meeting. The literature for the exam is:

Champion, C.B., Roman Imperialism: Readings and Sources, Oxford (2004).

If you are not familiar with Roman republican history, also study Bradley, G.J., "The Roman Republic: Political History", in E. Bispham (ed.) Roman Europe (Oxford, 2008), and the Cambridge Ancient History chapters by Harris and Morel (listed below under bibliography).


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 describe and explain Roman imperial success from hindsight, from the imperial period (1st -3rd centuries AD) situation in the provinces, i.e. centuries after the key phase of Roman expansion in the Mediterranean, which already took place between the 4th and 2nd 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 an isochronic perspective, using primarily contemporary archaeological and epigraphical data.

In this challenging course, we will explore the functioning of this formative phase in Roman imperialism and expansionism using primarily archaeological data from the Western Mediterranean. We will focus on the archaeology of the Italian and Iberian peninsulas, Corsica, Sicily and southern France.
We will develop various theoretical and methodological approaches and establish parameters to study and explain early Roman society and its performance in military, demographic and socio-economic respects.

Among other things, we will study different forms of Roman colonisation, defensive works, military organisation and technology, triumphal architecture, but also burial customs, housing and iconography.
Through the ongoing Leiden research project on Roman colonialism, we are able to build on first-hand data from Italy and Portugal for our analyses.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the main theories on Roman imperialism, including their classical philosophical backgrounds;

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

  • Knowledge of recent theories on ancient empires;

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

  • Ability to translate current research trends into testable theoretical models;

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

Time schedule

Course schedule details can be found in the MA and MSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Tutorial.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

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

  • Ca. 350 pages of literature (2,5 ec);

  • Essay of 2,500 words (1,5 ec).

Assessment method

  • Class participation (20%);

  • Essay (80%);

A retake is only possible for the final essay, and only if all other requirements have been met. In case of a retake, a new topic needs to be submitted.

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the MA and MSc examination schedule.

Reading list

  • Bradley, G.J., Isayev, E. & Riva, C. (eds.) - Ancient Italy. Regions without boundaries, Exeter, University of Exeter Press, 2007;

  • Bradley, G.J. & Wilson, J.P. (eds.), Greek and Roman Colonisation: Origins, Ideologies and Interactions, Swansea, 2006;

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

  • Champion, C.B., Roman Imperialism: Readings and sources, Oxford 2004;

  • Dietler, M., Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France. Berkeley: University of California Press 2010;

  • Keay, S. J., Roman Spain, London, 1988;

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

  • Morel, J.P, "The transformation of Italy, 300-133 B.C. The evidence of archaeology", in Cambridge Ancient History Volume 8: Rome and the Mediterranean to 133 BC, 2nd edition (ed. Astin et al, 1989) (The CAH is also online;

  • Rich, J. & Shipley, G. (eds.), War and Society in the Roman world, London, Routledge, 1993;

  • Richardson, J.S., Hispaniae. Spain and the Development of Roman Imperialism, Cambridge, CUP, 1986;

  • Salmon, E.T., Roman Colonization under the Republic, London, Thames and Hudson, 1969;

  • Stek, T.D. & Pelgrom, J. (eds.), Roman Republican Colonization. New Perspectives from Archaeology and Ancient History, Rome, 2014;

  • Van Dommelen P. & Terrenato, N., "Articulating Local Cultures: Power and Identity Under the Expanding Roman Republic" (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series), Portsmouth R.I. 2007.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. T.C.A. (Tymon) de Haas.


Compulsory attendance. Max. 1 session can be missed, and only with written permission request beforehand with valid excuse.