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Advanced Archaeology of Early Roman Imperialism


Admission requirements

Admission to the Research Master Archaeology programme.

To make the most of this inspiring course and begin at the same page, you are required to study Bradley, G.J., "The Roman Republic: Political History", in: E. Bispham (ed.) Roman Europe (Oxford, 2008), the Cambridge Ancient History chapters by Harris and Morel (listed below under bibliography), and Champion, C.B., 2004. Roman Imperialism: Readings and Sources (Oxford) at the start of the course.


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 epigraphic data.

In this course, we will explore the functioning of this formative phase in Roman expansionism using primarily archaeological data from the Western Mediterranean, and confronting these with current models of Roman expansion. We will focus on the archaeology of the Italian peninsula, with outlooks into developments in the Iberian peninsula, Corsica, Sicily and southern France.

We will study 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. In particular, we will evaluate influential models of Roman colonisation in light of the growing body of archaeological evidence, including Leiden-based research projects on Roman colonialism.

Set-up of the course

2-hour lectures and discussion sessions, prepared by self-study of reading materials; writing of essay (self-study).

Course objectives

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

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

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

  • Ability to assess practical, multidisciplinary approaches to test these theories in a confident way;

  • Ability to translate these theories into original, creative archaeologically testable models;

  • Ability to report and discuss such archaeological model testing both in a clear and well-structured written text and orally, in such a way that it is fit for publication or presentation to a public of specialists and peers.

Time schedule

Course schedule details can be found in the RMA and RMSc 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%).

Both participation and essay should be graded with at least a 5,0 to pass. A retake is only possible for the final essay (in case of a retake, a new topic needs to be submitted).

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the RMA and RMSc examination schedule.

Reading list

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

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

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

  • Morel, J.P, 1989. "The Transformation of Italy, 300-133 B.C. The Evidence of Archaeology", in: Astin et al. (eds), Cambridge Ancient History Volume 8: Rome and the Mediterranean to 133 BC (2nd edition) (;

Per meeting there will be one or two chapters/papers to read. The reading list will be distributed 2 weeks prior to the start of the class. Make sure you are registered for this BlackBoard module in time.


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, but only with permission request beforehand and an additional assignment to show you have studied the materials (to be handed in within one week).