nl en

The archaeology of Roman imperialism


Admission requirements

Admission to the (R)MA-programme in Archaeology.


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 took place already between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC.
Now, recent and on-going 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 Italian and Iberian peninsulas. 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.
Amongst 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 on-going Leiden research project on early Roman colonialism in the Republican period, we are able to build on first-hand data for our analyses.

Course objectives

For MA-students:

  • 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.

For RMA-students, in addition to the above:

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

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

Time schedule

Course schedule details can be found in the MA 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 ects);

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

  • Essays: 2,500 words (1,5 ects).

Assessment method

  • Essay (60%);

  • Input during class (40%).
    In case of a retake, a new paper on a new topic needs to be submitted.

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

Reading list

KEAY 1988
BRADLEY et al. 2007


  • 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;

  • KEAY, S. J. – “Roman Spain”, London, 1988;

  • 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.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.


For more information about his course, please contact dr. T.D. Stek.