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Unit information: Roman Emperors - A Survival Guide in 2021/22

Unit name Roman Emperors - A Survival Guide
Unit code CLAS30023
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. O'Gorman
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

"Those of you who admire the disregard of authority, know this: it is possible to be a good man even under a bad emperor." (Tacitus) How did the subjects of the Roman emperor achieve this? How did they negotiate between the dangers of incurring imperial displeasure, and the guilt of colluding with a tyrannical regime? And what difference did it make to the history of Rome? This unit will explore the interactions between senators, plebeians, soldiers, provincials and barbarians, and emperors from Augustus to Domitian. Through detailed analysis of the texts relating these interactions, we will examine how imperial subjects tried to ensure their survival and shape their political lives. We will observe how the position of emperor, which was never a formal constitutional position, emerges out of a dynamic interchange with these different individuals and groups, and is continually adapted to changing events.


To develop recognition and analysis of political interactions which shape the role of the Roman emperor;

To develop skills in detailed critical interpretation of ancient texts which represent and critique imperial power;

To develop critical interaction with primary and secondary materials;

To develop written presentation skills through the course assessment.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will be able

(1)To recognize, explain and analyze the political interests of different social groups in the Roman empire, and how they would drive interactions with the ruler.

(2)To describe and analyze the dynamics of imperial power and its evolution over the first century AD.

(3)To provide detailed critical interpretations of the texts from the first century AD which represent and critique imperial power.

(4)To describe and analyze in detail the contexts in which such texts were produced, and the range of modern critical interpretations of these texts.

Students will also be expected to show:

(5)skills in critical thinking and in written communication appropriate to level H.

Teaching Information

This unit will involve a combination of independent investigative activities, long- and short-form lectures, and discussion. Students will be expected to engage with materials and participate on a weekly basis. Feedback will be provided for both formative and summative assessments, and this will be supported by meetings with tutors.

Assessment Information

3,000 word essay (100%).


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. CLAS30023).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.