HIS2118 – Rome and the Rise of Its Empire (509–31 BCE)

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

In 386 BCE Rome was sacked by itinerant Gallic tribes, and was still a regional power of limited relevance, whereas in 146 BCE it had built a powerful Mediterranean empire, able to destroy once-mighty cities such as Carthage and Corinth, and to depose powerful Hellenistic kings. The rise of Rome from a humble city-state to an imperial power able to dominate the Mediterranean area for centuries is in its own right a historiographical problem that has caused profound reflections and debates already from antiquity. This process of conquest and imperialism in the Mediterranean area is inextricably intertwined with the history of the Italian peoples, who were ‘unified’ under Roman rule already in the third century BCE.

This course will look at the political, cultural, and economic dimension of Roman imperialism, the relevant primary sources and the current historiographical debates. Firstly, we will study the motives of Roman aggression and the causes for their success. Secondly, we will also look at the ways in which the Romans understood and conceptualised their imperial practices as ‘self-defence’ and ‘just war’. Thirdly, we will consider the role of the other Italian peoples in the Roman imperial project, and how the peninsula underwent processes of integration and cultural change that was instrumental to, but not necessarily bound with, Roman imperial expansion.

The “Italian question” is one of the key elements for our comprehension of the history of Republican Rome, and it had profound consequences in the social and political crisis which led to the fall of the Republic and the institution of Imperial autocracy towards the end of the first century BCE. How should we understand the dynamics of this long process of integration and the immense change it caused?

Learning outcome

At the end of the course the students will be able to:

  • Show a strong understanding of the process of conquering the Roman empire, identifying, prioritising, and linking key factors and events.
  • Demonstrate an advanced critical awareness of scholarly interpretations on Roman imperial expansion.
  • Analyse and understand the content and the context of key sources, including literary texts, archaeological material, inscriptions, and coins.
  • Critically relate relevant scholarly interpretations to sources in building arguments.
  • Present and defend their arguments in a clear, articulate, and professional way in both written and oral form.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with HIS4118 – Rome and the Rise of Its Empire (509–31 BCE)


The course will be taught in the form of one hour lectures and one hour seminars per week. The teaching schedule is available on the semester page.

Obligatory assignment:

Students must pass one compulsory half term commentary on a short extract from a primary source, up to two pages. 

The commentary must be approved to be allowed to the final exam.


3-days take-home exam: The students have three days to write an assignment. The exam assignment will be published in Inspera on the first day of the exam.

  • For information about the time and date of the exam, please consult the semester page. Click on the relevant semester at the top of this page, and go to "Examination: Time and place."
  • The length of the assignment should be 6-10 standard pages (one standard page is 2300 characters without spacing).
  • Do not write your name in your exam (term paper). Use your candidate number. It is a four digit number which you will find next to your exam registration in StudentWeb. You are given a unique candidate number for each exam.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2020


Autumn 2020

Teaching language