Ancient History II

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Ancient History II

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


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    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Acquiring a working knowledge of the history of Rome, Roman Italy, and the Roman Empire.

    At the end of Ancient History 1, we have observed that by the turn of the Common Era the Mediterranean had been united by Roman conquest. In Ancient History 2, we first return to the origins of Rome as a major city state in central Italy, initially ruled by kings, but a Republic since the late sixth century BCE. We study the internal developments in the Early Republic (fifth to third centuries BCE), especially the so-called Struggle of the Orders (Patricians and Plebeians), resulting in a compromise solution and a curious oligarchic constitutional system. We’ll see how Rome, from the fourth century BCE onwards, first became the ruling power of Italy, subsequently to conquer the Mediterranean in a series of wars against Carthage and the kingdoms founded by the Successors of Alexander the Great. We’ll also see that Roman expansion had devastating effects on internal stability: in the first century BCE the Republic crumbled in a series of civil wars, and by the turn of the Common Era a monarchic system had been established. The holders of monarchic power in this system are nowadays usually (at least in English) labelled ‘emperors’ (from Latin imperator, meaning something like ‘commander-in-chief’). The first and second centuries CE were for the Roman Empire, now encompassing the Mediterranean and a considerable part of north-western Europe, a period of stability guaranteed by military superiority and accompanied by progressive integration of the population of the provinces in the Roman citizenry. This stability was shaken in the third century, when the Empire was confronted with a severe crisis which, however, it survived, although not without considerable adaptations in the administrative, military, and ideological sphere. In Late Antiquity (from the fourth century onwards), the Roman Empire in north-western Europe and the western Mediterranean was superseded by Germanic kingdoms. In the Eastern Mediterranean, however, it survived as what we call the Byzantine Empire. In addition to the events and developments here sketched, we’ll also go into more structural aspects of Roman history: social relations, economic developments, class conflict, political institutions, law, warfare, and last but not least changes in the religious sphere. The dominant position of Christianity in European history is, after all, a legacy of the Roman Empire.

    Lectures, group tutorials.

    Written examination (75%), assignments (25%).

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Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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