Roman History 302 Syllabus

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History 302 – Roman History Professor William A. Percy, III Spring 2010

Class Meeting Times: Monday & Wednesday, 4:00-5:15PM

Class Location: McCormack, M02-0116

Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 2:20-3:50 pm or by appointment

Office Location: McCormack, 4th Floor, Room 634

Office Phone: 617-287-6879

Home Phone: 617-262-2101 (7:00AM-3:00PM TuThu; emergency only)

E-Mail / Website: / Please call me rather than email.


Course Description

This course sets Roman history in its Mediterranean context. It begins with a survey of Italian geography and peoples c. 800 B.C. and traces the rise of Rome under the kings until establishment of the Republic in 507. The Early Republic annexed the peninsula, improved its constitution, and began to Latinize the peoples it conquered.

Beginning in 264, the Middle Republic expanded west overseas by conquests during the three Punic Wars (against Carthage) and expansion to the East into Macedonia and Greece. Social tensions between rich and poor increased with widespread slavery but prudent compromises prevented civil war. After destroying Carthage and the great Greek port of Corinth in 146, the Romans began to rule by terror abroad and by rejecting compromises and social justice at home. The last century of the Republic (133-31) saw continued conquests but also riots, revolts, and civil wars.

In 31 B.C Julius Caesar’s great nephew Augustus established the Roman Empire which lasted another 500 years (like the Republic). For the first 200 years it flourished as no state had before or since (until the 18th Century as Gibbon claimed). Benign rule called the Pax Romana, interrupted by scandals and insane emperors, lasted until 180 C.E. under the Julio-Claudians, the Flavians, and the good Emperors. But after the death of the last of them, Marcus Aurelius, decline ensured, culminating in the Anarchy of the 3rd Century. Diocletian restored order after 285 and his successor Constantine converted to Christianity reviving the Empire, now Christian. The weakened Christian Empire saw the German barbarians occupying its western provinces during the 5th Century. The eternal cities fell to the German in 476. The Christians rejected the Greek culture and philosophy that pagan Romans had embraced and only preserved the learning that could serve their Church.

The eastern or Byzantine Empire lasted, ever diminished until 1453. Parallels between the Roman Republic and ours—the two greatest in history—will be emphasized, as will the new American Imperialism with that of Rome.


The lectures, general syntheses or explanations of particular points of view, will normally be followed by discussion periods. Students are encouraged to ask questions and make comments. It is most helpful if they complete the reading assignment before the lecture. In addition, students should seek to enhance their command of geography and chronology by memorizing the three or four crucial places and dates for each topic. For the former purpose a paperback atlas will be helpful. Also read as many of the documents that pertain to each lecture as possible.


The grades will consist primarily of an average of the hour exams (25% each) and the comprehensive 3-hour final (50%). The essay part of these exams will be graded on organization and style as well as historical theory and command of facts. Students will find it advantageous to read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (in 78 brief and witty pages). Helpful historical atlases are published in paperback by Hammond, Shepherd, and Penguin. Extra credit is allowed for rewriting the essays on each of the hour exams in light of my comments, and further research on your part. Notable contributions to classroom discussion will also be weighed; failure to participate in discussions, however, will not detract from a student's grade. The rewritten papers, together with quizzes, and classroom participation may help raise the grade. Lastly, students who attend classes regularly, pay attention to lectures and discussions, and take notes have a better chance of doing well in this course.

About Me

I am a Southerner, an Episcopal atheist, a capitalist, a gay activist, a refugee from the Ku Klux Klan, from the Southern Baptists, and from other fundamentalists whether Protestant, Catholic, Jew or Muslim. Having a heart, I became a Socialist as an undergraduate. When I got my fulltime teaching job and a level head, I became a Democrat in 1960 and voted for John F. Kennedy. In 1967 I became a Republican because of the atrocities of the Vietnam War and its disastrous economic effects of L.B.J. I quit being one because of the 2nd Iraq War but gave up on Republicans because of Bush II’s insanity. Now I am an Independent. I am also the senior professor of the history at UMB and senior pre-law advisor. I attended nine intuitions of higher learning and have taught in nine. I have published 5 books, 10 articles, 100 notes (short articles), 100 book reviews. On my extensive website, ( I have parts of my memoirs, and 2 screen plays and other things by me and by other scholars that I admire, as well as text from some of my better students. From me you will gain a different perspective. On this politically-correct campus, I am diversity itself: a semi-expired white male of the old school.


Disseminating scholarship on the printed page in the twenty-first century is analogous to publishing it on manuscripts during the sixteenth century. The Internet is now no longer like Cunabula (books printed before 1500)—rare commodities even then. It is in fact now rapidly displacing print on paper. Look at what Wikipedia is doing to the Encyclopædia Britannica! Printed dictionaries and bibliographies likewise are becoming obsolete because their online counterparts are so easy to update. Expenses, delays, and storage problems are also forcing scholarly journals to go online. Why not monographs (which sell too few copies to be cost-effective), syntheses, and textbooks, as well? In light of the changing publishing landscape, the formerly required texts listed below are now optional:

Morton Smith, Ed. Edward W. Fox The_Ancient_Greeks

Chester Starr, Ed. Edward W. Fox The_Emergence_Of_Rome_As_Ruler_Of_The_Western_World

Rostovtzeff Greece

Plutarch, Fall of the Roman Republic.

Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire.

Rostovtzeff, Rome.

Suetonius, Twelve Caesars.

Any edition of the books above is suitable for this course. They can be found, at great discount, online on Amazon, (see used prices for each book), Ebay, and In addition, all editions (including those from 60 years ago) of The Encyclopedia of World History, whether by William L. Langer or Peter N. Stearns, are highly recommended.

Each of these lecture topics can be found in the Encyclopedia of Britannica in print, online and on Wikipedia.

Useful Links on the Internet

1. The Online Library of Liberty: <>

2. The Encyclopedia of World History by Peter N. Stearns:

3. Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition: <> and the second to last edition also available online.

4. Elements of Style:

Contact Policy

Although I have provided my e-mail address and home telephone number, please e-mail or call me only if you have an urgent matter to discuss with me (TuTh 7AM-3PM). Understand that if you e-mail me, it may take me several days to see your e-mail as I am computer illiterate and must rely on others to access my e-mail. Therefore, call me in case of an emergency. There is, however, no need for you to e-mail or call me to let me know that you will miss or have missed a class. I fully understand that events out of your control will arise from time to time and may cause the occasional absence. So explanations are unnecessary. If you would like to find out what you missed in class while you were absent, ask a classmate.

Click here for a full syllabus of History 302, including weekly assignments and testing schedule

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