21H.331 | Spring 2016 | Undergraduate
Julius Caesar and the Fall of the Roman Republic

Assignments - Short Paper 1

A painting shows a seated woman, wearing a red flowing garment, looking toward three friendly-faced children.

Angelica Kauffman, Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi (1785).
(This image is in the public domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

Plutarch’s Lives of the Gracchi

Plutarch, as any author, had a series of choices to make when he set out to write biographies of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus: What material should he include / exclude (the lives are far from comprehensive)? How should he organize the material he chose to include? What aspects of the Gracchi’s lives and character should he emphasize? What might appeal most to Plutarch’s audience? What did Plutarch hope to achieve in writing these or any of his biographies?

Plutarch’s answers to these questions obviously determined the finished product of the biographies. Your job in this paper is to spotlight Plutarch’s authorial presence by identifying one key theme in the Lives of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus (education, rhetorical skill, maternal influence, aristocratic competition, social divisions at Rome, self-control or lack thereof, etc.) and demonstrating how it operates in the text.

Papers Receiving High Grades Will Excel in Each of the Following

Argument and Structure

Your paper should seek to convince its reader of an argument, a thesis. The thesis should be clearly stated in the introduction to the paper. The body of the paper should seek to support your thesis by marshalling an abundance of evidence from the text in a clearly structured and coherent argument. Finally, a conclusion should remind your reader of the thesis you have been supporting and suggest how that thesis is relevant to a wider historical context. Remember throughout that your paper should be a work of critical analysis.

Knowledge and Understanding

Your paper should demonstrate a close knowledge of the text on which your argument rests: knowledge both of the details of relevant passages as well as of the work as a whole. Your ability to subject the source to critical analysis and to come to your own understanding of its significance should also emerge clearly from your paper.

Quality of Writing

Your argument should be expressed in clear, concise, and readable English. There should be no errors of grammar, syntax, or spelling. Precision and elegance of expression will be rewarded.


Your paper should be based on close reading of the text and so should contain full and precise referencing of the text throughout. References to Plutarch’s Lives of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus conventionally take the abbreviated form ‘Plut., Ti. Gracch. 7’ for Plutarch, Life of Tiberius Gracchus, Section 7.

The paper is due during Session 4.

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Spring 2016
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