21H.331 | Spring 2016 | Undergraduate

Julius Caesar and the Fall of the Roman Republic


Course Meeting Times

Seminars: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Description

Covering Ancient Rome from 133 to 27 BC, this course explores political, social, and economic factors commonly offered to explain the fall of the Roman Republic: growth of the territorial empire, increased intensity of aristocratic competition, transformation of the Italian economy, growth of the city of Rome and dependence of the urban plebs, changes in military recruitment, and dependence of soldiers on their generals. There is an emphasis on the reading of ancient sources in translation, including Cicero, Sallust, Caesar, Augustus, Appian, Plutarch, and Suetonius.

Required Books

Cicero. Political Speeches (Oxford World’s Classics). Translated by D. H. Berry. Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780199540136. [Preview with Google Books]

Plutarch. Roman Lives (Oxford World’s Classics). Translated by Robin Waterfield. Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780199537389.

Sallust. Catiline’s War, The Jugurthine War, Histories. Translated by A. J. Woodman. Penguin Classics, 2008. ISBN: 9780140449488. [Preview with Google Books]

Scullard, H.H. From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome 133 BC to AD 68. 5th edition. Routledge, 1982. ISBN: 9780415025270.

For further details on the readings, see the table in the Readings section.

Ancient Sources Available Online at LacusCurtius: Into the Roman World.

Appian. The Civil Wars. Translated by Horace White (1912-13).

Cassius Dio. Roman History. Translated by Earnest Cary (1914-27).

Plutarch. Crassus, Cato the Younger, and Brutus. Translated by Bernadotte Perrin (1918-19).

Polybius. The Histories. Translated by William Roger Paton (1922-27).

Suetonius. The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Translated by J.C. Rolfe (1913-14).

Velleius Paterculus. The Roman History. Translated by Frederick W. Shipley (1924).

Useful Works

Astin, A.E., F.W. Walbank, et al., eds. The Cambridge Ancient History. Volume VIII: Rome and the Mediterranean to 133 BC. 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, 1990. ISBN: 9780521234481.

Crook, J.A., Andrew Lintott, et al., eds. The Cambridge Ancient History. Volume IX: The Last Age of the Roman Republic, 146–43 BC. 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780521256032.

Flower, Harriet I., ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic. 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, 2014. ISBN: 9781107669420. [Preview with Google Books]

Griffin, Miriam, ed. A Companion to Julius Caesar. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. ISBN: 9781405149235. [Preview with Google Books]

Hornblower, Simon, and Antony Spawforth, eds. The Oxford Classical Dictionary: The Ultimate Reference Work on the Classical World. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press, 1996.

Rosenstein, Nathan, and Robert Morstein-Marx, eds. A Companion to the Roman Republic. Wiley-Blackwell, 2006. ISBN: 9781405102179.

Online Resources

JSTOR, the scholarly journal archive, including several relevant classical studies and archaeology journals.

LacusCurtius: Into the Roman World, your source for Cassius Dio, Plutarch, and other ancient sources in translation, among other items of interest.

The Perseus Digital Library has a wealth of information relevant to our subject: ancient texts and translations, extensive photo archives of an impressive range of sites, and plenty of secondary material.



Class Participation

This grade will be based on the following:

  1. Attendance: 

    Your attendance is required at all of our meetings.

  2. Reading: 

    You are required to complete all reading assignments in time for the meeting with which they are associated, as indicated on the schedule. You are also required to bring with you to class a copy of any reading that has been assigned.

  3. Active Participation: 

    You are expected to arrive at our meetings having completed all the reading and prepared to pose questions and actively to contribute to the discussion of the material covered that day.

Short Papers (3 at 10% each) 30%
Research Paper 40%

For further detail on the short papers and the research paper, see the Assignments section.

The Writing and Communication Center

The Writing and Communication Center (WCC) offers MIT students free one-on-one professional advice from communication experts (MIT lecturers who have advanced degrees and who are all published writers). The WCC works with undergraduate and graduate students and with post-docs and faculty. The WCC helps you strategize about all types of academic and professional writing, as well as all aspects of oral presentations. No matter what department or discipline you are in, we help you think your way more deeply into your topic, help you see new implications in your data, research and ideas.

Policy on Plagiarism

Plagiarism—the use of another’s intellectual work without acknowledgement—is a serious offense.

Students who plagiarize will be liable to receive an F in the subject; and the case will be forwarded to the Office of Student Citizenship. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted and in all oral presentations, including images or texts in other media as well as materials collected online. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else’s work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student’s own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available in the Writing and Communication Center, and Academic Integrity at MIT: A Handbook for Students.

Policy on Late Submission of Papers / Projects

Unexcused late submissions will incur a penalty of one partial grade step (e.g. from A- to B+) for each day late. Only serious and documented circumstances will be accepted as excuses (e.g. serious matters of health or other personal emergencies).

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2016
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments