21H.402 | Fall 2005 | Undergraduate

The Making of a Roman Emperor


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Syllabus Archive

The following syllabi come from a variety of different terms. They illustrate the evolution of this course over time, and are intended to provide alternate views into the instruction of this course.

Fall 2007, William Broadhead (PDF)

Fall 2005, William Broadhead (PDF)

Fall 2004, William Broadhead (PDF)


Focusing on the emperors Augustus and Nero, this course investigates the ways in which Roman emperors used art, architecture, coinage and other media to create and project an image of themselves, the ways in which the surviving literary sources from the Roman period reinforced or subverted that image, and the ways in which both phenomena have contributed to post-classical perceptions of Roman emperors. Material studied will include the art, architecture, and coinage of Augustan and Neronian Rome, the works of Suetonius and Tacitus, and modern representations of the emperors such as those found in I, Claudius and Quo Vadis.


Class Participation 25%
Paper 1 (5 pages) 20%
Paper 2 (5 pages) 20%
Paper 3 (10 pages) 35%

Class Participation

The success of this course depends on the active participation of students in class meetings. The 25% of your overall grade coming from class participation will be based on the following:

  • Attendance at all class meetings
  • Completion of all reading assignments
  • Active participation in seminar discussion


General Guidelines

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, offered in answer to one of the questions set. The thesis should be clearly stated in the introduction to the paper. The body of the paper should then seek to support your thesis by marshalling an abundance of evidence from the ancient sources in a clearly structured, coherent, and linear argument. Finally, a conclusion should remind your reader of the thesis you have been supporting and show 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 display a close knowledge of the ancient source(s) 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 sources to critical analysis and to come to your own understanding of their 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.


You must always acknowledge your sources. Every time you either quote directly from a source or even simply refer to a source, you must provide a full citation. Since this paper is intended to be written entirely from ancient sources, your citations will most likely be to Suetonius and/or Tacitus only. It is conventional in the field of ancient history to cite ancient authors in the text of an essay, not in footnotes or endnotes; so, for example: ‘Tacitus here highlights… (Tacitus, Annals 1.1)’ or ‘Suetonius’ description of… (Suetonius, Nero 10)’. Since your paper should include an abundance of ancient evidence in support of your argument, there should be many such citations along the way.

Should you choose to consult modern sources in addition to Suetonius and/or Tacitus themselves, you must be sure to provide full references to those sources. Such references should usually be provided in footnotes.


Full referencing is the only way to avoid plagiarism. Any unacknowledged borrowing of ideas, arguments, or direct quotes - whether intentional or not - is plagiarism and must be avoided. If you are not sure what plagiarism is, go to the MIT Online Writing Communication Center and follow the ‘Citing and Using Sources’ link or see the Humanities Library’s publication, Plagiarism and How to Avoid It.

Using the Internet

There is much of use to the ancient historian on the internet. There is also a lot of nonsense. Feel free to use the internet; but be aware that you are responsible for being critical of the material you encounter there and will be penalized for making use of sites that spout nonsense. As with any source, you must provide full references to material you consult on the internet, including the title and author of the page in question, the date on which it was written or last updated, the URL, and the date on which you accessed the site.

Formal Presentation

All papers must comply with the following presentational guidelines:

  • Papers must be typed in 12-point Arial font, with 1½ line spacing.
  • Standard margins (1.25" left and right, 1" top and bottom) must be used.

Penalty for Late Submission

Papers are due at the beginning of the lecture on the scheduled due date. Any paper submitted after the beginning of the relevant lecture will be considered late by one day. Any paper submitted on the day after the due date will be considered late by two days, and so on. 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). Late papers should be submitted to Prof. Broadhead’s mailbox.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2005
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments