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Early Rome: History and Legend - 10 credits (HS4359)

Staff: Guy Bradley, Louis Rawlings

This module covers the early history of Rome, from its legendary beginnings in the aftermath of the Trojan War to the first years of the historical Republic. The module uses legendary, literary and archaeological material to construct the story of Rome's foundation, its emergence as a power in central Italy, the early development of its political and social institutions, and the first indications of its traditional values and ideology.

Optional for: all Archaeology and Ancient History degrees
Availability: spring semester in alternate years
Teaching: 10 lectures and 2 seminars
Assessment: one essay (40%); one 1-hour examination (60%)

Syllabus content

  • the sources for the period; the perception of early Rome by later Romans and its formative influence on Roman identity
  • the foundation and earliest settlement on the site of Rome
  • the period of the kings from Romulus to the Tarquins; the reforms of Servius Tullius
  • the expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus and the foundation of the Republic; its early years to the battle of Lake Regillus (496 BC)
  • the early constitution of the Republic
  • relations with neighbouring peoples: the Etruscans, the Sabines, the Latins


This module involves a detailed look at the earliest period of Roman history, which was regarded by the Romans both as the ideal embodiment of its national identity and as a source of inspiration and emulation for later generations. It focuses on the creation of Roman institutions and the political and military events recorded in the literary sources, and on the economic, social and architectural information provided by archaeology.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, the student will demonstrate:

  • a knowledge of the different types of evidence available for this period of Roman history, primarily the main literary texts, especially Livy, and the archaeological evidence.
  • an appreciation of the historiographical and analytical skills needed to handle these sources.
  • an ability to use these different sources together to assess the main issues in the interpretation of early Rome, such as the role of myth in Roman society, the historical accuracy of the later literary tradition, the nature of the Roman monarchy and its relationship to the wider Italian context.
  • an ability to discuss these issues in written work with coherent and logical arguments, clearly and correctly expressed.

Primary sources (to be bought)

Livy books 1–5, published by Oxford World's Classics as The Rise of Rome (trans. T. J. Luce) (1998)

Preliminary reading

A. Carandini, Rome: Day One (2011)
T. J. Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome (1995) [recommended to buy]
T. J. Cornell and J. Matthews, Atlas of the Roman World (1982)
G. Forsythe, A Critical History of Early Rome (2006)
A. Grandazzi, The Foundation of Rome (1997)
R. Ross Holloway, The Archaeology of Early Rome and Latium (1994)
C. J. Smith, Early Rome and Latium. Economy and Society, c. 1000 to 500 BC (1996)
F. W. Walbank, A. E. Astin, M. W. Frederiksen and R. M. Ogilvie (eds.), The Cambridge Ancient History 7.2. The Rise of Rome to 220 BC (2nd edition, 1989), chapters 1–3

Related modules

Prerequisite modules: HS2102 Archaeology of the Greek and Roman World or HS3102 Introduction to Roman History

Other modules to consider taking in conjunction with this one:

HS2386 Art and Archaeology of Archaic Greece

HS3331 Roman Religion

HS3333 Rome and Carthage

HS4364 The Etruscans: History and Society