Ancient Empires

History 2

Fall 2014
Day & Time: 
TuTh 11-1230P
  • This course satisfies the Pre-Modern Requirement for the History Major.
  • At the dawn of the first millennium, nearly one half of the world’s population lived within one of two extensive imperial systems, the Roman empire in the Mediterranean basin and the Han empire in East Asia (ruling roughly the territory of today’s China).  This course examines these two durable and far-flung empires in comparative perspective, and also considers the nature of empire as a particular type of polity in the premodern world.  Structurally similar in some ways but strikingly different in others, the Roman and Han empires form an ideal subject for sustained, comparative analysis.  Central themes include warfare and conquest; economics, finance, and the distribution of resources; administration, governance, and strategies of rule; relations between center and periphery; methods of acquiring and perpetuating high status and the making of social orders; imperial time and space; culture and cultural change; imperial literatures and religions; and the aftermath and legacies of these two world empires.  Lectures will provide an essential historical narrative as well as interpretations of central problems, while readings in primary sources will give students an opportunity in discussion sections to grapple with some of the evidence on which such narratives and interpretations are based. 

    Requirements include attendance at weekly discussion section; one short paper (4-5 pp.); one midterm exam; one term paper (10-12 pp.); and a final exam.