Italy Before Rome (CLA1230)

StaffDr Katherine McDonald - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

In this module, we will explore the non-Roman cultures of Italy, with a particular emphasis on the Etruscan, Samnite and Greek societies of Italy from c. 800 BC – 80 BC. We will focus on the key sites which provide our best evidence of life in the peninsula in the first millennium BC, including Cumae, Taras, Capua, Caere, Clusium and Tarquinia. We will study these sites from multiple viewpoints, taking in their art, culture, literature, philosophy, law, politics, religion and burial practices. The module will also cover the relationship between these societies and the wider Mediterranean world, including the Greek East and the growing Roman Empire.

Students will learn to use both Greco-Roman literary sources and material sources to inform their understanding of the diverse history of Italy, and will develop their skills in taking an interdisciplinary approach to ancient cultures. They also will have a chance to read texts written in a wide variety of ancient Italian languages (with translations provided).

Topics may include: art and culture in Italy; death and burial in the Etruscan world; the process and impact of the Greek “colonisation” of Italy; philosophy, science and law, including Pythagoras and other pre-Socratic schools; magic and divination in Etruscan, Greek and Samnite culture; the spread of literacy in Italy; early Latin literature in its Italian context; the integration of Italy into the Roman empire; and the modern reception of Etruscan culture.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Knowledge and understanding of the archaeological and written sources relating to the Etruscan, Greek and Samnite societies of ancient Italy
  • 2. Ability to describe and evaluate archaeological, inscriptional and iconographic sources from Italy, and assess how literary sources complement and aid our understanding of these material sources
  • 3. An understanding of the culture and history of Etruscan, Greek and Samnite society in ancient Italy, and how these societies fit into the wider Mediterranean context

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Development of critical approaches to ancient source material, and how archaeological evidence relates to other sources and the wider socio-historical context
  • 5. Experience in conducting independent research, with guidance from the lecturer, including library and online research, and assessing modern academic writing
  • 6. Experience in formal academic writing, including essays and commentary on particular sources and objects

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Development of skills in critical analysis
  • 8. Ability to read, assess and organize diverse information to form a sound argument
  • 9. Experience in writing an analytical essay or a critical discussion of a piece of source material
  • 10. Experience in conducting independent research, with guidance from the lecturer, including experience in time management
  • 11. Development of teamwork and discussion skills through small group work

Syllabus plan

Introduction: the cultures and communities of Italy

Etruscan cities

Death and burial in the Etruscan world

Greek “colonies” – apoikiai, emporia and mother-cities

Great Greece? Law, science and pre-Socratic philosophy in Greek-speaking Italy

Samnites and Oscan-speaking Italy

Alphabets and literacy in Italy

Magic and divination

Early Latin literature in its Italian context

“Becoming Roman” – Italy’s relationship with Rome

The reception of pre-Roman culture

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22Lectures (11 x 2 hours)
Scheduled learning and teaching activities5Seminars (5 x 1 hour)
Guided independent study123Private study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Source commentary30750 words1-10Mark and written comments
Exam702 hours1-10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Source commentarySource commentary1-10ref/def period
ExamExam1-10ref/def period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Giuliano Bonfante and Larissa Bonfante (2002) The Etruscan Language: An Introduction. Revised edition. Manchester.

Guy Bradley, Elena Isayev and Corinna Riva (eds.) (2007) Ancient Italy: Regions without Boundaries. Liverpool.

Larissa Bonfante (ed.) (1986) Etruscan Life and Afterlife. Warminster.

Robert Garland (2014) Wandering Greeks: The Ancient Greek Diaspora from Homer to the Death of Alexander the Great. Princeton.

Sybille Haynes (2000) Etruscan Civilisation: A Cultural History. London.

Kathryn Lomas (1996) Roman Italy 338 BC – AD 200: A Sourcebook. London/New York.

Jean Macintosh Turfa (ed.) (2013) The Etruscan World. Abingdon.

David Ridgway (1992) The First Western Greeks. Cambridge.

E.T. Salmon (1967) Samnium and the Samnites. Cambridge.

Rafael Scopacasa (2015) Ancient Samnium: Settlement, Culture, and Identity between History and Archaeology. Oxford.

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill (2008) Rome’s Cultural Revolution. Cambridge.

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Key words search

Etruscan, Greek, Samnite, pre-Roman Italy, Iron Age