Ancient Sources (Material Evidence): Barbarian Societies (CLA2359)

StaffProfessor Martin Pitts - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module takes an anthropological approach to the various 'barbarian' societies of western Europe encountered by the expanding Roman empire. Students will engage in in-depth thinking into issues surrounding the role of material culture in the lives and deaths of individuals in pre-Roman Britain, Gaul and Germany. The module considers central themes in the study of the period social organisation, warfare, feasting and food-ways, funerary ritual, domestic space, dress and identity, trade and economic processes, the impact of Rome, the development of urbanism and literacy, and the continuity of indigenous culture in the aftermath of Roman conquest. Of principal interest will be to investigate the ethnographic accounts of Roman authors such as Caesar, Tacitus and Strabo, in addition to deconstructing the aura of 19th century nationalism surrounding individuals such as Vercingetorix, Arminius/Hermann and Boudica.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. be able to critically evaluate more complex themes connected to the organisation, economic basis and cultural practices of pre-Roman societies, and will be able to analyse the fundamental differences between so-called 'Barbarian societies' and Greco-Roman civilisation
  • 2. have assimilated an understanding of how to use a range of classes of material evidence, including settlements, architecture, small finds, coinage, and pottery (in addition to the relevant historical sources) to address wider issues of historical and social interest.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. be able to use, analyse and evaluate material evidence as a major source for understanding the ancient world.
  • 4. develop advanced academic and library skills
  • 5. as well as a critical ability in assessing published literature.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. advanced academic and library skills
  • 7. a critical ability in assessing published literature.
  • 8. independent and group study skills in research and presentation of findings
  • 9. an ability to select and organise relevant material

Syllabus plan

Introduction: the Barbarian, European nationalism and popular culture

Ancient ethnographies and historical frameworks

Settlement, household and social organisation

Iron Age economics

Death and burial

Food, drink and feasting

Ritual and rubbish

Ethnicity and identity

Roman contact before conquest

Post-conquest societies


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 (22x1hr)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities4Seminars (4x1hr)
Guided independent study124Private Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral Presentation5 minutes1-9Verbal

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
Two essays (the better mark of two will be used)501500 words1-7, 9Written & verbal
Exam502 hrs1-7, 9Mark 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
EssayEssay1-7, 9referral/deferral period
ExamExam1-7, 9referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Creighton, J. 2000. Coins and power in late Iron Age Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cunliffe, B. 1988. Greeks, Romans and barbarians. Spheres of interaction. London: Guild Publishing.
Haselgrove, C.C, and T Moore, eds. 2007. The later Iron Age in Britain and beyond. Oxford: Oxbow.
Roymans, N. 2004. Ethnic identity and imperial power. The Batavians in the early Roman empire. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Wells, P.S. 1999. The barbarians speak. How the conquered peoples shaped Roman Europe. Princeton University Press.

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