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Rome and Carthage - 20 credits (HS3333)

Staff: Guy Bradley, Louis Rawlings

The titanic struggle between Rome and Carthage sealed the fate not only of the ancient Phoenician city of Carthage, but also of the whole of the western Mediterranean. This module explores the roots of this great conflict, considering the development of both cities from c. 500 BC. It examines the course of Roman history from the fifth to the third centuries, considering such critical developments as the Struggle of the Orders, the conquest of Italy, and the emergence of the Senate as the dominant governing institution, controlled by a new mixed patrician-plebeian aristocracy. Equally, Carthage will be treated in its own right as a major Mediterranean power, and compared to Rome in terms of its political and imperial institutions and its cultural and economic life. This module will also consider how far Rome and Carthage were unique in the Western Mediterranean, and how far their emergence can be explained by the ferociously competitive and anarchic interstate system of the Mediterranean world.

Optional for: all Ancient History degrees
Availability: autumn and spring semesters in alternate years
Teaching: 20 lectures and 4 seminars
Assessment: one essay (35%); one source criticism (15%); one 2-hour examination (50%)

Syllabus content

  • the work of Polybius and Livy as source material for the period and as major contributions to the development of Greco-Roman historical writing
  • the archaeological evidence for early and mid-Republican Rome, and early Carthage
  • the early Republic, and the new constitution of Rome
  • Roman relations with neighbouring peoples: the Etruscans, the Sabines, the Latins
  • Rome's evolving Republican institutions
  • the Roman conquest of Italy
  • the rise of Carthage, and the nature of its control over Sicily, Sardinia and Spain
  • the First and Second Punic Wars
  • the character and development of Roman imperialism


  • To study the beginnings of Rome's expansion within the Mediterranean, and her emergence as an imperial power.
  • To consider the effects of such expansion upon structures (political, social and economic) which had been devised for a city-state; to compare Rome's development with that of Carthage.
  • To engage with primary evidence provided by two of the most distinguished historians of antiquity, Polybius and Livy.

Learning outcomes

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

  • a knowledge of the different types of literary evidence available for this period of Roman history, primarily the texts of Livy and Polybius.
  • a knowledge of the archaeological and other material evidence for Rome, Carthage and the western Mediterranean context of their expansion.
  • an appreciation of the historiographical and analytical skills needed to handle the main historical sources, particularly when examining a society such as Carthage whose own historiography has not survived.
  • an ability to use different sources together to assess the main issues in the interpretation of Roman and Carthaginian history.
  • an ability to relate the develop of Rome and Carthage to their wider Italian and Mediterranean contexts.
  • an ability on the basis of factual knowledge to discuss the historical questions which arise.
  • an ability to discuss these issues in written work with coherent and logical arguments, clearly and correctly expressed.
  • an ability to formulate and question arguments in oral form.

Primary sources (to be bought)

Livy, Rome and Italy (books 6–10) (Penguin)
Livy, Hannibal's War (books 21–30) (Oxford World's Classics)
Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire (Penguin, or online through Lacus Curtius) (also used in HS3316 Conquest and Crisis: the Roman Republic)

Preliminary reading

K. Bringmann, A History of the Roman Republic (2007)
T. J. Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome (1995)
T. Cornell, B. Rankov and P. Sabin (eds.), The Second Punic War: a Reappraisal, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies Supplement 67 (1996)
M. Crawford, The Roman Republic (2nd edition,1992)
G. Forsythe, A Critical History of Early Rome (2005)
A. Goldsworthy, The Punic Wars (2000), reprinted as The Fall of Carthage
W. V. Harris, War and Imperialism in Republican Rome, 327–70 BC (1979)
B. D. Hoyos, Hannibal's Dynasty (2004)
B. D. Hoyos, The Carthaginians (2010)
B. D. Hoyos (ed.), A Companion to the Punic Wars (2011)
J. F. Lazenby, Hannibal's War: A Military History of the Second Punic War (1978)
S. Lancel, Carthage: A History (1995)
R. Miles, Carthage Must be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilisation (2010)
N. Rosenstein and R. Morstein-Marx (eds.), A Companion to the Roman Republic (2006)
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)

Related modules

Prerequisite module: HS3102 Introduction to Roman History

Other modules to consider taking in conjunction with this one:

HS3316 Conquest and Crisis: the Roman Republic

HS4359 Early Rome: History and Legend

HS4364 The Etruscans: History and Society

HS4367 The Roman Army