Republican Rome and the Origins of an Empire: A Five-Part Course with Dr. Dimosthenis Kosmopoulos

Republican Rome and the Origins of an Empire: A Five-Part Course with Dr. Dimosthenis Kosmopoulos


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By the second century AD, the Roman Empire reached a population of 60 to 80 million inhabitants. To understand the genesis of the Empire, this five-part course will examine the period of the Republic. Together, we’ll explore the history and archaeology of Republican Rome, from the origins as a small village to the conquest of the Mediterranean basin.

In the eighth century BC, Rome was born as a cluster of hut villages in the lower course of the Tiber river. After the rule of the kings, Rome started to grow and expand as a Republic, first in the Latium region and then, during a second phase, in the Italic Peninsula. At the same time, Roman culture and society were beginning to form, influenced by other civilizations such as the Etruscans, who also transmitted the influence of Greece.

By the early third century BC, Rome controlled almost all the Italic Peninsula and was ready to challenge the great powers in the Mediterranean basin: the Carthaginians and the Hellenistic Kingdoms. In the first century, Rome controlled a huge territory and the Republic had to face a long period of social crisis that led to a series of civil wars. The assassination of Julius Caesar and the rise to power of his adoptive son, Octavian Augustus ended the civil wars and brought the birth of a different political system: the principatus.

Led by an expert on Greek-Roman archaeology, Dr. Dimosthenis Kosmopoulos, this course will investigate the origins and the Republican period of Rome, covering seven centuries of history. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased knowledge of the subject, dealing with a historical approach and an archaeological view that will help to better understand this fundamental moment of Roman history.

Lecture 1: Early Rome, From the Monarchy to the Republic

We’ll begin by discussing how the original core of Rome was formed by a small hut village on the Palatine Hill. The first days of Rome are blurred in myth and history: figures such as Aeneas and the first king Romulus are the main characters of these first phases. We’ll learn about the Republican system that followed the Monarchy in the year 509 BC: a new political system, based on the Senate House and two consuls per year.

Lecture 2: The First Years of the Republic

After the overthrow of the Monarchy, the newborn Roman Republic expanded in the Latium Region. We’ll discuss its first neighboring enemies: Latin populations and the Etruscans. Along with territorial expansion Roman society began to form. We’ll explore how this period was dominated by the social clash between the patricians and the plebeians and the Celtic invasions.

Lecture 3: The Expansion of Rome in the Italic Peninsula

This seminar will explore how after the conquests in the Latium Region, Rome began to expand south, looking for new territories and wheat fields. In the fourth and third centuries BC, Rome was involved in a series of three wars with an ancient Italic people, the Samnites, who lived in south-central Italy. Moving south Rome ran into a Greek general, Pyrrhus of Epirus, and his army, composed of battle elephants and the fearsome phalanx infantry.

Lecture 4: The Punic Wars and the Control of the Mediterranean Sea

The island of Sicily was a rich granary, located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, a strategic position held by the Carthaginians. The casus belli (“occasion of war”) was the revolt in Messina that led to three long wars against the Empire of Carthage. We’ll discuss how the Roman victory was a turning point and allowed Rome to become a power in the Western Mediterranean basin.

Lecture 5: The Downfall of the Republic

Our finale in the series will focus on how the old Republic was nearly at its end. The times were ready for a change of the system; the question was who would become the new ruler? Would it be Pompey the Great, Mark Anthony, Crassus, Julius Caesar, or Octavian Augustus? The last century of the Republic was marked by a political crisis and violent civil wars. We’ll learn, however, that from the ashes of the Republic, an Empire would rise.

During his university studies at “La Sapienza” in Rome, Dimosthenis participated in several national and international projects, such as the study of Latin epigraphy and Roman pottery as well as various archaeological excavations in different areas of Rome (Roman Forum, Palatine, Mausoleum of Augustus). His work as an archaeologist brought him to carry out research in classical art and architecture, exploring in particular the relationship between iconography and architecture as ancient Greek and Roman artistic expressions. Dimosthenis completed his Ph.D. with a thesis on temple architecture in the Italian peninsula during the Republican period. This topic became his area of expertise. His knowledge of archaeology, ancient art history and Roman architecture is the key that he uses to share his unique perspective on the Eternal City.

How does it work?

This is a five-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on Roman history, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $175 for five lectures.

Is a recording available?

In general, our courses are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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