Most Roman history courses focus on political and military leaders–“great men” such as Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompeius, Cicero, and Augustus–and their accomplishments. This is owed in part to the limitations of our sources, and in part to our own bias for seeking out individual actors and agents of political change. But this course will have a different focus. We will look at the “other side of Rome”: those who were part of the Roman Empire but not of the ruling elite.
These will include slaves, freedpersons, women, the poor, and the provincials at the edges of the Roman world. We will examine the roles that these different groups played in Rome’s history and culture–gladiators, prostitutes, soldiers, authors, wives, and more. And we will consider not only how these marginalized groups were viewed and treated by the Roman elite, but also how these groups viewed traditional Roman society and culture.