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CLASSICS 4F03 Seminar In Ancient History

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Michele George

Email: georgem@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 708

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23452


Office Hours: Thursday & Friday 10:30 – 11:20 (or by appointment)

Course Objectives:

In this course we shall study the institution of the family in ancient Rome in all its aspects.  Issues covered shall include:  the family in Roman law; inheritance; the role of father and mother; children; adultery, divorce, and concubinage; care of the aged; the extended versus the nuclear family; the slave familia.  By the end of the course, the students should have a good grasp of these issues as well as the sources and methods used to understand them.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

J.F. Gardner, T. Wiedemann, The Roman Household:  A sourcebook (London/New York 1991)

ISBN 0-415-04421-9

Method of Assessment:

Class Participation                                                                  10%

Article Assessments (3 x 5%)                                                            15%

Annotated bibliography                                                          10%

Oral presentation and essay                                                   35% (5% + 30%)

Final Exam (as set by the registrar)                                        30%

The first part of the course will consist of the presentation of material by the instructor, with discussion and analysis by the participants.  Students will be expected to come to class with the readings done, so that fruitful discussion is generated; marks will be given for participation in these sessions, as well as in the peer presentations.  The last part of the course will consist of papers given by students (roughly 20-30 minutes each)

Class Participation

Students are expected to attend all classes, both those led by me and those led by other students.  Each seminar will begin with a 10 minute discussion of the assigned reading, and the participation mark will be based on this discussion; coming to class with the reading done is therefore essential to a good participation mark.  If you merely attend class, but do not participate, you will receive a failing grade for the participation component.

Material presented by students will be included on the final exam, so preparation and attendance are crucial. 

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Policy

Students must complete their work by the stated deadlines (see above).  There is a rolling deadline for written essays that is determined by your presentation date, i.e., your final paper must be submitted in hard copy one week after your class presentation.  A deduction of 3% per day will be made for all work turned in late.  This applies to all assignments for the course, including:  i) the annotated bibliography, ii) the abstract to be distributed one week before your presentation date, iii) the presentation itself, and iv) the final paper. 

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Outline of seminar meetings

Required readings are given below each seminar topic and must be done in advance of the class in order to engender discussion and a fuller understanding of the material presented in class time.  Coming to class with the readings done, understood, and digested is a significant part of the preparation and participation mark.  Full references to the readings are included on the attached bibliography. 

Lecture topics and readings (subject to change)

*The selections in Gardner and Wiedemann (G&W) are numbered consecutively, and those are the numbers indicated here, along with the reference from the ancient source.


September 6       

I. Introduction to course; survey of sources; key concepts



      #49  Publilius Syrus, Maxims


September 13

II. Family structure; paterfamilias and patria potestas; nature of Roman household


S. Dixon, 1991. ‘The sentimental ideal of the Roman family’, in B. Rawson, ed. Marriage, Divorce and Children in Ancient Rome. Oxford. 99-113. (A2L)


            #1  Cicero, On Duties 1, 53-55

            #2  Digest 50, 16.195 (Ulpian)

            #3  Gaius, Institutes 1, 48 etc.

            #11  Valerius Maximus 5,8

            #12  Seneca, On Clemency 1, 15

#39  Pliny, Letters  8, 16

Article assessment:

R. Saller, 1987. “Men’s age at marriage and its consequences in the Roman family”, Classical Philology 82:  21-34  (JSTOR)


September 20

III. Roman marriage I:  function, forms, and formation; conjugal values; death of a spouse


D. Cohen, 1991. ‘The Augustan law on adultery:  the social and cultural context’, in D. Kertzer, and R. Saller, eds., The Family in Italy From Antiquity to the Present. New Haven. 109-126 (A2L)


            #13 Ulpian, Rule 11,1 and 27

#14  Digest 23, 2.1-6; 8-9; 21-4

            #53  ILS 8402 = CIL VI, 11602 (Rome)

            #54  ILS 8403 = CIL I, 1007 (Rome; second century BC)

            #56  ILS 8456 = CIL VI, 34268 (Rome)

            #57  ILS 8437 = CIL IX, 1913 (Benevento)

            #58  ILS 8444 = CIL VIII, 11294 (near Thelepte, Algeria)

#62  Valerius Maximus 6, 3.9

#70  Pliny, Letters 4, 19.2-4

#131  Pliny, Letters 1, 14

Article assessment:

S. Treggiari 1991. “Ideals and Practicalities in Matchmaking in Ancient Rome” in D. Kertzer and R. Saller, eds. The Family in Italy From Antiquity to the Present. New Haven.  91-108.  (A2L)


September 27

IV. Roman marriage II:  adultery; divorce and remarriage; family dislocation


K. R. Bradley, 1987. “Dislocation in the Roman family” Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques

Vol. 14, No. 1 (Spring 1987), pp. 33-62 (JSTOR)

S. Treggiari, 1991. ‘Divorce Roman-style: ease and frequency’ in B. Rawson, ed. Marriage, Divorce, and Children in Ancient Rome. Oxford. 31-46. (A2L)


            #64  Plutarch, Cato the Younger 24-5

            #65  Digest 25, 3.1 (Ulpian, On the Edict, book 34)

            #66  Digest 43, 30.3, 5-6 (Ulpian, On the Edict, book 71)

Article assessment:

B. D. Shaw, 1987. 'The Age of Roman Girls at Marriage: Some Reconsiderations', Journal of Roman Studies 77:  30-­46. (JSTOR)


October 4

V.  Children I:  function in the family; attitudes toward children and childhood; tutela and tutores; inheritance practice


P. Garnsey, 1991. ‘Child rearing in ancient Italy’, in D. Kertzer and R. Saller, eds., The Family in Italy From Antiquity to the Present. New Haven.  48-65. (A2L)


            #110  Cassius Dio, 56.3

            #118  Plutarch, Cato the Elder 20, 4-7

#129  Fronto, Letters to his Friends 1, 12

#134  Seneca, On Anger 2, 21.1-6

#135 Seneca, The Constancy of the Wise Man 11.2, 12

#139  Gaius, Institutes 2, 179-81

            #142  Digest 5, 2.2-4

            #144  Pliny, Letters, 6, 33

            #149  Code of Justinian 3, 28.21 and 27

Article assessment:

R. Saller. 1998. "Symbols of Gender and Status Hierarchies in the Roman Household," in

Sandra R. Joshel, Sheila Murnaghan, Women and Slaves in Greco-Roman Culture: Differential Equations.   Routledge. 85-91 (A2L)




October 11          FALL BREAK:  NO CLASS


October 18

VI. Children II: contraception; adoption and fosterage; alumni, vernae, and deliciae


B. Rawson (1986) “Children in the Roman Familia”  in B. Rawson, ed, The family in ancient Rome (London) 170-200.  (A2L)


            #44  CIL VI, 31665 (Rome)

#117  Pliny, Letters, 8, 10 and 11

#124  Martial, Epigrams 6, 28 and 29

#125  Martial, Epigrams 5, 34 and 10, 61

#127  ILS 8470 = CIL VI, 5163 (Rome)

Article assessment:

K. R. Bradley. 1991. ‘Tatae and mammae in the Roman family’ in Discovering the Roman Family Oxford) 76-102. (A2L)


October 25

VII. Children III:  affective relationships; child mortality; mourning and commemoration of children


Golden, M. 1988. ‘Did the Ancients Care When their Children Died?’ Greece and Rome 35:  152-163. (JSTOR)

Plutarch’s ‘Letter of Consolation’ to his wife on the death of their two-year old daughter:



            #74  ILS 8473 = CIL VI, 27556 (Rome)

            #115  ILS 1660 = CIL VI, 8517 (Rome)

            #121  Aulus Gellius, 12, 1

            #122  ILS 8451 = CIL VI, 19128 (Rome)

            #123  ILS 199 = CIL X, 6561 (Velitrae)

#130  Pliny, Letters 5, 16.1-6

            #154  Pliny, Letters 4, 2

Article assessment:

K.R. Bradley. 2005. ‘The Roman Child in Sickness and in Health’, in M. George (ed.) The Roman Family in the Empire:  Rome, Italy, and Beyond. Oxford. 67-92. (A2L)


November 1

VIII. Family Dynamics; Old age


Shaw, B. 1991. ‘The cultural meaning of death:  age and gender in the Roman family’, in D. Kertzer, and R. Saller, eds., The Family in Italy From Antiquity to the Present. New Haven.  66-90. (A2L)


            #31  ILS 3604 = CIL II, 1980 (Adra, South Spain)

            #32  ILS 3608 = CIL IX, 723 (Morrone, s. France)

            #60  Cicero, Letters to Atticus 5, 1.3-4

            #61  Valerius Maximus 2, 1.6

            #99  Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7, 48/156-8, 162-4

            #103  Pliny, Letters 3, 1

            #109  Seneca, Letters 12

            #148  Code of Justinian 3, 28.28.1-2

            #152  Valerius Maximus 7, 8.2

            #215  Pliny, Letters 4, 1



Weeks of November 8 – December 6


December 6

Summary; exam review


Other Course Information:

Article Assessments 3x5% = 15%

Each student will write 3 article assessments worth 5% each (a choice of 3 out of 6; see course outline).  Each assessment should be 3 pages in length (double-spaced, 12 point font, normal margins), plus a separate title page, with your name, student number, course code, and my name, as well as the title of the article.  Each assessment should have:

  • a description of the issue that is under discussion in the article in which you isolate and characterize the evidence that the author draws on;
  • ii) an analysis of the author’s argument and the methodology employed.

Article assessments are due on specific dates (see course outline) and will be collected at the beginning of each seminar meeting; assessments handed in after class will be penalized by 1%; and no assessments will be accepted after the specified due date.  They will be assessed on style, including punctuation, grammar, organisation, clarity and coherence of expression.  Do not include any direct quotes from the articles themselves in your assessments. 


Major Paper

A list of paper topics is posted on the A2L website; please consult it.

As part of the process of researching and writing your major seminar paper, students must:

  • Prepare an annotated bibliography, to be brought to class on Tuesday, October 4th and worth 10% (see separate sheet).
  • One week before their presentation date, each student must also send me (via email) a Word document with a summary of their major paper topic (approx. 250 words), with a required reading for the rest of the class.  I will upload these to the A2L course website so that everyone can prepare for the presentations.  Failure to do so will result in a penalty to your mark following the late policy (see infra for late policy). 
  • Each student will have 20-25 minutes to present their research topic to the rest of the class. Class participation marks will include participation in these discussions.
  • You are responsible for the material presented in the seminars of your fellow students, since all seminar reports will be represented on the final exam; therefore, it is imperative that you attend every class and read the material for each other’s seminars. 
  • A final paper (in hard copy) based on your seminar presentation and approximately 3000 words in length must be handed in one week after your presentationLate papers will receive a 3% deduction per day that they are late.