Research Project and Some Suggested Topics

Each student must choose a different topic. If there is something you really want, let me know as soon as possible.

Each student must verify the topic with me in advance. Anyone who hands in a project without having chosen it in advance and informed me of the choice will receive half credit if it is a unique topic and zero credit if it is a topic that someone else already has.

Familiarity with and intelligent use of both primary and secondary sources - and knowing the difference between them - is crucial to a good research paper (even if you don't actually write out the paper).
Topics should be narrowly defined, addressing one particular phenomenon during a limited chronological period, one particular problem, or the biography of one person.
The value of the exercise is in the practice of doing research and evaluation of results of that research, not in an attempt to solve especially difficult problems or to describe broad areas of human endeavor.

A Sample Project with all of its parts.

A Student Paper on M. Atilius Regulus

A Student Paper on the Historian Josephus

Each paper must contain:

1. A clear statement of a thesis
2. The evidence.

Nothing Else


The thesis need not be limited to one sentence, but should not be longer than a paragraph. A thesis which is no more than a narrative of a series of events (e.g. an assemblage of the events of the Second Punic War) is not acceptable. An assessment of the life of an individual, however, whose importance or influence can be reduced to a few sentences, is possible; this sort of topic is clearly not possible within this format for a person such as Julius Caesar.


The evidence comprises both primary and secondary ancient sources and relevant modern scholarship, each summarized as to its relevant content and value (or lack thereof).
Rules concerning ancient sources:
You must find all of the sources pertaining to your topic, except any (e.g., inscriptions) which do not exist in English translation.

If you have difficulty finding translations of the sources, or even finding out what they are, ask for help.

Rules concerning modern scholarship:

Modern works must include both articles in learned journals and, when possible, books (most topics will be discussed in some part(s) of books).

You must read and add to the annotated bibliography at least one book review of a book which you are using. Two reviews are better.

Modern bibliography must include the most recently published items on the topic.

Modern bibliography must also include classic standard works on the topic, e.g., for the late Republic, Erich Gruen, The Last Generation of the Roman Republic, for Augustus, Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution.

If you need help, ask for it in a timely manner.

Bibliography must use an accepted standard (social science or other) consistently.
Ancient authors (e.g. Livy 22.37) should be referred to by book and chapter, not by page number.
As a rule, on-line resources may not be used (although they may lead you to bibliography in print): please consult with me if you find a site which seems to warrant an exception. The one exception is that you may always use texts of ancient sources available online, although it is sometimes difficult to know how to refer to chapter and verse if they are not included in an online version.
Note: If you find books and articles which you cannot read, because, for example, they are written in a language which you do not know, please list them in your bibliography and afterwards, in parenthesis, write non vidi. Needless to say, the majority of your secondary sources must be things which you have read.

Nuts and Bolts

The final versions of all projects must be typed and free of grammatical and spelling errors; papers not free of errors will be returned for correction.

Ancient Sources

How do you find the ancient sources for a particular area of inquiry?

The easiest way is to go from the most available or easiest modern works to the more detailed and specialized. To take Hannibal as an example, the second edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary sends one to the article on the Punic Wars for bibliography (ancient and modern), where the primary sources are listed; the third edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary cites recent modern bibliography at the end of the article on Hannibal, but no ancient sources. The OCD is available in the reference room of the library (third edition DE5 .O9 1996; second edition DE5 .O9 1970) and at the Classics Department (481 Main Street).

A History of the Roman World 753 to 146 BC and From the Gracchi to Nero also have sources mentioned in the notes to each chapter, usually near the beginning of each section of notes. Unfortunately, the book by Greenidge and Clay to which Scullard often refers is not available at the UVM library.

The Cambridge Ancient History has, at the back of each volume, an extensive list of primary sources and bibliography for each chapter. The CAH is available in the reference room of the library (D57 .C252) and at the Classics Department (481 Main, room 207).

My favorite place to look is in the multi-volume German encyclopedia of classical antiquity known familiarly as Pauly-Wissowa or RE (for Paulys Real-encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft); you don't need a word of German to be able to use this if all you want to find are ancient sources. The exhaustive articles in this work are peppered with references to ancient sources (for the Second Punic War, for example, the abbreviation for Livy looks much the same in any European language, i.e., Liv.). Pauly-Wissowa is shelved at 481 Main Street room 207. If you are looking up a person, it is useful to know which person you want: Sertorius is Sertorius 3; Scipio Africanus is Cornelius 336; Scipio Aemilianus is Cornelius 335; Cicero is Tullius 29. How does one learn the right number? Check the OCD first; e.g. under Cicero the entry begins "Cicero (1), Marcus Tullius (PW 29)": this tells you to look Cicero up in Pauly-Wissowa under Tullius and to go to the 29th Tullius.

If the person, topic, or thing you want to look up in Pauly-Wissowa begins with a letter from A to S (more precisely, is alphabetized up to and including Syl-), you can use an English language reference work based upon the massive German edition, and updated. It is available both in room 207, 481 Main, and in the reference room at the library (call number DE5 .N4813 2002); this is called Brill's New Pauly: encyclopaedia of the ancient world.

Another excellent way to find ancient sources keyed to people (and events have to do with people as well) is to consult T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, in the reference room, call number DG83.5 .A1 B73. There are three volumes. Within the first two, information is arranged chronologically beginning with the earliest names we have for Romans who held office under the Republic, what they did and how we know this (i.e., ancient sources). At the end of the second volume there is an index of careers. The third volume contains additions and corrections. For people in the first centuries of the empire, consult Prosopographia imperii romani saec. I. II. III. The call number is DG203.5 .P9 1933 and there are seven volumes. It has been shelved in the research annex but it will be in my office for the foreseeable future.

If you can find good scholarly books and journal articles about your topic, the ancient sources should be not only listed but discussed (sometimes ad nauseam).

How to cite ancient sources:

Cicero Against Verres I trans. M. Grant [cite within the work by section/paragraph number, not page number unless you can't figure out the section number]

Plutarch Life of Marius trans. [whoever the translator is]; add the section number if you are using a printed text or an online version that gives section numbers.

Livy 21.12 trans. de Sélincourt [the Penguin translator]; Livy 5.54 trans. Luce [the Oxford translator]

Modern Scholarship

How do you find the modern scholarship for your topic?

Look in the endnotes to whichever volume of Scullard is suitable for your period (you may need to use the index at the back to help get you to the right page). Any books or articles which he cites will be very good ones; these will, however, not be the most recent works available (History last revised 1978, Gracchi last revised 1981).

Next, look in L'Année philologique, e.g. under the name of a person associated with or central to your topic. It is in the reference room (Z7016 .A56); there is another copy at 481 Main Street room 207. This bibliographical resource lists all books published about classical themes, and where, if anywhere, the books have been reviewed. It is also a veritable treasure house of information on articles in learned journals, many of which can be found in the UVM library. Instructions on using L'Année philologique

Try the UVM library for books, after searching by subject.

Do a preliminary search on JSTOR, being aware that due to licensing limitations JSTOR does not access the last several years, nor does it access all of the periodicals in our library relating to classical antiquity.
Cruising the stacks: If your topic is regarded by the Library of Congress as historical, you will find books on Roman history under the LC heading DG. Roman law, on the other hand, is JC, religion is BL or BR, classical literature is PA. You can find books about Tacitus under both DG and PA, depending upon the whim of the cataloguer (or whether the book is concerned more with history or with literary devices).

Here is a link to a class guide created for a History seminar last semester by Patricia Mardeusz. Although the subject of the class was Hellenistic history, the reference materials she gathered and the information on how to judge whether or not a piece of writing is scholarly (What is a scholarly journal?) are well worth your attention.

A very quick way to unearth lots of modern scholarship is to find a good scholarly book or article, of recent date, on an appropriate topic and peruse not only its text but its bibliography and footnotes.
How do you tell if a book is good? There are no guarantees, but some or all of the following will give you an idea:
1. The book is by a refereed publisher (e.g. a university press)
2. The bibliography contains entries in a variety of modern languages (thus indicating that the author has done the homework)
3. There are a lot of footnotes or endnotes
4. The author takes the trouble to describe what editions of the ancient writers s/he is using
5. Reviews of the book are not uniformly hostile. You should read at least two reviews, if they are available, of any scholarly book (this is good advice for any field). You can find reviews in a number of ways; for recent books you can try the Bryn Mawr Classical Review on-line, and for both recent and older works look in the bibliographical resource known as L'Année philologique.

How to cite modern bibliography:

Book: Gruen, Erich S. The Last Generation of the Roman Republic. Berkeley 1974. [or: you can add 1995 reprint to this information if you are using that version]

Article: Henderson, M.I. "The Establishment of the 'equester ordo'." JRS 53 (1963) 61-72. [JRS is the Journal of Roman Studies] Please use the same abbreviations that L'Année philologique uses.

Sample Topics

The topics listed below are merely examples. Some students may have definite interests which they wish to pursue, while others may need help choosing a topic they can live with. I can help define and tailor topics to each person's major, other interests, prejudices, or whims, but I can't do it alone. The most rewarding and successful research comes from each individual's own interests. Please come by during office hours, make an appointment or write an e-mail for advice or suggestions.

Particular Problems or Phenomena [topics printed with strike through are taken]

External (for the most part):

Myth vs. history in selected episodes of early Roman history, e.g.:
Servius Tullius = Mastarna?
Lars Porsenna
Horatius at the bridge
Mucius Scaevola
Cloelia and the hostages
Maelius and Minucius
Sp. Cassius
M. Furius Camillus and the Gauls
M. Manlius Capitolinus
Invasion of Pyrrhus of Epirus
Date and historicity of the Foedus Cassianum
Battle of Allia
Historicity of First Samnite War
App. Claudius Caecus
Roman behavior in Second Samnite War
"Philinus" treaty between Rome and Carthage (ca. 306)
M'. Curius Dentatus and the events of 284 BCE
Peace negotiations between Romans and Pyrrhus
Treaty between Carthage and Rome in the 270's
Cause(s) of the First Punic War
The first Roman fleet
C. Flaminius
Causes of Roman intervention in Illyria
Cause(s) of the Second Punic War
Roman alliance with Saguntum
Hannibal's route through Etruria
Minucius Rufus
Course of Battle of Cannae
Philip V and Hannibal
Rome and Aetolia
Scipio at New Carthage
Battle at the Metaurus
Cause(s) of Second Macedonian War
Athens and Rome
T. Quinctius Flamininus
Cause(s) of war with Antiochus
Scipio Africanus: Philhellenism, foreign policy, and internal enmity
Relations between Perseus and the Romans
Settlement of Macedonia and Epirus after Third Macedonian War
Roman policy in the east after Third Macedonian War
Settlement of Greece and Macedon after Fourth Macedonian War
Cato the Censor
Cause(s) of the Third Punic War
Battles at Aquae Sextiae and Vercellae
The beginnings of and reasons for Mithradates' war of liberation
Pompey's imperium against the pirates
Lucullus against Mithradates
Pompey's eastern settlement
Ptolemaic politics
Caesar's Right to Intervene in Gallia Comata
Caesar vs the Usipetes and Tencteri
Caesar vs Vercingetorix
Crassus' Parthian War
Cleopatra's aims
Battle of Actium
Augustus' foreign policy: was there really an Augustan peace?
Ancient historians' verdicts on problematic rulers:
Septimius Severus

Internal (for the most part):

Differences (racial? economic? something else?) between plebeians and patricians
Changes in fetial law and practice with overseas expansion
The Curiae
Form and meaning of the Roman triumph
Hoplite armor and tactics in early Rome
Tribes and tribal assemblies
Provocatio (appeal to the people)
Scope of the Valerio-Horatian Laws
Military tribunes with consular power
Reform of the comitia centuriata
Suppression of ecstatic religions
The equestrian order in the second century BCE
Status of Freedmen in Rome in second and first centuries
Scipio Africanus vs Cato
Political factions in the second century BCE
Tribunes of the people before the Gracchi
Scipio Aemilianus
Slave wars in Sicily
Provincial administration
C. Laelius Sapiens
Aims of Tiberius Gracchus
Tib. Gracchus vs. Octavius
Tib. Gracchus and the senate
P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio
Blossius of Cumae
Aims of Gaius Gracchus
Gracchus' law on false judicial condemnation
L. Opimius and the SCV
M. Aemilius Scaurus
Marius' political career and political alliances
C. Memmius
Marius' military reforms
Marius' new type of army recruit
Saturninus' legislation
Q. Mucius Scaevola Augur
Q. Mucius Scaevola Pontifex
M. Livius Drusus (tr. pl. 91)
Lex Varia de maiestate
Rome and the Italians before the Social War
Asculum in the Social War
Laws enfranchising allies during and after the Social War
Aims of P. Sulpicius
Cn. Pompeius Strabo
The Marian massacre in 87
Cinna's domination
Flaccus, Fimbria, and Sulla
Identity and aims of Sulla's supporters
Pompey's triumph
Cicero's defense of Roscius
Spartacus slave rebellion
Who were the tribuni aerarii?
Conspiracy of Catilina
The concordia ordinum (senatorial and equestrian classes)
Dea Bona trial
Cicero in 56-54
Clodia Metelli
Caesar's rights vs. optimate obstruction in 51-50 BCE
Responsibility for civil war
Lentulus Spinther
Domitius Ahenobarbus
M. Caelius Rufus
Cato Vticensis
M. Antonius' policies in 44-43
Cicero's Philippics
Renewal of Second Triumvirate
The metamorphosis of Octavian
Agrippa's contributions
Conspiracy of Murena
The secret of empire (that an emperor can be created outside Rome)
Imperial succession as a constitutional problem after Augustus or Nero
Nero and the great fire at Rome
L. Verginius Rufus
Roman Stoicism and Roman politics under the Julio-Claudians
Typical senatorial or equestrian careers in the early Empire
Evaluation of a specific sort of document other than narrative histories (e.g. plays, letters, speeches) as sources for history
Romans and non-Romans: mutual perspectives (especially as written up by historians)
A Roman philosopher in context (e.g. Lucretius, Cicero, Seneca)
The power of individual women in the late Republic (or any defined period of the Empire)
Making the controlled world Roman (especially in a specific western province)
Advances in science and technology, including agricultural practices

Last updated: 30 October 2008
Send Comments to: Barbara Rodgers,
Copyright © 2008 Barbara Saylor Rodgers
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