29714 - Roman Historiography (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The student at the end of the course knows the development of historiography in Roman antiquity from its origins to the late Roman Empire. (S)he knows the heuristic techniques and edition of historical sources of textual character, and is able to apply critical analysis methodologies. (S)he also knows the methodologies used in the historical narrative historiographical approaches.

Course contents

From Polybius to Zosimus - Some aspects of the Greek historical thought about Rome.

The course focuses on Polybius' work and  the influence of some of his ideas even on late antique historiography.

A general overview of the historiography about ancient Rome will be presented in this course, and special attention will be paid to ancient authors in Greek language, with the translation of passages from Polybius, Cassius Dio, Herodianus, and Zosimus.

The program details with a list of all the passages which will be read and discussed in class, will be published at the beginning of the course.


  1. G. Zecchini, Storia della storiografia romana, Roma-Bari, Laterza 2016
  2. J. Thornton, Polibio, Il politico e lo storico, Roma, Carocci 2020

CAUTION: Greek and Latin texts will be read and exhaustively commented during the lectures. It is up to the students who do not attend the lectures to prepare this part for the examination individually by studying the commentaries in the original editions. For this reason, it is highly advisable to attend the course.

Teaching methods

During the lessons the ancient texts and documents will be contextualized, translated, discussed and commented.

Assessment methods

Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending.

Assessment will be carried out through an oral exam aimed at testing if students can demonstrate:

  • Knowledge of the development of Roman history, from the origins to the Late Antiquity and the institutional aspects of the Roman world;
  • Knowledge of the methodology of analysis of ancient sources and documentation also based on the interpretations of modern bibliography;
  • the ability to use such knowledge to critically identify events, problems and themes of Roman history, also in the light of the materials developed in class and/or with self-prepared readings;
  • capability of oral expression.

Grading criteria:

Excellent / very good:

  • comprehensive and analytical exposition of historical events and institutional issues in all three responses;
  • specific and critical recall to the sources behind the reconstruction and the main issues of the scientific debate;
  • synthetic organic vision of transversal themes;
  • expressive and specific language skills.

Good / satisfactory:

  • concise description and synthetic commentary on the events and themes proposed in all three responses;
  • constant reference to sources and to scientific debate, even if in essence;
  • awareness of the cross-cutting development lines; correct language, even if not always appropriate.


  • basic illustration of the exam material with some circumscribed gap or error in only one of the questions;
  • critical analysis of sources only at the examiner's solicitude;
  • uncertainty in the reference framework or in evaluating historical development lines or insecurity in correctly explaining transversal themes;
  • correct but partially inappropriate language.


  • Lacks in knowledge of events and lines of historical development in more than one question;
  • lack of critical analysis of sources, gaps in the analysis of sources and poor awareness of analytical methods;
  • poor orientation within the overall reference framework and limited ability to describe and explain cross-themes and issues;
  • inappropriate or incorrect language.

Teaching tools

The course will be organised in frontal lessons held by the teacher himself. He will sometimes make use of an overhead-projector, computer presentations and photocopies of the texts. All these materials can be found at the end of the course also on-line on the web-page of the course.

Office hours

See the website of Tommaso Gnoli