Imperial Insanity: Mad Emperors of Rome

Subject 107-213 (2008)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2008.Search for this in the current handbookSearch for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.500
Level: Undergraduate
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2008:

Semester 2, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 1.5-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial per week
Total Time Commitment: Not available
Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Rhiannon Evans
Subject Overview:

This subject examines the history and representation of Roman emperors often represented as insane or psychopathically tyrannical. During the first three centuries of the Imperial period, major historical sources, such as Tacitus' Annals and Suetonius' Lives of the Caesars, depict the Roman imperial court as a place of intrigue, scandal and corruption, while the actions of the emperor himself are often represented as arbitrary and incomprehensible. This course investigates the prevailing themes of madness and despotism, and considers the reasons why such hostile sources might be generated. The changing relationship between emperor, court and political elites, as well as the agendas of writers of history and other genres, are central to providing an understanding of these issues. Hostile sources are compared with instances of self-presentation, particularly through material culture and official documents. Chief attention is given to the emperors Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Commodus and Elagabalus, whose reputations for irrationality and psychopathic or savage behaviour are most marked in the historical tradition, both ancient and modern. The continuity and development of these narratives is discernible in historical fiction, cinema and television, and representations such as those found in I, Claudius, Quo Vadis and Gladiator are studied in relation to the reception of Roman imperial culture.

Assessment: A 500 word tutorial presentation 15% (due during the semester), a 2000 word research essay 50% (due during the semester), and a 1.5 hour exam 35% (during the examination period).
Prescribed Texts: Prescribed Texts:A subject reader will be available.Lives of the Caesars (Suetonius), Oxford World Classics The Annals of Imperial Rome (Tacitus), Penguin Classics Lives of the Later Caesars (NO_AUTHOR), Penguin Classics
Breadth Options: This subject is a level 2 or level 3 subject and is not available to new generation degree students as a breadth option in 2008.
This subject or an equivalent will be available as breadth in the future.
Breadth subjects are currently being developed and these existing subject details can be used as guide to the type of options that might be available.
2009 subjects to be offered as breadth will be finalised before re-enrolment for 2009 starts in early October.
Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • be skilled in critical thinking and analysis;

  • possess effective written communication skills;

  • have an understanding of social, ethical and cultural context.

Related Course(s): Bachelor of Arts
Diploma in Arts (Ancient and Medieval Studies)
Diploma in Arts (Classical Studies)
Graduate Certificate in Arts (Ancient and Medieval Studies)
Graduate Certificate in Arts (Classics and Archaeology)
Graduate Diploma in Arts (Ancient and Medieval Studies)
Graduate Diploma in Arts (Classics and Archaeology)

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