History 94.7

Methods and Theory in Ancient History
Paul Christesen

This course is designed to introduce the student to the various types of documentary evidence available to the ancient historian and to the various perspectives for framing and answering historical questions. The class considers the interpretive methodologies for each type of document (coin, inscription, papyrus) as well as the particular historical context in which these documents were produced. Topics include the function of coinage and economic thinking in the ancient world and the political significance of the publication of law. The final weeks of the term allow for in-depth consideration of a specific problem in ancient history.

Professor Christesen discussed the cistophor of Hadrian (2009.110.14) from the Yale collection and other coins from the Hood’s collection. He asked the students to consider the interpretive methodologies for coins as well as the particular historical context in which these documents were produced. Topics included the function of coinage and economic thinking in the ancient world.

Related objects


History  94.6

History of the Roman Empire: Roman Principate to Christian Empire
Roberta Stewart

This course is designed to survey the major events in the history of Rome from 31 B.C. (Octavian/Augustus’ success at the battle of Actium) through the accession and rule of Septimius Severus. During this period, the Roman empire (signifying the territorial extent conquered by Roman armies and administered by Roman officials) became a political community extending throughout the Mediterranean and northwards into Europe as far as Scotland. This course considers the logic of the Roman system: the mechanisms promoting the political identity of diverse peoples as Roman, and the endurance of local traditions within the Roman world; the reasoning whereby the overarching leadership of a single individual was conceived as necessary and good, and the evolving relationship between the princeps and the Roman senatorial aristocracy with a tradition of competitive participation and self identity in politics at Rome; the definition of the Roman frontiers and the role of the army in the assimilation of non-Roman peoples.

The students were given a research assignment based on  numismatic materials. The selection focused on Hadrianic coins. The students had to use the coins to ask—and answer—specific historical questions related to public policy: why did Hadrian spend most of his time traveling the Mediterranean world, and why did he mint at Rome an extensive series of coins that illustrate those travels? Coins of Augustus and of Trajan illustrate the traditional numismatic subjects of conquered provinces (Augustus’s “Aegypto Capta”) and Roman militarism (Trajan’s denarius showing a striding Mars) and highlight, by contrast, the subject matter of Hadrian’s coins.

Related objects



History 94.3

Greek History: Archaic and Classical Greece
Paul Christesen

This course is designed to survey the major events in the history of ancient Greece from c.1600 B.C. (the emergence of palatial culture in the Mycenaean World) to 404 B.C. (the end of the Peloponnesian War). During this period, the Greeks formed individual communities and developed unique political structures, spread their culture, language, and religion throughout the Mediterranean, invented democracy (at Athens) and enshrined these values in their art and literature. This course will cover the physical setting of and the archaic legacy to the classical city-state, its economy, its civic and religious institutions, the waging of war between cities, the occurrence and ancient analysis of conflict within the city, and the public and private lives of its citizens and less well-known classes, such as women, children, slaves, etc.

Spring 2013

History 94.5

Roman History: The Republic
Roberta Stewart

This course surveys the history of the Roman people from 753 (traditional date of the founding of Rome) to 44 B.C. (the assassination of Julius Caesar). Topics include the development of Roman law, the conquest of all lands bordering on the Mediterranean, and the civil wars that destroyed Republican government. Particular emphasis is placed on the Roman political community: the political, religious and social factors that influenced the definition of the Roman aristocracy in the fourth century, the institutions that maintained the ascendancy of the elite, the military and political values inherent in the citizenship, the social and political mechanisms that militated against civil dissent, and the role of political values in the eventual destruction of Republican government from within.

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