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Ancient History Exam

This single exam covers both Greek and Roman history for students in Classical Studies and the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology (IPCAA).

The exam takes 4 hours and could be taken over two days or all at once.  Students will be required to answer two of the shared topics and one of the topics in Greek History and one in Roman History (4 essays x 45 minutes = 3 hours).  There will also be a section of the exam devoted to identifications.  (2 sets of IDs = 2 x 30 minutes = 1 hour).

The exam will be given once per year in September with a possible re-take in May after classes are over. (The May date can also be used by IPCAA students wishing to take the exam for the first time). Philology students will be expected to take the exam in September of their second year. 

At the beginning of each summer, the faculty member in charge of setting the exam will announce the bibliography for all of the essay topics, so that the students will have the summer to prepare for a fall exam. Updates to the bibliography will thus be possible (but not required) each year. Arrangements will be made to assure that the items on the bibliography are as accessible as possible over the summer.

This is a serious exam that requires a substantial amount of reading and studying. Students should prepare for the exam over the course of many months in order to gain the maximum benefit. Remember, the goal is not simply to pass the exam, but to gain a broad and deep understanding of Greek and Roman history and the approaches currently being used to interpret it. 



Students will be required to identify thirty out of forty provided historical terms. The terms for identification will be equally divided between “Greek” and “Roman” terms. Students should identify 15 “Greek” terms and 15 “Roman” terms. (Time allocation: 1 hour).

In some cases, terms may have more than one possible referent. In such cases, students should identify the most significant referent. When in doubt, identify all possible referents. It is difficult to generalize about the content of a good answer to an identification question, since the terms vary in nature (e.g., people, places, battles, concepts, political institutions, laws). Most answers will, however, indicate the date(s), geographical location, and historical significance of the term. Usually 4-5 sentences will suffice.

A list of terms for identification is appended to the end of this document. Terms for identification will be drawn from this list.  In order to prepare for the identifications, students should read a good narrative overview of Greek and Roman history, for example I. Morris and B. Powell The Greeks and D. Potter Ancient Rome: A New History.  

See links at bottom of page for Greek and Roman History IDs. 



Below is a list of topics with suggested bibliography. The list aims to avoid being overly long or too specialized while at the same time providing a good overview of each topic.

Common Topics: Greece and Rome

Students will be required to write an essay on two of three questions drawn from the common topics. (Time allocation 1.5 hours)

1.  Religion  

  1. Price, S. 1999.  Religions of the Ancient Greeks. Cambridge
  2. Nongbri, B. 2013. Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept. New Haven and London.

2.  Evidence & Method

  1. Marincola, J. 2001. Greek Historians. Greece & Rome. New Surveys in the Classics. Oxford.
  2. Krauss, C.S. and A.J. Woodman. 1997. Latin Historians. Greece & Rome. New Surveys in the Classics. Oxford.
  3. Bagnall, R.S. 1995. Reading papyri, writing ancient history. London.
  4. Bodel, J. 2001. Epigraphic evidence: ancient history from inscriptions. London.
  5. Howgego, C. 1995. Ancient History from Coins. London.

3.  Environmental and Economic History 

  1. Thommen, L. 2009. An Environmental History of Ancient Greece and Rome. Cambridge.
  2. Grove, A. T. and O. Rackham. 2003. The Nature of Mediterranean Europe: An Ecological History. New Haven. 
  3. A. Bresson.2016. The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy. Princeton. 
  4. W. Scheidel et al. eds. 2007. The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge. Chapters 19-23 (p.511-647)


Greek History

Students will be required to answer one of two questions drawn from the following topic in Greek history. (Time allocation 45 minutes).

Empires and Leagues

  1. M.I. Finley, “The Fifth Century Athenian Empire: A  Balance Sheet,” in P.D. Garnsey and C.R. Whittaker eds. Imperialism in the Ancient World(Cambridge,1979): 103-76.
  2. R. Meiggs, “The Crisis of Athenian Imperialism,” HSCP67 (1963): 1-36.
  3. G.E.M. de Ste. Croix, “The Character of the Athenian Empire,” Historia3 (1954): 1-41.
  4. H. Beck and P. Funke, “An Introduction to Federalism in Greek Antiquity,” in H. Beck and P. Funke, Federalism in Greek Antiquity (Cambridge, 2015) 1-29.
  5. A. Chaniotis, Age of Conquests: The Greek World from Alexander to Hadrian 336BC-AD138 (Cambridge, MA): 1-232.


Roman History

Students will be required to answer one of two questions drawn from the areas of Roman history represented by the following (Time allocation 45 minutes).

  1. K. Lomas, The Rise of Rome from the Iron Age to the Punic Wars (Cambridge, MA, 2017).
  2. D. Hoyos ed., A Companion to the Punic Wars (Malden, MA, 2015): 167-83 (chapter by Bleckmann).
  3. N. Rosenstein and R. Morstein-Marx eds, A Companion to the Roman Republic (Malden MA, 2006): 478-95; 567-605 (chapters by Hoelkeskamp, Eckstein and de Light).
  4. R. Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford, 1939).
  5. P.A. Brunt, The Fall of the Roman Republic (Oxford, 1988), 1-92.
  6. F.G. Millar, “The Emperor, the Senate and the Provinces,” JRS56 (1966): 156-66.
  7. F.G. Millar, “The Emperor at Work,” JRS 57 (1967): 9-19.
  8. F.G. Millar, “Emperors, Frontiers and Foreign Relations,” Britannia13 (1982): 1-23.
  9. E. Dench, Empire and Political Cultures in the Roman World (Cambridge, 2018)
  10. D.J. Mattingly, Imperialism, Power and Identity: Experiencing the Roman Empire (Princeton, 2010): 3-43; 203-45.
  11. G. Woolf, “Beyond Romans and Natives,” World Archaeology 28 (1997), 339-350.


Click here for a PDF of Greek History IDs.
Click here for a PDF of Roman History IDs.