Roman Literature of the Golden Age of Augustus Caesar, produced during the transition from Republican to Imperial forms of government, was to have a profound and defining influence on Western European and American societies. These writings ultimately established lasting models of aesthetic refinement, philosophical aspiration, and political ambition that continue to shape modern cultures. This class will be exploring the Golden Age of Latin Literature from an historical perspective in order to provide an intensive examination of the cultural contexts in which these monumental works of classical art were first produced. Readings will emphasize the transition from a Republican form of government to an Empire under the rule of Augustus Caesar and the diversity of responses among individual authors to the profound structural changes that Roman society was undergoing at this time. Particular attention will be devoted to the reorganization of society and the self through textuality, the changing dimensions of the public and the private, the roles of class and gender, and the relationship between art and pleasure. Writings covering a wide variety of literary genres will include the works of Caesar, Cicero, Catullus, Livy, Virgil, Horace, and Ovid, with additional readings from Cassius Dio for background. 

Criteria for HASS-CI Subjects

Communication Intensive Subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences should require at least 20 pages of writing divided among 3-5 assignments. Of these 3-5 assignments, at least one should be revised and resubmitted. HASS-CI subjects should further offer students substantial opportunity for oral expression through presentations, student-led discussion, or class participation. In order to guarantee sufficient attention to student writing and substantial opportunity for oral expression, the maximum number of students per section in a HASS-CI subject is 18, except in the case of a subject taught without sections (where the faculty member in charge is the only instructor). In that case, enrollments can rise to 25, if a writing fellow is attached to the subject.


The final grade for this class will be computed according to the following weighted scale:

Class Participation 25%
Reader Responses (3 Papers, 2 pages each) 15%
In-class Projects 5%
Write-up of Research Project (5 pages) 15%
Draft of Final Paper (6-10 pages) 10%
Final Paper (10 pages) 30%

Class Participation

Active contribution to class discussion constitutes a significant portion of the final grade. Students are expected to be fully prepared in the assigned readings and to be ready to speak in every class.

Reader Response Papers

Three short papers (2 pages each in length, double-spaced, 12-point type, with 1-inch margins on all sides) provide opportunities for students to address their own concerns when reading the texts. These exercises should focus on a specific passage from that day's assigned reading that strikes you as particularly interesting or curious or puzzling, something startling that may have challenged your initial expectations of the text. After identifying the important features of the passage and what makes them so unusual, go on to examine the meaning and significance of these features, and then explain their implications and consequences, their purpose and function within the text.

In-class Projects

Throughout the term, in-class projects will be designed to allow you to apply the knowledge you have acquired to the materials you have been reading most recently. In addition, quizzes - some announced, some unannounced - will be given occasionally to test your comprehension of the readings. Unannounced quizzes will only be counted if the grade received is an A- or above; announced quizzes will always be counted.

Research Project

One independent research project on some aspect of Roman civic life will be required. Students will make a 10-minute oral presentation to the rest of the class on what they have discovered, and then one week later will be required to submit a formal write-up of their findings for a separate grade.

Final Paper

Students will submit a first draft of their final paper two and a half weeks before the final paper is due. The draft will be returned one week later with the instructor's comments and suggestions. The final version should then include whatever corrections, additions, or amplifications are considered necessary before submission. This work will be evaluated on the basis of consistent logical argumentation, judicious use of evidence, coherent development of ideas, and rhetorical effectiveness.

Attendance Policy

Punctual attendance is required at every class meeting. Each unexcused absence will result in a lowering of the Class Participation component of the grade by 5 points, each lateness more than 10 minutes into class by 3 points. Absences may be excused only by contacting the instructor in advance of the class to be missed and receiving confirmation of the request to be excused.

Late Paper Policy

Reader responses may receive an automatic extension for one class period upon consultation with the instructor. Further lateness will result in a reduction of 1/3 of a grade for each class the paper is overdue beyond that time. Those assignments and projects marked on the syllabus may not receive an extension.

Rewrite Policy

Any reader response may be rewritten upon satisfying the following requirements:

  1. The original paper was submitted on time.
  2. The student meets with the instructor to go over the paper.
  3. The paper is completely rewritten from scratch and not just edited.
  4. The rewritten paper is resubmitted no later than one week after the original was returned in class. 

The highest grade that a rewritten response may receive is a B+. A prior draft of the final paper for the class will be submitted two and a half weeks prior to the submission of the final version. The final grade for the paper will replace the initial grade for the first draft.

Plagiarism Policy

Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom needs to be clearly stated. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work need to be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources should be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work and should follow the proper citational conventions. For further guidance in determining proper forms of attribution, see the MIT Website on Plagiarism.