The time between registering for your course and the actual commencement is when some students, impatient to make a start, want to be doing some reading. This is a guide to what reading might be most helpful to those who have the inclination and the opportunity. There’s no obligation, of course, to do any of this (and few students will have the time to do all of what is suggested below), though you may well find it will help with your later more detailed study. You certainly have no need to take detailed notes at this point – reading at a good pace is probably better. The works are listed in a rough order of priority.
Ellie Chambers and Andrew Northedge (2009) The Arts Good Study Guide (2nd edn, Milton Keynes, Open University): If you do not already own a copy of this (the previous edition was an A103 set book), you should get one. Read or reread the chapter on writing essays (and ideally, everything apart from the chapter on exams, which can be left until later in the year). This is the most useful reading you can do now, and will have most effect on your marks in the course. Students who do badly usually do so because they write weak essays rather than lack knowledge. (Students who have come through AA100 should ensure they have the Course Companion to hand, and revisit section 2.6-2.9. But I’d recommend getting The Arts Good Study Guide as well.)
OpenLearn LearningSpace: There are AA309 materials on the OpenLearn website, covering parts of Blocks 1 and 5. These provide a good way, if you are online, of getting started with the course before the hard copy course materials arrive. If you’re new to Classical Studies, it might also be an idea to look at the OpenLearn material relating to A219 Exploring the Classical World.
OU on YouTube and iTunes U:The Open University now has a presence on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/oulearn) and iTunes (http://www.open.ac.uk/itunes/). There are AA309 materials on both. On YouTube, under the ‘Arts and Humanities; section, you can watch sequences on ‘Introducing the Roman World’, ‘Emperor and Empire’, ‘House of the Roman Elite’, ‘Exploring Thugga’, ‘Mosaic from Acholla’ and ‘Mosaic from La Chebba’, whilst a selection of video sequences on ‘Culture, Identity and Power in the Roman Empire’ can be downloaded fro free from iTunes U. Both sites have Roman-related material from A219, AA100 and AT308, for anyone who has not done those courses; I particularly recommend ‘Building of Ancient Rome’ (A219) and ‘Imperial Rome and Ostia’ (AT308) from iTunes U.
AA309 Set Books: Order your set books as soon as possible – delays at the printers sometimes make the works temporarily unavailable. When you get them, it is an idea to read Wells and Goodman as soon as you can. This will help build up a context for later study of the Blocks.
C. Wells, The Roman Empire: A fairly straightforward, if rather dry, narrative history.
M. Goodman, The Roman World: More interested in social history, and more open about its agenda. If time is limited, restrict yourself to Parts I-III.
Try to read both, if possible. My own preference would be to read Wells first, then Goodman, but some students have found the reverse works better for them. Try the opening chapters of each (the first 9-10 pages), decide which you find more engaging, and then continue with that one, reading the other afterwards.
N. Lewis & M. Reinhold, Roman Civilization, vol. II: The Empire: Like any sourcebook, this is quite bitty, and cannot carry the historical narrative alone. You may find trying to read it cover-to-cover tedious, and nothing will sink in, though some students have found this approach valuable. You certainly should not tackle this before reading Wells and/or Goodman. If you do want to read some of it continuously, then I suggest you start with Chapter 1. If you find you’re getting on with the book, proceed to Chapters 2-4, but don’t be afraid to put it down the moment it becomes boring. Best avoided altogether are Chapter 6, Chapter 9 sections 168-76, and Chapter 10, which deal with events and material from after the course finishes, and Chapter 11, which is a catalogue of coins and their inscriptions, and makes really dull reading.
I do recommend using Lewis and Reinhold the way it’s meant to be used, having it to hand as you read other books; if there’s a subject you want to know more about, look it up in the index of Lewis and Reinhold and see what they have to say. You should also consult Lewis and Reinhold whenever there is a reference to it in Goodman, or later on in Experiencing Rome, or elsewhere in the Blocks, and read the whole extract, and any introductions, explanatory notes, and any other passages under the same heading.
Janet Huskinson (ed.) (2000) Experiencing Rome (London, Routledge): You will receive this, the book of Essays, in your first package of course materials, but it was published commercially, and you may be able to get a copy from a local library before the course begins. If so, I suggest reading it cover-to-cover. You will be reading all this material in detail in the course, but the book can be approached as a coherent whole, and you may find the detailed study easier if it is not your first pass through. If you’re not able to borrow a copy in advance, I still suggest that the first thing you do on receipt of the materials, after reading the Course Guide, is to read Experiencing Rome, before actually starting on the Blocks.
You should also give some time to studying the Course Chronology that you will receive with your course materials, to give you a better idea of the order in which events took place. You should keep this to hand when doing your detailed study.
Other books to look for:
Paula James (1999) Teach Yourself Roman Civilization (London, Hodder and Stoughton): This work is regrettably no longer in print, but you may be able to acquire a secondhand copy. Written by one of the course team on AA309, it takes a similar approach, and covers some of the same ground, at a slightly more introductory level.
Chris Scarre (1995) The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome (Harmondsworth, Penguin): A good source of maps – again not necessarily something to read cover-to-cover, but to have to hand when you need it.
Christopher Kelly (2006) The Roman Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, Oxford University Press): A swift introduction to the Roman empire, interested in a lot of the same things that AA309 is interested in.
Previous OU Courses: If you have come to this course from A219 Exploring the Classical World, ensure you retain your copy of The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization, which will be a vital resource (if you did not do A219, the OCCC can be consulted through the OU Library webpage). The other materials from the Roman part of this course should also be kept to hand (especially Block 4 – and you should certainly reread Block 3, Part 5, on Augustan poetry, which will be useful for AA309 Block 1, Part 1.2).
AA100 The Arts Past and Present might review the sections on ‘Cleopatra’ in Book 1 and ‘Leisure in the Roman Empire’ in Book 4.
If you have done any other previous courses involving some study of the Romans (e.g. A103 An Introduction to the Humanities, AT272 The Ancient and Mediaeval City, AT308 Cities and Technology, A428 The Roman Family, or, if you’ve been around long enough, A291 The Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity or A293 The Augustan Age), dig out your books, notes, and other material. There’s no need to read them again at this point, but a quick skim over the contents pages, to remind you what they cover, would be a valuable investment of time. The Romans you have met in these courses are the same Romans as you will meet in AA309, and you might find the material useful where AA309 covers the same topics (I would watch the AT272/AT308 video on ‘Imperial Rome and Ostia’ – now available on iTunesU for anyone who didn’t study those courses – just before starting Part 2 of Block 2 of AA309).
Other course materials not directly relating to Rome may also be useful for theoretical approaches. Block 3 of A103 contains much on the study of history that can be applied, and there is useful theoretical material in the Social Sciences foundation courses (DD100, DD121 and DD122), especially on identity.
Further Reading: If you still have any time left after all the above, you might consider the following works, drawn from the Further Reading section of the Course Guide:
John Boardman, Jasper Griffin and Oswyn Murray (eds) (1986) The Oxford History of the Roman World (Oxford, Oxford University Press)
Peter Jones and Keith Sidwell (1997) The World of Rome: an introduction to Roman culture (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press)
(There are other works listed in the Course Guide, some of which have either already been mentioned, and others of which are reference works rather than continuous narratives.)
Ancient authors: A number of ancient authors are available in mass-market paperback, and reading a whole work can provide a feel for the text that will put into context the excerpts you will study in the course. The course uses particular translations, as indicated, but any translation will do for you at this point. I would single out in particular Virgil’s Aeneid (Oxford World’s Classics by C. Day Lewis), Tacitus, Annals (Penguin Classics by Michael Grant), and Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics by Robert Graves), all of which you will first encounter in Block 1, and which, with the exception of Suetonius, you will return to later. Also, some of Juvenal’s Satires (Penguin Classics by Peter Green) are read in Blocks 2 and 3.
You can find further suggestions in the OUSA First Class Conference for AA309, and further material can be found through exploring the AA309 website. And once you get your course materials, more pointers can also be found in the Course Guide, and in the Further Reading sections at the end of the Blocks.
We welcome anyone’s desire to read further about the Roman empire, but remind you that it is not necessary, and a Distinction can be gained through just reading what you are directed to in the course materials.
P.S. If you read Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, remember that it is a work of fiction, not of history!