University of Wisconsin–Madison


PRofessor Nandini Pandey (Classics 322, The Romans)


8-page essay to be submitted as a Word file on Canvas.

Our understanding of ancient Rome often focuses on the experiences and concerns of a small group of elite male sources. But what was life like for the vast majority of people who did not get to speak for themselves within the written record? Did they gain in quality of life or social/political/economic opportunities over the long course of Roman history?

This will be a substantial revision and expansion of your first Scriptio (though you may modify your topic in consultation with your TA). Pick ONE marginalized group (women; slaves; non-Romans, i.e. people without Roman citizenship at the time a source was composed; the illiterate; non-elite soldiers). Show, in specific, original, well-informed, and well-evidenced terms, how members of this group are depicted in TWO different primary (ancient) sources we have read for this class. Then discuss what we can and can’t learn from these sources; how they measure up against historical information; and whether/how this group’s status or quality of life changed over the period you are discussing.

For each primary (literary) source you choose, think about the following questions (though you do not necessarily have to address them all in your essay).

What was life like for members of this group, according to this source?

How does this group’s identity and social role seem to be defined? Who defines it?

What kind of social/political/economic power does your group have, and NOT have, as depicted in this source?

You might choose to focus on one or two characters per source to narrow down your task. If so, is this person representative of a group, or an outlier in some way? (Keep in mind how this might affect what you can say.)

When, why, and for what purpose was your source written? What biases, motives, or philosophies may inform the way it portrays members of this group?

How can you use your source as a historical document? How might it be inaccurate?

Does this work count as a source for the period when it was written, or for the period it depicts? (For example, does Livy’s depiction of women in Book 1 reflect his own times, ancient history, neither, or some combination of both?)

If this source is a work of fiction, what can (and can’t) it tell us about Roman realities? How might its genre (e.g. epic, satire, letter) affect its portrayal of this group?

You will need to use at least 3 scholarly (secondary) resources, identified with the help of your Library Information Session, in order to address these subjects adequately. Of these, you should have 1 secondary source about each primary text. You will also need 1 secondary historical source about the status of your chosen group within Roman history. (You are welcome to pick one with an archaeological, economic, legal, or social slant.) I will post a few suggestions online, but part of the point of this activity is to get you to find and evaluate sources for yourself.

Topic and Bibliography due according to the deadlines and guidelines set by your TA

Please submit to your TA a statement of your intended topic (e.g. a ‘vision’ or draft thesis statement), including your chosen marginalized group, the two primary sources you intend to study, and the character(s) or scenes that you will focus on. You should include a bibliography of 3 secondary sources with brief notes (1-2 sentences each) on how it will help your inquiry. Your TA may additionally request a brief outline. The more preparation you put into this paper at this early stage, the more your TA can help you improve the final product.

In-Person Meeting with TA: by appointment, scheduled with your TA

Meet with your TA to discuss your general writing goals as well as your specific paper topic for the Rescriptio. Bring copies of your past writing assignments (Scriptiones #1 and #2 with comments) so you can work with your TA to improve your performance on the final paper. Your TA may ask you to fill out a brief self-evaluation of your writing prior to the meeting in order to make the session as focused and productive as possible.

Final Paper Structure:

Begin your essay with an introduction that clearly states your argument (‘thesis statement’) and provides a ‘road map’ to the structure of your paper, which you should outline carefully before writing. Organize the rest (‘body’) of the essay so it flows logically and all paragraphs relate to your main argument. We suggest discussing your two primary sources in chronological order, taking into account the questions raised above, and then dedicating a final section to discussing these sources in light of the historical evidence that you researched independently. Round out your argument with a conclusion that summarizes your argument with consideration of its wider significance (why does it matter?).

Throughout the paper, rather than try to cover any given source exhaustively, please focus on a few carefully chosen, specific passages or episodes. Do NOT waste space with excessive summary or long quotations. Instead, select the most convincing evidence and quote it judiciously in order to build your case. The best essays will be thoughtful about the questions listed above, think creatively about evidence and its limitations, and anticipate counterarguments.

Length, Format, and Late Policy:

This essay should be at least 8, and no more than 9 pages long, in 12-point Times New Roman, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins, and should include your name and your TA’s name at the top. You must submit it on Canvas by noon on May 11 as a Word file or, if you have any concerns about file format, a PDF. If you have any technical issues uploading your paper, please also email it as an attachment to your TA to make sure it arrives. Essays submitted after noon, or in file formats that are unreadable to your TA, will be penalized by an automatic loss of 25%. The paper will receive an automatic zero after 24 hours (noon on 12 May). Be sure to plan accordingly.


Use in-line parenthetical citations to note the text, Coursepack page number, and, when available, line or paragraph number: e.g. (Poenulus p. 48 l. 53). You must cite any ideas that are not your own, including Potter’s textbook (Potter p. 124), Dr. Pandey’s lectures (class lecture, 1/21/17) or PowerPoints (PPT, Day 4). Use MLA style for in-line citations and include a bibliography of all  your sources at the end. If you are ever in doubt, please consult your TA or the syllabus on plagiarism and how to avoid it.