Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module CLAS2911: Roman Religion

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS2911: Roman Religion

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • CLAS1301 or THEO1131


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To use knowledge of Roman history, literature and culture, as acquired in the first year, as a base for further development.
  • To investigate the multifarious aspects of religious life in the Roman empire through studying a combination of material, literary and visual sources.


  • This module studies 'Roman religion' in the widest sense of the word: from the religion of Rome the city-state to that of Rome the empire, including the variety of indigenous cults which were in vogue in different parts of the empire, Judaism in Judaea/Palaestina and in the Diaspora, and the beginnings of Christianity.
  • The first part of the module focuses on the development of religion (and its function in society) through Roman history, from the earliest period through the republic to the reforms under the Augustan principate and the later empire, including the spread of the ruler cult and the 'Oriental cults'.
  • Later lectures and seminars are devoted to particular cults and to patterns of worship in specific regions (e.g. religion in Roman Britain).
  • Some specific themes to be addressed: syncretism, myth & ritual, sacrifice, pilgrimage, oracles, civic religion, magic.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Appropriate knowledge of the workings of religion in the Roman period and of relevant modern theories concerning ancient religious practice
  • Familiarity with interdisciplinary source material (literary texts, inscriptions, iconography, archaeological remains)
  • Understanding of place and function of religion in the societies of the Roman empire
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to evaluate a combination of different source materials throwing light on different aspects of religious life in Rome and its empire
  • Ability to locate the various sources for 'Roman religion' in their appropriate historical contexts
Key Skills:
  • Appreciation of the relevant terminology involved, and of the inherent limitations of expressions of 'religion' in different languages
  • Assessment of different methodologies applied to the study of Roman religion
  • Ability to study the relevant course material autonomously and to communicate a clear and well-structured argument in written format

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures introduce the key topics and provide a broad overview of the development of religion in the Roman empire; from these, students will acquire a basic knowledge of various scholarly approaches, of the variegated source materials and of the main religious structures.
  • Through reading and seminars (preparation and presentation) students will develop their own ideas and discuss them in an interactive manner.
  • Students will be assessed through an essay (with specific attention to source criticism) and an examination. The exam enables the student to display the ability to comment in some detail on a specific ancient source, and to show an understanding of religion and its place in Roman society, and a judgement of different interpretative approaches.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 1 per week 1 hour 22
Seminars 6 3 in Michaelmas Term, 3 in Epiphany Term 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2,000 words 100% Yes
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written examination 2 hours 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

One formative exercise

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University