HSTAM 335 A: The Age of Nero

Winter 2022
TTh 8:30am - 10:20am / CMU 226
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
CLAS 335 A
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Sesterce of Nero, obverse: Portrait of the Emperor (courtesy ArtStor

The Age of Nero

Winter Quarter 2022 ** TTh 8:30-10:20 ** CMU (Communications) 226



Professor Alain M. Gowing
e-mail: alain@u.washington.edu

1/7/22: As noted in my recorded lectures this week, I intend to hold live, in person class starting Tuesday, 1/11. I will, however, be recording these live classes on Panopto and posting them on Canvas, so if for whatever reason you are unable to attend the live class, or are simply uneasy about it, you will be able to watch the lectures.  And as usual, anything displayed in class will also be posted to Canvas.  

Winter Quarter Office Hours: 

MONDAY, 1:30-2:30: Click HERE for the Monday office hour Zoom link

WEDNESDAY, 9-10 AM: Click HERE for the Wednesday office hour Zoom link

...and by appointment (email me to determine a mutually convenient time)

Course description: This class entails an overview of the history and culture of the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (AD 54-68), a man celebrated in both ancient and modern times for his many eccentricities and contradictions. In addition to reading the primary historical evidence for Nero (esp. the Roman historian Tacitus), we will read selections from the best-known authors who wrote under Nero -- for example, the epic poet Lucan, the satirist Persius, the 'novelist' Petronius, the philosopher-politician Seneca -- as well as investigate the artistic and architectural achievements of the period (esp. Nero's famous Golden House). No previous knowledge of Roman history is expected or required.  NB: CLAS 335 counts for VLPA credit; HSTAM 335, for I&S credit.  This is a W class: all participants will receive Writing (W) credit.

Course requirements:

A) (30%) successful completion of at least 4 of 8 short, weekly ‘response’ papers. Click HERE for a description of these papers (specific assignments are posted each week under 'Assignments')
B) (40%) 2 quizzes, each 20%. Administered via Canvas in Week 4 and 9 respectively.
C) (30%) final essay (due on or before the day of the final exam).  Details to be provided.

Required texts:

  • Griffin, M.T. NeroThe End of a Dynasty.  Routledge 1984. [available online through UW Libraries]
  • Lucan.  Civil War.  S. H. Braund, trans.  Oxford World Classics. [an ebook of this is available through the publisher and elsewhere]
  • Petronius. The Satyricon. Seneca. The Apocolocyntosis. J.P. Sullivan,trans. Penguin Classics. [a electronic copy of this is available through ebooks.com] MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE PENGUIN EDITION THAT HAS BOTH THE SATYRICON AND THE APOCOLOCYNTOSIS AND IS TRANSLATED BY J.P. SULLIVAN.
  • Tacitus. The Annals. A.J. Woodman, trans.  Hackett. [e-version available from publisher]
  • Barrett, A.A., et al. (edd.).  The Emperor Nero.  A Guide to the Ancient Sources.  Princeton 2016. [available online through the UW Libraries]

Please note: I understand that you may prefer to have all our texts in electronic form.  I have indicated here when I am aware of e-versions (to purchase or free), but the situation changes regularly. Regardless, you will need right away the Griffin, Barrett, and Tacitus.

Important UW policy-related things to know:

  • UW Language on Face Covering in the Classroom (COVID): To ensure the health and safety of the University campus community, face coverings are required to be worn indoors when other people are present regardless of vaccination status. Eating and drinking will not be permitted in the classroom. This requirement is in accordance with UW’s COVID-19 Face Covering Policy:

https://www.ehs.washington.edu/system/files/resources/COVID-19-face-cover-policy.pdf (Links to an external site.)

For the purposes of this policy, a face covering must: Fit snugly against the sides of the face; completely cover the nose and mouth; bandanas and gaiters are not considered face coverings for this policy. Students who forget a face mask or refuse to wear one will be asked to leave the classroom. Repeated failure to wear a face covering may result in being referred to the Student Conduct Office for possible disciplinary action. In these still-difficult times, it is important that we all do our part to keep each other safe.  (September 2021) UPDATED RECOMMENDATION FROM EHS (1/7/22):


  • The UW's Religious Accommodations Policy: “Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (Links to an external site.). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (Links to an external site.).”
  • The UW's Student Conduct Code: "The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at https://www.washington.edu/studentconduct/." (Links to an external site.)


  • Access and Accommodation: Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or uwdrs@uw.edu or disability.uw.edu.  (Links to an external site.)DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS.  It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Schedule of topics to be covered:

NB: This is merely a rough outline of only the primary readings we will cover and when.  Each week, however, I will post, in advance and in the appropriate spot below, a link to the weekly assignment that will include the readings to be covered – in primary (ancient texts, both the stand-alone texts and those in the Barrett sourcebook) AND secondary sources (modern studies, i.e., Griffin) -- and a few specific issues to think about in connection with that reading.  You will get the most out of each class meeting if you have done the assigned week’s reading prior to the class meetings in which we cover it.  

→I've will post on a separate page HERE a list of maps, overheads, etc. (mostly in your texts) and the occasional PowerPoint presentation.

  • Week 1, 3-7 January: Introduction; Seneca, Apocolocyntosis; Tacitus

Detailed assignment for Week 1 (3-7 January)

  • Week 2, 10-14 January: Tacitus cont'd.

Detailed assignment for Week 2 (10-14 January)

  • Week 3, 17-21 January: Tacitus concl.; Suetonius, Life of Nero

Detailed assignment for Week 3 (17-21 January)

  • Week 4, 24-28 January: Seneca, On Mercy, Letters (texts to be provided)

Detailed assignment for Week 4 (24-28 January)

  • Week 5, Jan. 31-4 February: Persius, Calpurnius Siculus (texts to be provided)

Detailed assignment for Week 5 (31 Jan. - 4 Feb.)

Description of Quiz #1 (available 12 PM, Friday 1/28 and due by 5 PM, Tuesday 2/1)

  • Week 6, 7-11 February: Lucan

Detailed assignment for Week 6 (7 - 11 Feb.)

  • Week 7, 14-18 February: Lucan

Detailed assignment for Week 7 (14 - 18 Feb.)

  • Week 8, 21-25 February: Petronius

Detailed assignment for Week 8 (21 - 25 Feb.)

  • Week 9, 28 Feb.-4 March, Petronius

Detailed assignment for Week 9 (28 Feb. - 4 March)

Description of Quiz #2 (available as of 3/4, due 3/9)

  • Week 10, 7-11 March: Neronian art and architecture: the Golden House; wrapping up

Detailed assignment for Week 10 (7-11 March)

FINAL EXAM: Due by 11 PM on Tuesday, March 15.  Details and instructions will be posted on Monday, Feb. 28.

Catalog Description:
Detailed study of the history and culture of the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (AD 54-68). Includes readings in the historian Tacitus' account of Nero, as well as in authors such as Petronius, Lucan, and Seneca, and consideration of the artistic and architectural achievements of the period. Recommended: HSTAM 111, HSTAM 302, HSTAM 312, or HSTAM 313; CLAS 122, CLAS 320, CLAS 329, or CLAS 330 Offered: jointly with CLAS 335; AWSpS.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Writing (W)
Last updated:
April 16, 2024 - 10:23 pm