Course: Myth and Imperialism in the Roman Republic

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It is well known that empires use myths to legitimize power claims and structures and as such provide historical and divine justification for the existing societal order. The Roman empire was no exemption to this rule, as is for example clearly attested in Virgil’s Aeneid. Apart from legitimization of power, myths also function to (re)produce important military values that an empire depends upon, such as patriotism, the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the common good, dutifulness and austerity. In the Roman Republic such values were epitomized in mythical or semi-historical heroes such as the Horatii triplets, Camillus, Cincinnatus, and female role-models such as Lucretia. This course analyses how such exemplary mythical figures functioned in the Roman Republic to propagate imperial values and norms. In particular, we will focus on those narratives that are connected to expansionist and colonial ideals and practices.

Course dates
The course starts in second week of February 2023 with a series of 5 weekly seminars at the University of Groningen (precise schedule follows swiftly). During these seminars students will analyse the structure and evolution of Roman Republican imperialism and the role of hero-stories in this development. Also, theoretical studies on myth, memory and militarism are discussed.

The second part of the course takes place in Rome (March 13th – 22nd ) and focuses on the spatial and material contexts of these exemplary myths. The Roman territory was scattered with monuments and places connected to these narratives. Based at the Royal Netherlands Institute at Rome we will visit and study the role of these mythical places in Roman society and how they functioned to (re)produce the imperial values. To this aim we will also study the reception of these classical hero cults in more recent (early modern and modern) Italian imperial projects.

The final part of the course (April 17th – June 9th ) is dedicated to individual research, feedback sessions with your tutor and research presentations. These will take place online or in Groningen.

Target group and prerequisites
The course is intended for MA students (MA and research MA) as well as PhD students who are at the beginning of their doctorate research. The course can be taken as part of the MA programme at the own university and/or as part of the OIKOS education programme. The target group of the course are students of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology. International students may be admitted to the course provided that they are registered as a student at a Dutch university.

Application and admission
If you are interested in taking this course, please register via containing the following information for course administrative purposes*:

  • your initials, name, surname
  • your address details (street and house number, postal code and country)
  • your personal university email address
  • date of birth
  • stating in which university you are enrolled
  • your study level (Master, Research Master or Phd)
  • your current study name and direction
  • course name and course code (LGX247M10) of the application.
  • For the Rome part we would like to know what your shared room preference is (male/ female).**

* This information will be used only for course administrative purposes and will not be shared with third parties.
**The KNIR will make every effort to classify you according to your room preference, but this cannot be guaranteed.

The course can take up to twenty students. In case more candidates apply, a selection will be made whereby students from Classics, research master students of Ancient Studies affiliated with the OIKOS research school, and other students from the six Dutch universities (University of Groningen, Utrecht University, University of Leiden, University of Amsterdam, Radboud University, Free University of Amsterdam) participating in the Netherlands Institute at Rome have priority (in that order).

The study load is the equivalent of 10 ects (280 hours).

Facilities in Rome
All participants will be housed at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome’s Villa Borghese Park. From there, it is only a short walk to the historical center of Rome. The KNIR accommodation consists of shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and includes a living and dining space, a large kitchen, washing machine and wireless internet. All residents have 24/7 access to the library and the garden of the Royal Netherlands Institute.

Tuition and lodging at the KNIR is free for selected participants from the above mentioned Dutch universities. Personal expenses, including meals, are not included. Students, enrolled in one of our six partner universities receive a €100 reimbursement of their expenses for travelling to Rome.

Deadline applications
9 January 2023

For more information about this course, please contact:
Jeremia Pelgrom (
Susanna de Beer (

Photo: Unknown follower of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Horatius Cocles Defending Rome Against the Etruscans (date not known), oil on canvas, 137.2 x 208.3 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.


This course is organized in collaboration with: