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CLAS 335 A: The Age of Nero

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
Alain M. Gowing

Syllabus Description:

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

The Age of Nero

Winter Quarter 2021 ❋ Taught asynchronously through recorded lectures (no live class please ignore the class meeting times in the Time Schedule!!)



Professor Alain M. Gowing

Winter Quarter Office Hours: TTh 11-12 PM (PT) via Zoom or by appointment (email me to arrange that).  HERE is the Zoom link you'll need for my regular Tuesday/Thursday office hours:

See below for a description of how the class will work and the Schedule of Topics to be covered

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:

Note that all assignments will be administered through and submitted on Canvas. 

A) (30%) successful completion of at least 4 of 8 short, weekly ‘response’ papers. Click HERE for general description.
B) (40%) 2 quizzes, each 20%. Administered via Canvas in Week 4 and 9 respectively (details forthcoming)
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]
  • 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 under the current circumstances, you may prefer or even require 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 is changing rapidly. Regardless, you will need right away the Griffin, Barrett, and Tacitus.

Technology for Students:
Students in need of technology items should be aware of the Student Technology Loan Program (STLP) located in Kane Hall. This student-funded program is offering quarterly laptop and tablet loans to assist with online instruction.

Important UW policy-related things to know:

  • 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" (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 or  (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.

  • Academic Integrity: University of Washington students are expected to practice high standards of academic and professional honesty and integrity as outlined here:

How this class will work:

  • Lectures: Under normal circumstances, I will post on Panopto four roughly 50-minute lectures per week that will cover the reading for that week; I'll post one every day of the week (MTWTh) except for Friday (and I will not post a lecture on either of the two holidays this quarter: Monday, Jan. 18, MLK Day, and Monday, Feb. 15, Presidents Day).  You may expect these to be available each morning, usually before 10 AM.  In my view, a 50-minute lecture is just about as long as one can handle; even though in the in-person version of this class we would meet 2 hours twice a week (and would have ample time for questions and discussions), recording a 2 hour lecture would be....mind numbing for all of us!  So I hope the 4 lecture/week format is manageable.  
  • Weekly Assignments/Readings: For each week, prior to the beginning of that week, I will post below a weekly assignment with specific readings, things for you to think about, etc.  I strongly suggest you do the reading before you listen to the relevant lectures.
  • Questions etc.: You should of course feel free to ask any questions about the lectures or readings, but please use the Discussions option here on Canvas to do so.  In most instances the questions you want to ask will be relevant to all of us.

'Overheads' and PowerPoints: I will post HERE from time to time relevant documents (other than our texts) I might use and any PowerPoints.  

Schedule of topics to be covered:

  • Week 1, 4-8 January: Introduction; Seneca, Apocolocyntosis 

Detailed assignment for Week 1 (4-8 January)

  • Week 2, 11-15 January: Tacitus

Detailed assignment for Week 2 (11-15 January)

  • Week 3, 18-22 January: Tacitus; Suetonius, Life of Nero

Detailed assignment for Week 3 (18-22 January)

  • Week 4, 25-29 January: Seneca, On Mercy, Letters (texts to be provided)

Detailed assignment for Week 4 (25-29 January)

  • Week 5, 1-5 February: Persius, Calpurnius Siculus (texts to be provided)

Detailed assignment for Week 5 (1-5 February)

  • Week 6, 8-12 February: Lucan

Detailed assignment for Week 6 (8-12 February)

  • Week 7, 15-19 February: Lucan

Detailed assignment for Week 7 (15-19 February)

  • Week 8, 22-26 February: Petronius

Detailed assignment for Week 8 (22-26 February

  • Week 9,  1-5 March, Petronius

Detailed assignment for Week 9 (1-5 March)

Quiz #2 available to you starting Friday, March 5 at 12:00 PM and is due Wednesday, March 10, by 6:00 PM (PT).  Click HERE for a description of the Quiz. 

  • Week 10, 8-12 March: Neronian art and architecture: the Golden House; wrapping up

Detailed assignment for Week 10 (8-12 March)

FINAL EXAM: Take-home essay, due on or before TUESDAY, MARCH 16, by 12:00 PM.  Details HERE.

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 HSTAM 335; AWSpS.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 7, 2020 - 9:20pm