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VCE Humanities

Ancient History Unit 4: Ancient Rome

Year-Long Elective Unit


History: Ancient History Unit 3.

Course Description

Ancient Rome arguably possessed the greatest empire of the Ancient world. It has bestowed a powerful legacy on the contemporary world. In Unit 4, students explore the structures of Ancient Roman society and a period of crisis in its history. Life in these ancient societies was shaped by the complex interplay of social, political and economic factors. Trade, warfare and the exchange of ideas between societies also influenced the way people lived. Furthermore, all ancient societies experienced dramatic crises which caused massive disruption. During these times of upheaval, individuals acted in ways that held profound consequences for themselves and for their society.

Areas of Study

Living in an Ancient Society

  • What was it like to live in ancient Rome?
  • What were the social, political and economic features of life?
  • Why were these features significant?

In this area of study students explore the historical significance of social, political and economic features of Rome. In terms of social features, the existence of hierarchies meant that individual experiences varied enormously. There were profound differences in the experiences of men and women, locals and foreigners, slaves and free people. Students also explore the significance of political institutions and the distribution of power between groups, and tensions resulting from such differences. They investigate the significance of economic features of life, including agriculture, industry and trade. The social, political and economic features of society are interrelated and change over time. Students consider the causes and consequences of these changes both from within the society and from external catalysts such as trade, warfare and the exchange of ideas. Such inquiry involves the use of written sources and the material record.

The social, political and economic features of ancient societies had profound implications for the lives of large numbers of people and these can be explored through archaeological sites. In this area of study students evaluate the significance of a specific archaeological site in terms of how it enhances understanding of the social, political and economic features of an ancient society.

For Rome, students examine social, political and economic features of the early development of Rome and life under the Kings. They also investigate the social, political and economic features of the Roman Republic.

People in power, societies in crisis

  • How did crises change ancient societies?
  • How did key individuals contribute to such events?
  • How might we judge the historical significance of these crises and the individuals who took part in them?

In this area of study students explore a crisis in Ancient Greece with particular relevance to the role of an individual in shaping events. Crises take the form of internal political struggles, civil war and conflict between states. To understand these turning points students evaluate the causes and          consequences of the crisis. Students also         explore how key individuals influenced events. In some cases, individuals made decisions that shaped their societies. On the other hand, the power of individuals was limited in a range of ways. Students explore how the individual’s beliefs, values and attitudes informed their actions. Investigation of these individuals deepens students’ understanding of human agency.

For Rome, some historians argue that the demise of the Republic began with the election of Tiberius Gracchus as tribune,       his attempts at reform and his death. The crisis gathered momentum under Gaius Gracchus, Gaius Marius, Sulla and Pompey. In the climactic final years          of the crisis, Julius  Caesar, Cleopatra VII and Augustus were important figures in the struggle for mastery of the Roman world.



Assessment Tasks

Marks Allocated

(school-assessed coursework)

Explain and analyse the social, political and economic features of an ancient society.

A historical inquiry.

Analysis of primary sources.


Evaluate the historical significance of a crisis in an ancient society and assess the role of key individuals involved in that turning point.

Evaluation of historical interpretations.



Total Marks


Overall Final Assessment

Graded Assessment



Exam Duration

Contribution to Study Score (%)


Unit 3 Coursework





Unit 4 Coursework





Written Examination


2 hours



Reproduced by permission of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: