History 100/ Second Examination (essay portion)

Fall 2021, John Abbott


Please note: the following questions are not, in my estimation, equivalent in degree of difficulty. For that reason I am giving you a choice: select Option I, which offers two relatively easier questions to answer, for a combined score of 50 points. Or choose either question 3 or 4; each is worth 50 points.


I consider these third and fourth questions a bit more complex, requiring greater preparation and thought to answer well; an A-level answer will address these thoroughly, with ample evidence to support your arguments. That said, I was greatly impressed by the ambition and reach many of you demonstrated in your first exams, and have full confidence many of you could answer either of these with distinction.



Option I. Address both the following questions. (25 points each)

1) Explain some of the reasons for the success of the Roman Republic in extending its powers first across Italy and then much of the Mediterranean world. What was “Hannibal’s revenge,” and how did the republic’s successes contribute to the crises and civil wars of the first century BCE?


2) How did Christianity, starting out as a small sect within Judaism, emerge, by the early fourth century CE, as the dominant religion within the Roman Empire? And: what if any differences do you see in this triumphant Christianity – in either doctrine or practice – compared to the message we saw in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew?

Option II. Address one (only!) of the following questions. (50 points each)


3) After the “five good emperors,” the western provinces of the Roman Empire entered into protracted decline. What were the chief causes of this decline? To what degree were they internal, stemming from Roman weaknesses? To what degree did they come from outside the empire’s borders? What can would-be empire-builders learn from Rome’s troubles? (Or, if you want to argue that empires are always doomed to eventual failure, why did Rome’s endure for as long as it did?) Note: addressing “the chief causes of decline” requires more than a step-by-step account of event. I ask mainly that you address structural factors including the dynamics and relations of empire – as they evolved over time.


4) While Judaism, Christianity and Islam arose under very different circumstances, all were powerfully influenced by the surrounding environment, whether natural, social or political. The lecture on the origins of Islam discussed some of these environmental, social and political circumstances that shaped Muhammad’s ministry and message. Write an essay that compares and contrasts the origins of Islam with either a) the origins of Christianity or b) the evolution of Hebrew tradition, demonstrating the ways in which religious message and language may have been influenced by the physical and political environments as well as prevailing social relations. Please note: doing well with this requires that you spell out and explain those social relations as well as physical and political environments.