Location: Bowdoin / mnerdahl


Michael D. Nerdahl

Lecturer in Classics

Contact Information


Sills Hall - 9

Teaching this semester

CLAS 2214 / HIST 2008. The Republic of Rome and the Evolution of Executive Power

Michael Nerdahl
Examines in depth the approaches to leadership within the governmental system that enabled a small, Italian city-state to take eventual control of the Mediterranean world and how this state was affected by its unprecedented military, economic, and territorial growth. Investigates and re-imagines the political maneuverings of the most famous pre-Imperial Romans, such as Scipio Africanus, the Gracchi, and Cicero, and how political institutions such as the Roman Senate and assemblies reacted to and dealt with military, economic, and revolutionary crises. Looks at the relationship of the Roman state to class warfare, the nature of electoral politics, and the power of precedent and tradition. While examining whether the ultimate fall precipitated by Caesar's ambition and vision was inevitable, also reveals what lessons, if any, modern politicians can learn about statesmanship from the transformation of the hyper-competitive atmosphere of the Republic into the monarchical principate of Augustus. All sources, such as Livy's history of Rome, Plutarch's “Lives,” letters and speeches of Cicero, and Caesar's “Civil War,” are in English, and no prior knowledge of Roman antiquity is required. Note: Fulfills the pre-modern requirement for history majors.

LATN 3318. Literature and Culture under Nero

Michael Nerdahl
During Nero’s time as princeps (54-68 CE), despite the unstable and often cruel nature of the ruler himself, Rome experienced a period of literary, artistic, and cultural development unseen since Augustus. Works in Stoic philosophy, Roman tragedy, epic poetry, and a new genre, the satiric novel, thrived under Nero’s rule. By reading selections of the works of Seneca, Lucan, and Petronius, and analyzing historical works about Nero, we can see how thinkers and artists function in a world dictated by an eccentric and misguided—but artistically inclined—autocrat. Examines the relationships of the works to the principate and to Roman culture, how the authors were affected by the powers that be, and what their works say about the ever-evolving society of Rome. Research seminar.

Michael Nerdahl

Michael is a lifelong Badger, having received his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He teaches classes of all levels in Latin and Greek, as well as courses in ancient culture (Mythology, Greek Civilization) and Roman history and politics, particularly of the Roman Republic. 

Michael specializes in Greco-Roman historiography, with a particular focus on literary and ideological filtering in historians of the Roman empire. His focus has been on the Imperial Greek philosopher/moralist Plutarch, and he has published and lectured extensively on the Parallel Lives.  Plutarch, a mainland Greek who became a Roman citizen, was primarily concerned with instructing his students on how to become better individuals and statesmen through a process of self-reflection and critical thought, and his Parallel Lives are an attempt to present universal examples that instruct and teach citizens and politicians across the ages.  As Emerson wrote, "One cannot read Plutarch without a tingling of the blood."

Michael hosts Latin Tea Friday afternoons, where we read original texts and cookies in order to buck up before facing the drudgery of a weekend without Latin class.  He is also an advocate of oral Latin, Nero, Themistocles, and the Milwaukee Brewers.