Rome Syllabus

Professors in Charge

  • Max L. Goldman
  • Rebecca Kennedy

Course Description:

 This survey course will cover Ancient Rome from roughly the mid 2C BCE to the mid 2C CE, through investigation of significant sites, monuments, and museum collections in Rome and locations throughout southern Italy.  Items considered will include both monumental and domestic architecture, wall painting, mosaics, sculpture, coins, epigraphic evidence, as well as maps and ancient sources.

Course Goals and Aims:

This course has three specific aims:

  1. To provide an introductory knowledge of the topography, history, daily life, and material remains of ancient Rome and Roman towns in the bay of Naples.
  2. To improve the ability to see and experience space, and, particularly, to be able to describe those experiences in a meaningful way.
  3. To engage with the process and problems surrounding discovering, preserving, and presenting the material legacy of the past.

Upon completion of the course students should be able:

  1. to locate important monuments visited on a map of modern Rome and Italy.
  2. to identify basic architectural styles and building materials used by the Romans.
  3. to talk meaningfully about the ancient material remains in terms of what they see and know about Roman history, daily life, and culture.
  4. to explain issues that involve the preservation and presentation of ancient material remains.


 Assessment will be based on the following:

  1. Class attendance and participation are expected and mandatory for all classes and events.  Unexcused absence or poor participation will negatively affect overall grade.
  2. Two-page art historical/museum catalogue description of a piece of Roman art visible in one of the museums we will visit. Information will include method of manufacture, current state of preservation (scratches, parts missing, and/or areas restored), a detailed description of the work itself, brief explanation of scene/figure depicted (myth or persona), the piece’s origin or influences (e.g. Greek or otherwise eastern, indigenous Italic), probable original Roman setting (e.g. garden, or interior domestic), and meaning for the ancient Romans who would have commissioned or viewed the work in question. This exercise is intended to provide practice in observing, describing, and placing into context a particular piece. Students may choose their piece, but the instructors must approve it. (This assignment is designed to introduce students to the issues associated with the role of museums in understanding ancient cultures. (30%)
  3. A personal, ‘visual’ journal maintained in order to improve your ability to see (drawing skill is irrelevant).  C level work would include one daily sketch with brief written description of the object or place in question with analysis of what your “slow” looking revealed. The work is evaluated on how you talk about what you saw and drew.  Journals may also include review of days’ activities and daily lecture notes if desired. (30%)
  4. 2 Public online journal entries.  Small groups will be responsible for documenting the full day, including travel, sites, notable events, ideas, etc. This will contribute to a shared, full “course history” of the entire experience. (40%)


A. Claridge, Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide  

Preparation before arrival: (Required)

  • “Historical Overview” in Claridge, p.4-32
  • Mary Beard Meet the Romans: (3 hrs) [youtube]
  • Mary Beard Why ancient Rome matters (20 min) [guardian article]
    • This article reproduces some of the ideas from her recent book, SPQR, which I can recommend as quite useful for our course and readable
  • Rome in 320 CE, 3D model (11 min) [youtube] later than our period, but well worth the time to help fill in your imagination of what the ancient city looked like at its largest

Preparation before arrival: (Recommended)