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COURSE NAME: "Cities, Towns & Villas: Rome, Ostia, Pompeii"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Alberto Prieto
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: M 9:15-12:00 PM
PREREQUISITES: On-site; mandatory trip; activity fee: €40 or $52

Rome, Ostia and Pompeii are three of the best- preserved archaeological sites in the world. Through their study, we are able to comprehend the physical and social nature of Roman cities and how they transformed over the course of centuries. We explore the subjects of urban development, public and private buildings, economic and social history, and art incorporated into urban features (houses, triumphal monuments, etc.). In Rome, we focus primarily upon public buildings commissioned by Senators and Emperors: temples, law courts, theaters, triumphal monuments, baths. In Ostia, the port-city of Rome, we are able to experience many aspects of daily life: commerce, housing, religion, entertainment. Pompeii represents a well-to-do Republican and early Imperial period city that was influenced by the Greeks and Romans and preserves some of the most magnificent frescoes in the world.
The majority of the course will by necessity focus on Rome, where we will follow a physical and intellectual route that straddles the chronological and topographical (location-based) sequences. We will begin by learning the basic outlines of settlement in prehistoric Italy (and the Mediterranean basin generally) as dictated by considerations of geography, geology, and hydrology. From there we will ponder the early urbanization of Rome under the leadership of the kings and the aristocratic senate, while Rome acquired mastery of the Italian peninsula and then the western Mediterranean, before moving on to the city’s spectacular metamorphosis into a world capital under the guidance of prominent aristocrats and emperors upon attaining control of the eastern Mediterranean. Along the way we will discuss building materials and types, decorative elements and styles, urban spaces, and infrastructure in the context of typical social, religious, political, military, and economic activities involving ancient people of all age ranges, social classes, genders, and ethnic origins. We will study how the Romans, individually and collectively, used their city as a living laboratory for the construction and transmission of their identity and the preservation of historical memory, and we will learn to distinguish between elements borrowed from other cultures and innovations introduced by the Romans themselves. We will apply these same concepts to Pompeii and Ostia Antica, two cities with very different histories, looking for points of comparison and contrast with each other and Rome. Finally, we will consider how Rome and Ostia Antica were radically transformed at the end of antiquity by a combination of internal and external forces such as the affirmation of Christianity and barbarian invasions.

As a result of this course, the student will understand how the cities of Rome, Pompeii, and Ostia Antica originated, developed, and changed in the context of Italic, Roman, and broader Mediterranean history between ca. 1500 BC and AD 600. The student will be able to explain the origins, developments, and changes in terms of physical setting, available resources, and internal and external cultural factors representing real and specific human needs and desires. The student will also be able to describe and identify the relative contributions of ancient literature, history, art history, architecture, and archaeology to our understanding of the appearance, function/purpose, and development of both specific sites/monuments and the city as a whole.
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Rome and Environs. An Archaeological Guide (updated edition 2014)Filippo CoarelliUniversity of California Press0520282094  

participationbe alert and attentive, take good notes, ask questions, contribute to conversations in an informed and positive manner15%
mid-term examinationcovers material from the first half of the course25%
final examinationfocuses on material from the second half of the course and builds on material covered in the first half30%
on-site presentation & short paper on a site or monument in Romegrade will depend on the quality and depth of the research and the clarity of the oral and written expression10%
short paper/exercise on the regions of ancient Romegrade will depend on the quality and depth of the research and the clarity of the oral and written expression10%
short paper/exercise comparing Pompeii and Ostia Anticagrade will depend on the quality and depth of the research and the clarity of the oral and written expression10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence that the student adequately performed and retained the readings and written exercises assigned for the course.
BThis is a highly competent level of performance that addresses the question or problem raised. There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluate theory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture and reference material. The work suffers from some minor errors or omissions and provides evidence of having performed and retained the majority of the readings and written exercises assigned for the course.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance. The answers include minimal information offered in the lectures, reference readings, and exercises without directly and cogently answering the questions and with little or no original thought. The student has a basic grasp of the material.
DMost of the important and directly relevant information is omitted in the answers, and much irrelevant and inaccurate information is included or invented. Numerous errors in the spelling of essential terminology indicate that little effort was invested in preparation. In effect, the student has engaged with the course contents at a minimal level.
FThe work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Many of the questions are left unanswered, and much of the material in any answer is irrelevant. In effect, the student has not engaged with the course contents at all.


As the material covered in the course is cumulative in nature, students are expected to attend every class session, including the two field trips. However, there may be days over the course of the semester in which students are sick or otherwise indisposed. Students are allowed to miss one of the ten scheduled class sessions and two field trips without question or penalty, although students who miss a class are required to understand the material covered in their absence. The University does not require medical certificates for routine illnesses causing minor absences from regular class meetings. Every subsequent absence from class not substantiated by a valid excuse will result in a loss of 3 points from the 15-point participation component of the course, equivalent to 3% of the final course grade. Personal travel is never considered a valid excuse for missing class. Students with serious illnesses, chronic conditions, or personal emergencies that result in excessive absences should see the instructor and the Associate Dean.

Since class time is limited and there is much material to cover, punctuality is essential. Students should budget ample time to reach the meeting point, seeking to arrive about 10 minutes early and thus leaving time for a last-minute coffee or restroom visit. Three arrivals to class more than 15 minutes after the start time without a documented excuse (such as vehicle breakdown) will be counted as an unexcused absence from a class session.

Absence from major examinations require the permission of the Dean’s Office, insofar as the student may seek to take a make-up exam, submit a make-up assignment, or count another assessment more so as to cover the missed exam. Likewise, the student needs the permission of the Dean’s office in order to take exams early or reschedule them in any way. The Dean’s Office will only excuse such absences when they are caused by serious impediments, such as a student’s own illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which the student is attending the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences or rescheduling requests due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. A student seeking such an excuse must notify the instructor and the Dean’s Office, as soon as possible, and no later than the beginning of the exam, to have the chance of being excused from the exam and thereby avoid the penalty of a 0 for that assessment.

Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Students who will miss class to observe a religious holiday must notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period (during the first week of classes). Students missing a class for this reason also must make prior arrangements with the instructor to make up any work missed.

See also pp. 75-78 of the 2016-2018 Catalog.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


The readings for each week, which will be listed in the formal course syllabus distributed on the first day of class, will total approximately 70 pages on average. They will be chosen from the course textbooks and other sources; all readings from other sources will be supplied in PDF format on the course website.


Because each of the mandatory field trips to Pompeii and Ostia Antica counts as two class sessions, four of the scheduled 14 class sessions will not be utilized.

9/3 Course introduction; origins, geology and geography, and basic Roman history

9/10 Early Rome

9/17 Republican Rome

9/24 NO CLASS (in lieu of Pompeii trip)

10/1 From Republic to Empire

10/8 NO CLASS (in lieu of Pompeii trip)

10/12 Pompeii

10/13 Ostia Antica

10/15 NO CLASS (in lieu of Ostia Antica trip)

10/22 Mid-term exam; Augustan Campus Martius

10/29 Capital of Empire

11/5 Imperial Campus Martius

11/12 Entertainment and bathing

11/19 Infrastructure, construction, and cemeteries

11/26 NO CLASS (in lieu of Ostia Antica trip)

12/3 Christian transformation