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COURSE NAME: "Pagans, Jews and Christians - Art and Religion in Late Antique Rome"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Sharon Salvadori
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 3:00-4:15 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: One previous course in Art History, Classical Studies, or permission of the instructor. Partially on-site; mandatory trip; activity fee: €40 or $52

In the 3rd- and 4th-century Rome continued to be a stronghold of traditional paganism, but it was also a hub of "exotic" pagan cults imported from the East, home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the Diaspora and to one of the fastest-growing Christian communities in the Empire. This diversity was matched by an increase in religious feeling that affected Roman society as a whole. Much of the art produced in Rome at this time may be understood in the context of this new religious ferment. It is a highly creative art, in which tradition, innovation, syntheses, and even contradiction often coexist and give expression to the complex and constantly evolving religious, cultural and social framework of the times. The goal of the course is to allow students to become familiar with the iconography and meaning of the art of Late Antique Rome in the context of this new age of spirituality. In-class lectures will be complemented by site and museum visits to take advantage of the many monuments and artworks still extant in Rome and its environs.
The primary aim of the course is to gain an in depth familiarity with the iconography and meaning of Late Antique religious art as this was deployed in its original historical contexts. To this end we examine 3rd- and 4th-century religious iconography on monuments and artworks whose intended audience was private or semi-private (e.g. tombs), communal (e.g. mithraea), and public (e.g. temples). While the seminar will make the most of works still extant in Rome, other areas of the Roman Empire that provide important insights into contemporary religious iconography will also be explored (e.g. Dura Europus in Syria). Field-trips in and around Rome will take place on 3 Fridays.

There is no required textbook for the class, rather readings are assigned from a number of different sources, including

Beck, R. (2006) The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire: Mysteries of the Unconquered Sun.

Beard, M., North J. and Price, S. (1998) Religions of Rome, 2 vols.

Mathews, T. (2001) The Clash of Gods. A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art. 2nd rev. ed.

To facilitate locating works a Course Bibliography will be posted on MY JCU.

Please also note that the course is interdisciplinary and students must be prepared to engage in scholarship in different fields (e.g. in addition to art history, religious and social history)


Ø  knowledge and understanding of the design, structure, style, function, intended meaning and reception (religious, social, political and aesthetic) of representative Late Antique monuments and art works

Ø  knowledge and understanding of the Late Antique period as this is revealed by art, religion and ritual

Ø  familiarity with different methods of art historical analysis and visual culture and the ability to deploy them successfully

Ø  the ability to apply critical thinking and analysis generally

Ø  ability to select and organize material to produce a coherent and cogent argument both orally and in writing- and to do so to so respecting deadlines

Ø  ability to exchange ideas and engage in discussion with peers


ParticipationActive participation is expected of all students, but the level or amount of your engagement is graded. Participating means coming to class having read the "Required Reading" (listed in the course schedule), prepared to ask and answer questions and to share any pertinent observations. Participation is especially important in the context of a seminar as students are expected to be fully engaged with the material and so responsive to it. Remember too that the more you participate, the more interesting the class will be not only for you but also for everyone else (prof. included).5
Bibliographical EssaysTwo bibliographical essays are due in the course of the semester. Each is worth 10% of the course grade. Each essay consists in a critical review and evaluation of a scholarly article and should be between 900 and 1400 words (3-5 pages). The essays are intended to familiarize students not only with specific areas, monuments, artworks, or object types in more depth, but to come to terms with how scholars approach the evidence and its interpretation. Students will typically be given a have a choice of two or more articles to review; students may request the permission to focus on a different publication, especially if, in addition to the general topic, it is relevant to their term paper. Additional Guidelines and specifications, including publication titles, will be posted on MYJCU and discussed in class during the second week of the term. Please also note that students will be expected to discuss the publication in class on the same day that the essays are due. In other words the assignment is designed to stimulate class discussion.20
PresenationThe presentation consists of a 15 minute oral report to the class on an area, one or more monuments or one or more artworks. It is intended to develop your skills in research, observation, interpretation, evaluation and public speaking. Developing the ability to express yourself orally in a clear, concise and effective manner is as important as the content of the presentation (content without form undermines content itself...). Topics -with bibliography for each- dates, and guidelines will be posted on MY JCU in the first few weeks of the term. We will review these after the mid-term (class 14), but all presentations will take place in last weeks of the semester. You will be required to choose your topic during class 15. In some cases the topics are intended to focus in more depth on monuments already discussed in class. In other cases the topics are on monuments or artworks that we have not examined or have examined only very briefly and which warrant more attention. Whatever the case, the first objective is to present the monument/s and/or artworks that are the focus of your topic to the class by describing and contextualizing it/them. This will- obviously- require a Power Point Presentation with a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 15 properly labeled slides. The second objective is to critically engage with at least two scholarly interpretations on your topic. For each topic one source will already be selected for you and it is mandatory to read and present on it. The second publication, may be selected by you (the Course Bibliography is the first go-to place); but you are - of course- welcome to do further research. Please choose your topic carefully as it ideally should be a preliminary project leading to the topic of your Term paper. 15
Term PaperThe term paper is intended to develop skills of independent research, ability to evaluate and interpret materials and their inherent interests, and capability for discussing these in a nuanced manner in writing. The paper must combine visual analysis, iconographic and historical research and contextual interpretation. In other words, it should be a formal essay that demonstrates the skills that you have developed and honed during the semester. Prior to completing the paper you must turn in an abstract and annotated bibliography (worth 15% of paper grade). The abstract should be c. 100 words. It is essentially a thesis statement, but it must mention what works you will be focusing on. The annotated bibliography must contain a minimum of 5 titles. Each publication must be briefly summarized and its relevance to your paper explained (150 words per title). The abstract and annotated bibliography is due class 24. The Term Paper itself (worth 85% of paper grade) must be 4500 words (c. 15 double spaced pages), exclusive of bibliography and images. The paper must include a complete bibliography of primary and secondary sources used and all references must be fully cited in the paper itself. It is due on class 28 **Paper guidelines with suggested topics, suggestions on how to write an annotated bibliography, and other specifications will be posted on MYJCU in the first few weeks of the semester. We will review these after the mid-term (class 15), but please feel free to set up an appointment with me to discuss your paper any time before then (and/or after!). 25
ExamsBoth exams are structured to assess your knowledge of essential facts about individual sites (e.g. Dura Europus), monuments (e.g. the cubilculum of the Velatio in the catacomb of Priscilla) and artworks (e.g. the Symmachi-Nichomachi diptych) and your ability to critically interpret and assess their original significance. Both will consist in a set of comparisons: one or more images of two sites, monuments or artworks. You must identify each one name/dedication/ subject, typology, date, structural or formal components media, (original) location, function, patronage, as relevant or known. But also (and most importantly) consider them in relation to one another: i.e. discuss significant similarities and differences. These variously combine, subject, typology, date, structural or formal components, meaning, location, function, and patronage. But please note that typically the primary point / significance of comparisons is rooted in historically specific (and significant) thematic connections = connections having to do with meaning in historical context. So, for example, you may be asked to compare a third century relief of Mithras and his companions and fourth century Christian representation of the Adoration of the Magi. The mid-term exam takes place on for the duration of regular class time (75 minutes). It will cover material studied up to class 13. It consists in: Four 15-minute comparisons comparisons (25% each) The final exam takes place during exam week (exact date, time and classroom TBA) and lasts 2 hours and 30 minutes and is cumulative. The format is the same as that of the mid-term, but being a longer exam, it is longer: -6 comparisons: 15 minutes each That gives you a whole hour of "wiggle time." Review Sheets, including a list of images will be provided a week before each exam. A brief review session is also scheduled for each exam (see Course Schedule) 35 (mid-term 15; final 20)

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 of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Course Attendance All scheduled classes are mandatory. Roll will be taken at the beginning of each class (i.e. you must also be on time!) Lectures do more than simply complement required reading assignments so being absent inevitably results in extra work to catch up. Typically, missing 4 or more classes results in poor performance, if not a failing grade. Official JCU examination policy also applies

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed.

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.


1. Introduction to religion and religious art in Roman society

2. Religion and religious art in Roman society during the Empire, cont.

3. Religion and religious art in Roman society during the Empire
, cont.

Religion and religious art in Roman society during the Empire, cont./ review of critical essay guidelines

5. "Foreign" cults and visual representation: Isis

6. "Foreign" cults and visual representation
: Isis, cont. / Magna Mater and Attis

7. "Foreign" cults and visual representation:
Magna Mater and Attis, cont.

"Foreign" cults and visual representation:
Magna Mater and Attis, cont. / Mithras

9. "Foreign" cults and visual representation: Mithras, cont.

10. "Foreign" cults and visual representation:
Mithras, cont. / Critical Essay 1 Due

11. Looking for Mithras
 in Rome (on-site). Day. Time, and Meeting place T.B.A.

12. Religion in Late Antique Ostia (on-site). Day. Time, and Meeting place T.B.A.

14.  Short session:  mid-term exam review


16. "Foreign" cults and religious visual representation: Judaism / review of presentation and term paper guidelines

17. "Foreign" cults and religious visual representation: Judaism, cont.

18.  "Foreign" cults and religious visual representation: Judaism, cont.

19. "Foreign" cults and religious visual representation: Judaism, cont. / Christianity

20. "Foreign" cults and religious visual representation: Christianity, cont./ 

21.  "Foreign" cults and religious visual representation: Christianity, cont.

22. "Foreign" cults and religious visual representation: Christianity, cont.

23. Sant'Agnese Mausoleum and Catacomb of Priscilla (on-site) Day, Time and Meeting place: T.B.A.

24. "Foreign" cults and religious visual representation: religious plurality and/or exclusivity in visual representation / Critical Essay 2 Due

"Foreign" cults and religious self-representation: religious plurality and/ or exclusivity in visual representation, cont.



28. PRESENTATIONS  / Loose ends/ Review for final

Final EXAM, day time and classroom TBA