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COURSE NAME: "Technology of The Ancient World: Aqueducts, Armor, Automata "
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session I 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Jens Koehler
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 1:40-5:20 PM
PREREQUISITES: Partially on-site; activity fee: €25 or $33
OFFICE HOURS: cell 338-5256504

The course is an upper-level survey of technology in the ancient world, with particular emphasis on Greece and Rome. The course provides an in-depth familiarity and appreciation of the multifaceted nature of ancient technology through which students will gain a firm understanding of the links between technological innovation (history of engineering) and the development of human civilization (social history). It examines the architecture, waterworks, war machinery, and entertainment industry that framed and generated technological innovations, as well as production techniques related to the working of metal, wood and ceramics. The course will draw on both archaeological and text-based sources, and students will gain an awareness of field-specific methods and research theories: historical, philological and archaeological.

The course provides an overview of the technological origins in Egypt and in Mesopotamia; civilizations with highly developed skills in construction, irrigation systems, and military equipment. However, the primary focus of this course will be on the inventions made in Greece and Rome – architecture, waterworks, war machinery, and the entertainment industry – as well as the developments of these over time.

Archaeologically, the on-site classes will benefit from the many well-preserved examples of ancient technology in Rome, like bridges, domed temples, aqueducts, and heated baths. Other buildings, smaller technical instruments, and objects made of organic materials (wood) are only known from the ancient texts and will be investigated through a close study of the philological sources.

The description and explanation of technological aspects are intended to provide a profound understanding of the historical background, of the changes occurring over time, and of the particular needs and resources that shaped the innovations.

Major fields of interest to be discussed in this course are:

·        Building Techniques: quarries and building materials, transport and construction tools. These were central in ancient societies and are relatively well documented, both for Greece and Rome.

·        Infrastructure: roads, bridges, tunnels, harbors and sea trade. Such aspects are still important; the Romans are responsible for some of the most famous monuments.

·        Hydraulic Engineering: aqueducts and sewers, reservoirs and cisterns, baths and toilets, mills. This is the heart of Roman technology, and still of great value for us today.

·        Military Technology: weapons and armor, walls and gates, warships. The dark or destructive side of human genius, often going ahead compared to other technologies.  

Furthermore, the production of metal and of wooden objects, and of ceramics, will be analyzed. Installations for games in amphitheaters and in theaters will be mentioned. Finally, mechanical art, better known from the written tradition, but much appreciated during the Hellenistic period, will be studied. Surprisingly, some principles of the above mentioned technology features still determine our modern world of high-tech, or they may open new ways toward sustainable energies.


Students will learn to identify examples of ancient world engineering and technology, and will be enabled to describe and interpret these correctly

Students are introduced to different methods and theories of research, developed for Archaeology and Ancient History

Students will acquire the tools to investigate ancient texts, images, and objects correctly

Students will learn about the evolution of technology in relation to the developments in social history

Students will improve their skills to observe and to describe basic principles, and consider the impact of change, through comparison between ancient and modern technologies

Students will hone their ability for research and critical thinking through the analysis of unknown monuments and objects

Students will develop their skills of critical analysis, presentation and communication skills through the written assignments as well as class discussion

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Engineering in the Ancient WorldLandels, J. G.University of California Pressn/an/a 

quiz 1 - or worksheetshort answer questions10
quiz 2 - or worksheetshort answer questions and mini essay10
oral presentationtopic to be selected; oral presentation, power pint or on-site (15 points), and handout (10 points)25
research projectoutline (5 points) - 2D drawing and final paper or 3D model and commentary (20 points)25
final exam - or homework/worksheetshort answer questions and essay choice (about 15/15 points)30

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 cour
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.


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. The final exams are on Friday, June 28.
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.


Session Session Focus Reading Assignment Other Assignment Meeting Place/Exam Dates
M, May 27 1. Introduction and first walk. Houston 65-72.   in classroom; 2nd part in the city center
W, May 29 2. Architecture/Building Landels 84-98. 170-185. 208-211   meet in classroom
M, June 3 3. Water supply/Aqueducts. The Aqua Traiana under the American Academy. Landels 34-57. 211-215   meet in classroom, 2nd part at AAR
W, June 5 4. Construction/Baths Landels 84-96. 170-185 quiz 1 - or worksheet meet at metro stop Circo Massimo
M, June 10 5. Army camps and military equipment Landels 99-132   in classroom
W, June 12 6. City walls and army Landels 99-132 quiz 2 - or worksheet meet at metro stop Circo Massimo
M, June 17 7. Naval industry Landels 133-169. 219-224 (oral presentations) in classroom
W, June 19 8. Reconstruction models, Leonardo's Machines exhibition Landels 9-25. 58-83   in classroom, 2nd part Palazzo della Cancelleria
M, June 24 9. Entertainment and automata Landels 28-34.186-198. 199-208   meet in classroom, 2nd part Colosseum
W, June 26 10. Metals and ceramic production K. Greene research project due meet at metro stop Flaminio
Friday, June 28 final exam - or conclusion: debate on projects, homework/worksheets   exam - or homework due in classroom
  This is a prelimenary schedule!      
? Albano: Museum of the Legio II Parthica and Cistern?     by train from Termini


Engineering in the Ancient World (1978) J. G. Landels


The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World (2010)
The Ancient Engineers (1963/1995)
Technology in the Ancient World (1979)
Technology and Culture in Greek and Roman Antiquity (2007/2009)
Greek and Roman Technology (1984)
Rome. Archaeological Guide (1998/2010)
J. P. Oleson (ed.)
L. Sprague De Camp
H. Hodges
S. Cuomo
K. D. White
A. Claridge

Roman Building (2004) J.-P. Adam    
3000 years of design engineering and construction (2007) W. Addis    
Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World (1995) L. Casson    
Roman Warfare (2005) A. Goldsworthy    
Roman Pottery (1993) K. Greene    
Greek and Roman Technology (1998) G. W. Humphrey, J. P. Oleson, A. N. Sherwood (ed.)    
Concrete Vaulted Construction in Imperial Rome: Innovations in Context (2009) L. Lancaster    
The Roads of Roman Italy (1997) R. Laurence    
Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply 82002) T. Hodge    
Constructors of the Ancient World (2010) C. G. Malacrino    
Thermae et Balnea (1990/1993) I. Nielsen    
Pompei. La tecnologia dimenticata (2007) F. Russo, F. Russo    
Roman Builders. A Study in Architectural Process (2003) R. Taylor    
Baths and Bathing in Classical Antiquity (1992) F. Yegul    
De Aquaeductu (Loeb Classical Library 1980) Frontinus (Bennett transl.)    
Rome and Environs (2007/2014?) F. Coarelli