JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "Cities, Towns & Villas: Rome, Ostia, Pompeii"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Sophy Downes
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: W 2:15-5:00 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.

Summary of course content

The course is an introduction to urban living in the ancient world that will provide students with an appreciation of the multifaceted character of urban spaces, monuments and artworks in their historical context.


The course will investigate three diverse urban centers in order to consider their particular characteristics and developments, as well as their place in a composite and vast empire. In particular, it will explore urban living as a stage for social relationships and civic status, and consider the importance of public patronage.


Investigations of the agency of individuals and cities in the cultural discourse of Roman identity will form the framework for the course. These include: civic and domestic space as areas for the performance of status and social exchange; gift giving and benefaction as political currency and engagement; and cultural interaction as a dynamic relationship, not the least across a vast and cosmopolitan empire.


Classes are taught entirely on site at archaeological sites and in museums in a first-hand encounter with the monuments, spaces and artworks discussed. Historically it focuses primarily on the period from c. 100 BC-AD 300, the late Republic and Empire.




Ability to analyze – and contextualize – characteristics of ancient cultures over time

         •    Ability to identify trends and long-term developmental aspects, as well as to follow the complex reasoning inherent in their particular discourses

         •    Awareness of cultural individuality and cross-cultural inspirations – within and between cultural and social groups

Ability to analyze art, architecture and material culture as primary sources

         •    Familiarity with relevant historical, art historical and architectural terminology and ability to deploy these with precision and to effect

         •    Understanding of the context of public and private art and architecture – and the ability for comparative analyses of these as expressions of culture and acculturation

Ability to articulate interests and developments as affected by cultural factors

         •    Awareness of avenues of engagement with new forms and the motivations for doing so among diverse social groupings and communities

         •    Appreciation of directions of artistic inspiration – and of the expression of provincial and non-elite participation in a dominant culture

Ability to analyze the construction and articulation of cultural identities

         •    Ability for analyzing material culture as dynamic interactions of inspiration, response and emulation – not simply imperialism or control

         •    Awareness of how the image of cultural identity is changeable and shaped by a perception of ‘self’ and sense of position within a wider world


Communicative skills – writing and oral competence

         Term paper: Skills of organization of material, focus on topic, and nuance in discussion

         Exams: Aptitudes for contextualization and nuanced discussion of works, as well as for focused presentation of data

         Class presentations: Skills of public speaking (presentation of material, development of argument, illustration of evidence) and didactic methods (engaging audience through description, posing questions, responding to answers)

         Participation: Skills of formulating reviews and analytical responses; participating in debates; posing questions

Cognitive skills – critical thinking and interpretation

         Class presentation: Skills of evaluation and consideration of evidence; analysis of information gathered from observation; and skillful reflection on significance

         Participation: Skills of reasoned consideration of evidence and methods; willingness to adapt/revise ways of thinking; and openness to alternative perspectives

         Term paper and exams: Development of subtlety, nuance and engagement in the approach to the topic at hand

         Lectures and class presentations: Adeptness at contextualization and interpretation of objects, including observations on cultural norms that inform them

Collaborative and shared inquiry skills

         Lectures and participation: Development of investigative response-skills; collaborative contributions; and open debate – ability to test, explore and communicate complex ideas

         Class presentations: Skills of thoughtful dialogue; sharing of observations; and active contribution to an academic milieu

Investigative skills and evaluation of data

         Term paper and class presentations: Skills of using and evaluating secondary texts of diverse focus, specialism and target audience; as well as of interpreting both the inherent interests of these and the arguments presented

         Lectures and participation: Skills of evaluation of context, impact and patronage of objects and spaces

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Rome: an Oxford Archaeological GuideAmanda ClaridgeOxford University Press9780199546831   
A History of Roman ArtSteven L. TuckJohn Wiley and Sons9781444330267  

Academic participation Discussion and exchange of ideas based on reading of material covered and of new material under investigation.10%
Class presentationResearch presentation to class (10 mins)10%
Mid-term examImage identifications and analytical essays25%
Term paperResearch paper (8-10 pages)25%
Final examImage identifications and analytical essays30%

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.

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 exam period runs until ____________ 

Attendance requirements

·    All scheduled classes are mandatory. Absences will be noted and may affect your final grade. Please see the university catalogue for the attendance and absence policy.

·    You must always be punctual; late arrival will be noted and may affect your final grade.

·    You are responsible for identifying the location of, and route to, the meeting points of the classes. You should calculate around 40-50 minutes travel time to our meeting points. Most classes will end at on-site locations different from the meeting point. For bus/subway route planner see www.atac.it. 

·    Class will take place no matter the weather. Please dress accordingly and appropriately for visiting public sites and museums in the city. 

·    No recording (of any type) of the class is permitted.

Changes to / cancellation of class

·     For specific inquiries or to set up an appointment please contact me via email on [email protected]

·     Changes, additional course information, etc will be posted on MyJCU. Please check this regularly and, certainly, in advance of each class. 

·     In case of unavoidable cancellations of class, notification will be posted at the front desk at both Tiber and Guarini campuses. A suitable date and time for a make-up class will subsequently be established.

·     Following university regulations, no occasional visitors are permitted to attend classes unless with specific and advance permit by me.

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.




*Fri. tba                        Pompeii: Civic identity, the Roman house

Meet:                                                Piazza Trilussa – 6.50 am

* Sun. tba                        Ostia – Rome’s Port and Roman Houses 

Meet:                                                Ostiense train station (next to Metro stop “Piramide”) - 09.00 am



1. Wed. Sept. 4            Introduction to the Course, and to Rome.

Meet:                                                 JCU classroom.


Wed. Sept. 11                          No class (used for Pompeii trip)


2. Wed. Sept. 18.             From Romulus to Caesar, the Roman Forum

Meet:                                                 Campidoglio (next to the statue of Marcus Aurelius)


3. Wed. Sept. 25             The Republic – Triumphs and Temples

Meet:                                                 Piazza Farnese.


4. Wed. Oct. 2             Late Republic to Imperial Rome: Portraits and Painting

Meet:                                                 Entrance to Palazzo Massimo, Piazza dei Cinquecento.


5. Wed. Oct. 9            Pax Augusta

Meet:                                                 Entrance to the Ara Pacis Museum.


6. Wed. Oct. 16            *Mid-term Exam* and (brief) discussion of Term Paper

Meet:                                                 JCU classroom - 8.30 am


Wed. Oct. 23                        No class (used for Pompeii trip)


7. Wed. Oct. 30             Palaces, Nero and the Flavians

Meet:                                                 Metro Colosseo.


8. Wed. Nov. 6             The High Empire: Imperial Fora and the Campus Martius

Meet:                                                 Trajan’s column.


Wed. Nov. 13                        No class (used for Ostia trip)


Wed. Nov. 20                         No class (used for Ostia trip)


*Term Paper due 26thNov*

9. Wed. Nov. 27              Tetrarchs to Constantine: Re-using Rome 

Meet:                                     Metro Colosseo.


10. Wed. Dec. 4            Review Class                                      

Meet:                                     JCU


11. Dec. 9-13                         *Final Exam*

Meet:                                                 JCU classroom - 8.30 am