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COURSE NAME: "Cities, Towns & Villas: Rome, Ostia, Pompeii"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Elisabeth Fuhrmann-Schembri
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: M9:15 AM 12:00 PM
PREREQUISITES: On-site; mandatory trip; activity fee: €40 or $52
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment (cell +39 329 326 7915)

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.

MANDATORY FIELDTRIPS to Pompeii & Ostia: Friday & Saturday, October 13 & 14!!

This course examines Roman visual culture in Italy from c. 800 B.C. to c. 400 AD by focusing on the most important surviving sites in Rome and its environs and in the areas hit by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. A focus throughout the course is the development of Roman cities and towns, their plans and topography, their public monuments and their political, economic, social, and religious institutions. We will also study private architecture: from the aristocratic city-house to the country villa to middle class homes. In addition to formal descriptions of the structures, there is a strong emphasis on the role of the monument in ancient society. The course will be conducted entirely on-site, the fieldtrips to Pompeii and Ostia are therefore mandatory, and may be supported by in-class lectures and activities.

ATTENTION: classes on campus start at 8:30!! Check carefully the course schedule!! 


Students are introduced to the terminology and different methods of art historical analysis and are prepared to use critical thought in investigating the historical, political, religious, economic  and social context of material culture. The first-hand experience of monuments and their environment encourages also to compare and contrast Roman cities o the own contemporary urban culture and to identify the ongoing contribution of Roman systems to modern conceptions.

The nature of the different assessment methods aims to apply critical thought in examining a complex culture (exams), to employ accurate vocabulary for evaluating material (visual analyses), to strengthen  presentation and communication skills (oral report) and to empathize with a specific Roman social and cultural historical context (paper).

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
The Ancient Roman CityStambaugh, John E.Johns Hopkins UP 0-8018-3692-1     
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
See booklist at endof class schedule  

midterm and final examessay questions discussing class material in context (mid: 2 essays about 200 words, final: 3 essays about 250 words) 14 and 21 points
2 visual analysescareful description and interpretation of artwork20 points (each 10)
oral report & term paperoral presentation (accurate description and contextual interpretation, 8-10 minutes) of a building from Pompeii or Ostia (research: “vertical view”) & written reconstruction (6 pages) of the daily life of an Ancient Roman character living in or using that building presenting the contemporary Ancient point of view (creative approach: “horizontal view”); different due phases (see schedule) 30 points (each 15)
6 quizzesgrade preparation for and active participation in class; intended as an open handout/notes review, done at the end of class; identification of visual material, very short or multiple-choice answer questions (5 out of 6 are calculated).25 points (each 5)
detailed instructionsfor all exams and assignments will be provided in class 

A Work 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
B This 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.
C This is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
D This 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.
F This work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant. . . . Grading Standards: A 94-100 % A- 90-93 % B+ 87-89 % B 84-86 % B- 80-83 % C+ 77-79 % C 74-76 % C- 70-73 % D 60-69 % F below


This course relies on student participation in class and on-site lectures and discussions. Therefore, promptness and attendance are mandatory, and students are highly recommended to complete the readings before each lesson - in order to be prepared to answer and to ask thoughtful questions - as well as to review material covered in class on a regular basis. Students are responsible on the midterm and final exams for all material including images covered in the readings and handouts. Punctuality is essential as most of the classes have pre-booked timed entrances and leave immediately from the indicated meeting points. Therefore, eventual absences should be communicated timely to the professor. Excessive absences will result - out of the nature of an on-site class - in a poorer performance and in a lower final class grade. 

Please refer to JCU's Catalog for a statement regarding absence and grading policies!

Attention: for technical and especially legal reasons NO VISITORS (family, friends, etc.) are allowed to follow class!!

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.


This is a TENTATIVE SCHEDULE subject to change regarding the access to museums and monumental areas following up the Italian regulations with respect to the pandemic crisis and accordingly to tickets availability!


IMPORTANT NOTE: classes on campus start at 8:30!!

Regular on-site classes at 9:15. Check carefully the schedule, please!


MANDATORY FIELDTRIPS to Pompeii & Ostia: Friday & Saturday, October 13 & 14

Each fieldtrip has the value of two regular classes and therefore some regular Monday classes are cancelled to be used for the fieldtrips! See details below here in the schedule!

Week 1 (Sep 4): Class 1

INTRODUCTION 1) course requirements & logistics; documentary sources;

& ROME’s chronology, topography and mythological background.

MP:  G.K.1.2 (Guarini campus, Kushlan wing, first floor, room 2) at 8:30!!

Reading: Stambaugh 1-4 (introd.); Coarelli 1-9 (introd.); Claridge 31-36 (documentary sources);

recommended: Ramage introd.; Connolly & Dodge 102-121 (chron. overview).


Week 2 (Sep 11): Class 2

INTRODUCTION 2) discussion of oral report & paper topics; Roman cities: urban planning, theory and practice (on campus);

& ROME's foundationTiber & Island, Velabrum, Palatine & Capitoline Hill (on-site);

MP:  G.K.1.2 at 8:30!!  for the first part; then class goes together on-site for the second part.

Reading: Stambaugh ch.1 & 15; Claridge 37-59 (glossary, building-types), 226 (Tiber Island), 125 (Palatine, hut of Romulus), 229-232, 238-241 (Capitoline, T. of Jupiter);

recommendedStambaugh ch.16, 19 & 20 (other Roman cities); Ramage ch1 (24-29, 32-39, 53-55).


Week 3 (Sep 18): Class 3

ROME'S RISE TO LEADING CITY IN THE MEDITERRANEAN: along the triumphal road, victory temples, porticoes and theatres.

QUIZ 1 (done at end of class) 

MP: Largo Argentina in front of Feltrinelli bookstore

Reading: Stambaugh ch. 2, 3 & 13; Claridge 214-219 (Theatre of Pompey, victory Temples of Largo Argentina), 242-247, 222 (T. Apollo Med., Theatre of Marcellus, Porticus of Octavia), 250-258 (Archaic temples, Portunus-t., Round t, Ara Maxima);

recommendedConnolly & Dodge 182-189 (theatres); Ramage ch. 2 (56, 80-81, 95).


Week 4 (Sep 25): Class 4

THE ROMAN FORUM: from marshy valley to the political, religious and commercial centre of the Republican city and of early Imperial politics.

QUIZ 2 (done at end of class) 

MP: at Column of Trajan (near Piazza Venezia)

Reading: Stambaugh ch. 2, 3 (review), 6 & 7; Claridge 60-74 (Roman Forum, Curia, Comitium, Basilica Aemilia), 80-82 (Temple of Saturn, Rostra), 85-91 (pavement, Basilica Iulia, Temple of Castor), 97-106 (Temple of Divus Iulius, Arch of Augustus, Temple of Vesta, Atrium Vestae, Regia);

recommendedConnolly & Dodge 122-133 (government, food and water), 170-175 (many gods).

Review of course material in regard of midterm exam (prepare material for discussion of study guide!)


Week 5 (Oct 2): Class 5


MP: G.K.1.2 at 8:25!!


Week 6 (Oct 9, regular Monday): Class 6

INTRODUCTION to POMPEII and OSTIA & students’ ORAL REPORTS on monuments of these two cities

                                                                (to be crisply reviewed during our fieldtrips).

Due: first paper ideas (brief oral presentation at end of your talk)

MP: G.K.1.2 at 8:30!!

Reading: Stambaugh ch. 17 (Pompeii) & 18 (Ostia);

Recommended: get a look at assigned readings for the fieldtrips.

Week 6 (FRIDAY, Oct 13): Class 7 & 8

Fieldtrip to POMPEII: a flourishing city in the province. History, design, function etc. of the city from the early days to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

QUIZ 3 (done at end of class) 

MP: Piazza Trilussa, at 6.50!! (departure with private bus at sharp 7.00)!!

Reading: Stambaugh ch. 11, 12; Cantarella & Jacobelli 7-14,24-35, 46-86 (A Day in Pompeii), 88-120 (monuments);

recommended: Zanker (Pompeii) 1-25 (Townscape and Domestic Taste), 27-77 (Urban Space), 135-156 (The Domestic Arts in Pompeii), 192-203 (Domestic Taste and Cultural Identity).


Week 6 (SATURDAY, Oct 14): Class 9

Fieldtrip to OSTIA, the seaport of Rome: Ostia Antica and its topography, history, economy and infrastructures, its house architecture and religious buildings.

VISUAL ANALYSIS 1 (done during class)

Due: paper settings (brief oral presentation of paper’s character and time frame; to be submitted on Moodle after the weekend)

MP: We will meet at 9:00 am in front of Metro B stop Piramide at Piazzale Ostiense and take together the Ostia Lido train!!

Reading: Stambaugh ch. 8, 9, 10, 13; Coarelli 450-476 (Ostia);

recommendedwww.ostia-antica.orgConnolly & Dodge 126-149 (food and water, houses and apartments).


Week 7 (Oct 16): NO CLASS – time used for fieldtrips!!


Week 8 (Oct 23): Class 10

Augustus and the DEVELOPMENT OF CAMPUS MARTIUS: Mausoleum of Augustus, Ara Pacis Augustae, Horologium, Pantheon (Agrippa), Baths and Stagnum of Agrippa.

VISUAL ANALYSIS 2 (done during class)

QUIZ 4 (done at end of class) 

MP: Piazza del Popolo, near obelisk

Reading: Stambaugh ch. 4; Claridge 176-192 (Campus Martius, Mausoleum of Augustus, Ara Pacis, Sundial), 201-208 (Pantheon, Baths of Agrippa, Basilica of Neptune);

recommended: Zanker (Power of Images) 30-37, 72-77, 167-183.


Week 9 (Oct 30): Class 11

The TRANSFORMATION OF THE CITY under the Julio-Claudian and Flavian emperors: Imperial residences, Arch of Titus, Colosseum.

Due: update on paper progress (brief oral presentation in class for discussion)

MP: at Arch of Constantine (near Colosseum)

Reading: Stambaugh ch. 5 (67-78) & 14; Claridge 11-17, 116-118 (Arch of Titus), 119-145 (Palatine Hill), 271, 276-284 (Colosseum), 290 (Nero's Golden House);

recommended: Connolly & Dodge 218-225 (palace), 190-217 (Colossseum).


Week 10 (Nov 6): Class 12

The Imperial Fora and Trajan's markets: drastic CHANGES IN THE URBAN DESIGN reflect Imperial qualities.

Due: paper outline (submitted on Moodle and brief oral presentation in class for last adjustments)

QUIZ 5 (done at end of class) 

MP: at Column of Trajan (near Piazza Venezia)

Reading: Stambaugh ch.5 (67-77), ch.9; Claridge 147ff (Imperial Fora and Trajan's Column and Markets).

recommended: Ramage ch. 6 (Trajan).


Week 11 (Nov 13): NO CLASS – time used for fieldtrips!!

Due: paper final draft (submitted through Moodle, by end of week)


Week 12 (Nov 20): Class 13

The RESHAPING OF THE CAMPUS MARTIUS by Domitian and the Good emperors:  Imperial cult and entertainment.

QUIZ 6 (done at end of class) 

MP: in front of Pantheon

Reading: Stambaugh ch. 5 (72-81) & 14; Claridge 193-214 (Column of Antoninus Pius and of Marcus Aurelius, Hadrianeum, Pantheon, Stadium of Domitian), 369ff. (Mausoleum of Hadrian);

recommended: Ramage ch.7 (229-240, 248-251), ch.8 (257-276, 281).


Week 13 (Nov 27): NO CLASS – time used for fieldtrips!!

recommended to review class material accordingly to final study guide!


Week 14 (Dec 4): Class 14

The late Imperial CITY IN TRANSITION from Pagan to Christian.

Conclusion of course;

Discussion of final exam study guide.

MP: at Column of Trajan (near Piazza Venezia)

Reading: Stambaugh ch.5 (The Later Empire); Claridge 70-76 (Curia, Arch of Septimius Severus), 83 -84 (Decennalia Base, Column of Phocas), 107-115 (Temples of Faustina, Romulus, Venus and Roma, Basilica Nova), 272-275 (Arch of Constantine); 346-350 (Lateran);

recommended: Ramage ch.9 282-289302-307), ch.10 (211f, 318-320), ch.11 (325-332), ch.12 (343-348, 350-353, 365).


Week 15 (tba):



Assigned or recommended readings, out of:

Cantarella, E. and Jacobelli, L. (2003) A Day in Pompeii: daily life, culture and society;

Claridge, A. (1998) Rome. (Oxford Archaeological Guide). Oxford UP

Coarelli, F. (2007) Rome and Environs. An Archaeological Guide.U of California P

Connolly, P. and Dodge, H. (1998) The Ancient City. Life in Classical Athens and Rome;

La Regina, A. (2004) Archaeological Guide to Rome. Electa

Ramage, N.H. and Ramage, A. (1995) Roman Art. Laurence King

Scarre, C. (1995) Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome. Penguin Books

Stambaugh, J. (1988) The Ancient Roman City. Johns Hopkins UP

Zanker, P. (1995) Pompeii: Public and Private Life;

Zanker, P. (1988) The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus. U of Michigan P


Selection of other useful books (a more detailed list will be provided in class):

Abbondanza, L. (1997), The Valley of the Colosseum (Electa Guide);

Aldrete, G. (2004) Daily Life in the Roman City; Rome, Ostia and Pompeii;

Boardman, J. (ed.) (2001), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Roman World;

Clarke, J.R. (1991) The Houses of Roman Italy;

Coulston, J and Dodge, H. (eds.) (2000) Ancient Rome: The Archaeology f the Eternal City;

Favro, D. (1996) The Urban Image of Augustan Rome;

Gallina Zevi, A. and Claridge, A. (eds.) (1996) 'Roman Ostia' revisited;

Giustozzi, N. (ed.) (2006), The Capitoline Museums (Electa Guide);

Grant, M. (1974) Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum;

Guidobaldi, P. (1998) The Roman Forum (Electa guide);

Hermansen, G. (1982) Ostia: Aspects of Roman City Life;

Koehne, E. and Ewigleben C. (eds.) (2000) Gladiators and Caesars;

La Regina, A. (2004) Archaeologocial Guide to Rome (Electa Guide);

Piranomonte, M. (1998) The Baths of Caracalla (Electa Guide);

Richardson, L.Jr. (1992) A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome;

Shelton, J.-A- (1997) As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in the Roman Social History;

Tomei, E. (1998) The Palatine (Electa Guide);

Wallace-Hadrill, A. (1994) Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum;

Zanker, P. (1988) The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus.