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COURSE NAME: "Ancient Rome and Its Monuments"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Ambra Spinelli
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TH 2:15 PM 5:00 PM
PREREQUISITES: On-site; activity fee: €40 or $52


Rome City Series - This on-site course considers the art and architecture of ancient Rome through visits to museums and archaeological sites. The course covers the visual culture and architecture of Rome beginning with the Iron Age and ending with the time of Constantine. A broad variety of issues are raised, including patronage, style and iconography, artistic and architectural techniques, Roman religion, business and entertainment.

Satisfies "the Ancient World" core course requirement for Art History majors

This is an upper-level survey course exploring the archaeological sites, ancient monuments, and visual art of Rome from its foundation through the Republican, Imperial, and Early Christian periods.  The course offers an exciting opportunity to investigate the history, archaeology, topography, art, and architecture of the Eternal City in an interdisciplinary manner.  We will consider the roles that structures, images, inscriptions, and material objects played in shaping Roman experience—from the creation and dissemination of political ideologies to the means of organizing civic and domestic space, interacting with the gods, imagining the past, and crafting one’s personal image.


The course will focus on placing the archaeological, artistic, and architectural evidence in its topographical context, with an emphasis on changes in art, architecture, and urban spaces through time.  We will also learn to identify and distinguish between elements in art and architecture that are derived from Rome’s extensive contacts with other cultures.  At each class meeting we will explore monuments and sites in a different part of the City, and will discuss specific aspects of Roman life, paying particular attention to the interplay of politics, society, and culture.  Topics will include:

elite and non-elite domestic and funerary art and architecture, and what they can tell us about personal needs and familial practices, as well as social norms and expectations;

public baths, theaters, and other types of recreational venues as expression of political statements and imperial ideology;

aqueducts and other monumental works of large-scale civic projects as manifestations of Roman engineering, aesthetics, and networks.


 Given the advantage of staying in Rome, the course will be conducted entirely on-site around the city.


At the end of the course, students will be able to:

1.     Identify, describe, and interpret the most important archaeological monuments in Rome.

2.     Relate the archaeological evidence to the topography of Ancient Rome.

3.  Demonstrate an understanding of the chronology, political events, and institutional structures of the City of Rome.

4.     Critically analyze the social, political, and economic background that informs the archaeological and architectural evidence for Rome from its earliest beginnings to the early Christian transition.


The course will engage with different types of primary evidence, including material culture and literary sources, which will also encourage students to reflect in depth about the balance between preservation and progress in a city as old as Rome. The on-site activities, discussions, and oral assignments will help improve presentation and communication skills in a public and professional environment. The nature of exams and term paper is aimed to further develop critical analysis, evaluation of information (i.e., learning to unpack and assess scholarly arguments), and research skills.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
Rome: An Oxford Archaeological GuideClaridge, AmandaOxford University Press 978-0199546831 Ebook is fine too   
A History of Roman ArtTuck, StevenWiley-Blackwell Pub9781118885437     

Participation & On-Site Activities 10%
Midterm Exam 20%
Oral Report (On-Site) 15%
Term Paper 25%
Final Exam 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 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 me and the Dean's Office by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed.

 Attendance is mandatory. You are expected to participate in all scheduled classes. Classes start on-site and thus punctuality is essential; three tardy arrivals will count as one unexcused absence. Absences and late arrivals will result in the lowering of the final class 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 (specified below in the class schedule). Please refer to the university catalog for attendance and absence policy.

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.


Important Note: 

Classes on campus (Chapel, Room 2) start at 3:00pm. Regular on-site classes at 2:15pm. Check the schedule carefully please!


Class 1.

TOPIC: Introduction to the course and to Rome.

Introduction & logistics + foundation myth, history, government, religion, map & facts.

MEETING PLACE: JCU Classroom (Chapel, Room 2) at 3:00pm.

READING: None. [Recommended: Beard M. “Why ancient Rome matters” (20 min, Guardian Article)].


Class 2.

TOPIC: Introduction to oral reports and paper topics + Rome & Tiber

Discussion of oral reports and paper topics & research paper overview, guidelines, and expectations + introduction to Early Rome and its monuments.

SITE VISITS: Tiber Area and its monuments.

MEETING PLACE: JCU Classroom (Chapel, Room 2) at 3:00pm. Second part of class on-site (Cloaca Maxima, Tiber Island, River, and Pons Fabricius).

READING: Claridge 2010: 4-59 (history, documentary sources, building types & techniques), 257-258 (Tiber Island); Cornell 1995: 48-50, 53-60, 63-70, 80 (Early Rome's archaeology & literary tradition); Tuck 2015: Ch. 1.


Class 3.

TOPIC: Regal and Republican Rome: foundation, contacts, influences

SITE VISITS: Circus Maximus, Forum Boarium (Round Temple and Temple of Portunus), Area Sacra at Sant’Omobono, Capitoline Hill (Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus), Palatine Hill (early settlements & hut of Romulus), Forum Romanum (Regia, Comitium, and the Temples of Vesta, Saturn, and Castor); Capitoline Museum (Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, Sant’Omobono finds, terracotta decoration of temples, She-Wolf, Capitoline Fasti). MiC Card needed.

MEETING PLACE: Outside the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin/Bocca della Verità.

READING: Claridge 2010: 4-9 (history), 63-67, 75-77, 83-84, 105-111 (Forum Romanum), 132-133 (hut of Romulus), 259-262, 268-70 (Capitoline, Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus), 282-288 (Sant’Omobono, Forum Boarium), 299-300 (Circus Maximus); Smith 2000: 16-41 (Early and Archaic Rome); Tuck 2015: Ch. 2 & 3; Yegül and Favro 2019: 82-95 (Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, Sant'Omobono, Forum Boarium).


Class 4.

TOPIC: Middle & Late Republican Rome: expansion, competition, and the architecture of the Roman triumph

SITE VISITS: Lower Campus Martius walk (including Largo Argentina and Theater of Pompey): Temples at Largo Argentina, Theater and Porticus of Pompey,  Circus Flaminius, Porticus of Metellus/Octavia, Temple of Apollo Medicus/Sosianus, Theater of Marcellus, Forum Holitorium (Temples beneath S. Nicola in Carcere), Forum Boarium (Round Temple). MiC Card needed.

MEETING PLACE: At the Tower in Largo Argentina (“Torre del Papito”).

READING: Claridge 2010: 9-12 (history), 239-246, 250-256 (Theatre of Pompey, Largo Argentina, Portico of Metellus/Octavia), 274-282 (Theater of Marcellus, Temple of Apollo Medicus/Sosianus, Forum Holitorium); Cornell 2000: 42-60 (mid-Republican Rome); Favro 1994: 151-164 (triumphal procession); Flower 2004: 326-331, 338-340 (triumph/politics); Tuck 2015: 65 (triumph) & Ch. 4.


Class 5.

TOPIC: Rome’s transition from Republic to Empire: the transformation of the ancient City center

SITE VISITS: Forum Romanum: Basilica Aemilia, Basilica Julia, Rostra, Curia Julia, Temple of Divus Julius, Temple of the Castors, Porticus of Gaius and Lucius, Forum of Caesar, Forum of Augustus. ParCo Card needed.

MEETING PLACE: At the Column of Trajan.

READING: Claridge 2010: 10-15 (history), 63-75, 85-87, 92-95, 100-103 (Forum Romanum), 160-169 (Forum of Caesar), 177-180 (Forum of Augustus); Schneider 2008: 270-278 (Augustan Rome); Tuck 2015: Ch. 4 & 5 (only 114-118, 125-128).


Class 6.

TOPIC: The Rome of Augustus: visual "rhetoric," memory & and the new Golden Age

SITE VISITS: Augustan Campus Martius: (Claridge 2010: fig. 77): Mausoleum, Res Gestae, Ara Pacis, Solar meridian, Agrippa’s Pantheon and building program. MiC Card needed.

MEETING PLACE: At the entrance to the Ara Pacis Augustae Museum, (Lungotevere in Augusta).

READING: Claridge 2010: 12-15, 40-43 (history & building materials), 197-216, 232-233 (Augustan Campus Martius); Favro 2007: 234-263 (Augustan Rome); Res Gestae Divi Augusti (Augustus’ official autobiography); Tuck 2015: Ch. 5.


Class 7.

TOPIC: Late Republic/Early Imperial “public” and “private” art: tombs, houses, and temples as displays of social memory, culture, and identity + Midterm Review

SITE VISITS: Pyramid of C. Cestius; Centrale Montemartini Museum (portraiture, sculpture, mosaic): Barberini togatus, grave reliefs from Via Statilia, tomb of baker Eurysaces, funerary stele of shoemaker, tombstone of Q. Sulpicius Maximus, friezes from Temple of Apollo Sosianus, selection of elite domestic art (patronage and collecting in Roman villas). MiC Card needed.

MEETING PLACE: Outside the entrance to the Metro B “Piramide” Stop (Piazzale Ostiense).

READING: Claridge 2010: 397-401 (Pyramid of C. Cestius); Petersen 2003: 230-257 (Tomb of baker Eurysaces); Tuck 2015: 137-139 (Funerary monuments in the Age of Augustus).


Class 8.

Midterm Exam

MEETING PLACE: JCU Classroom. Note: class will meet at 3:00 pm.

Exam details will be shared ahead of time and posted on Moodle.


Class 9.

TOPIC: The Flavians: imperial patronage and urban appropriation in the Colosseum Valley + Entertaining Rome

*Paper's outline due today!! Bring printed copy in class.

SITE VISITS: Domus Aurea, Colossus, Flavian Amphitheater (exterior), Ludus Magnus, Meta Sudans, Arch of Titus, Temple of Peace, Forum Transitorium.

MEETING PLACE: At the Arch of Constantine (Forum side).

READING: Claridge 2010: 16-18 (history), 121-123 (Arch of Titus), 169-176 (Temple of Peace, Forum of Nerva), 301-308 (Domus Aurea, Meta Sudans), 312-319 (Colosseum, Ludus Magnus); Coleman 2000: 210-217, 219-239 (entertainments/politics); Tuck 2015 : Ch. 6 & 7.


Class 10.

TOPIC: Living in Rome: from rental units to palatial estates

SITE VISITS: Arch of Titus (cont.) (Claridge 2010: fig 36); Palatine Hill (Claridge 2010: fig. 50): House of “Augustus” and Temple of Apollo, Domus Transitoria, Domus Tiberiana, Palace of Domitian. Palatine Museum: Augustan & Nerionan rooms. Insula Ara Coeli. ParCo Card needed.

MEETING PLACE: At the Statue of Marcus Aurelius (outside the Capitoline Museums).

READING: Claridge 2010: 124-128 (Palatine), 135-154 (House of “Augustus” and Temple of Apollo, Domitian’s Palace), 263-264 (Insula Ara Coeli); Patterson 2000: 259-263, 273-276 (elite and non elite residences); Tuck 2015: Ch. 5 (only 128-133 "House" of Augustus), Ch. 6 (167-171 Nero's Domus Transitoria & Domus Aurea), Ch. 7 (205-209 Palace of Domitian).


Class 11.

TOPIC: The Rome of Trajan and Hadrian: engineering, aesthetics, and networks

SITE VISITS: Forum, Column, and Markets of Trajan (Claridge 2010: fig. 60); Museum of the Imperial Fora; Baths of Trajan; Temple of Venus and Roma. MiC Card needed.

MEETING PLACE: At the Column of Trajan.

READING: Claridge 2010: 18-21 (history), 118-121 (Temple of Venus and Roma), 180-96 (Forum and Markets of Trajan), 324-326 (Baths of Trajan); Quenemoen 2013: 63-81 (concrete & aesthetics); Tuck 2015: Ch. 8; Yegül and Favro 2019: 333-355 (Trajan, Hadrian, and Apollodorus).


Class 12.

TOPIC: The Central Campus Martius from Domitian to the Antonines: public venues, imperial cult, and commemoration

SITE VISITS: Stadium and Odeum of Domitian, Pantheon, Mausoleum of Hadrian, Hadrianeum, Column of Marcus Aurelius

MEETING PLACE: At the Tower in Largo Argentina (“Torre del Papito”).

READING: Claridge 2010: 18-21 (history), 197-204 (Campus Martius), 219-221 (Column of Marcus Aurelius), 223-238 (Hadrianeum, Pantheon, Stadium and Odeum of Domitian); Tuck 2015: Ch. 9 (only 245-260); Yegül and Favro 2019: 357-370 (Pantheon).


Class 13.

TOPIC: Rome from the Severans to Constantine the Great: water culture, power, and politics

*Paper due today!! Bring printed copy in class and submit digital form on Moodle.

SITE VISITS: Septizodium, Baths of Caracalla, Arch of Constantine, Basilica Nova, Temple of Venus and Roma.

MEETING PLACE: Outside the Metro B “Circo Massimo” Stop (outside the station next to Gusto Massimo Bar).

READING: Claridge 2010: 21-28 (history), 115-117 (Basilica Nova), 118-121 (Temple of Venus and Roma), 306-308 (Colossus), 308-312 (Arch of Constantine), 356-365 (Septizodium, Baths of Caracalla); Elsner 2000: 152-158, 163, 175 (Arch of Constantine & spolia); Tuck 2015: Ch. 10, 11 (only 301-313) & 12.


Class 14.

TOPIC: Review Class

MEETING PLACE: JCU Classroom (Chapel, Room 2) at 3:00pm

Bring a computer or tablet with you to class as well as all your lecture notes.


Class 15.

FINAL EXAM: December 14, 3:00-5:00pm (G.K.1.1 -- Guarini Campus, in Via della Lungara!)