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

INSTRUCTOR: Alberto Prieto
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: M 9:15 AM 12:00 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.

The majority of the course will by necessity focus on Rome, where we will follow a physical and intellectual route that straddles the chronological and topographical (location-based) sequences. We will begin by learning the basic outlines of settlement in prehistoric Italy (and the Mediterranean basin generally) as dictated by considerations of geography, geology, and hydrology. From there we will ponder the early urbanization of Rome under the leadership of the kings and the aristocratic senate, while Rome acquired mastery of the Italian peninsula and then the western Mediterranean, before moving on to the city’s spectacular metamorphosis into a world capital under the guidance of prominent aristocrats and emperors upon attaining control of the eastern Mediterranean. Along the way we will discuss building materials and types, decorative elements and styles, urban spaces, and infrastructure in the context of typical social, religious, political, military, and economic activities involving ancient people of all age ranges, social classes, genders, and ethnic origins. We will study how the Romans, individually and collectively, used their city as a living laboratory for the construction and transmission of their identity and the preservation of historical memory, and we will learn to distinguish between elements borrowed from other cultures and innovations introduced by the Romans themselves. We will apply these same concepts to Pompeii and Ostia Antica, two cities with very different histories, looking for points of comparison and contrast with each other and Rome.


As a result of this course, the student will understand how the cities of Rome, Pompeii, and Ostia Antica originated, developed, and changed in the context of Italic, Roman, and broader Mediterranean history between ca. 1500 BC and AD 600. The student will be able to explain the origins, developments, and changes in terms of physical setting, available resources, and internal and external cultural factors representing real and specific human needs and desires. The student will also be able to describe and identify the relative contributions of ancient literature, history, art history, architecture, and archaeology to our understanding of the appearance, function/purpose, and development of both specific sites/monuments and the city as a whole.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
Rome Alive: A Source-guide to the Ancient CityP. J. AicherBolchazy-Carducci0865164738  Ebook  
Daily Life in the Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, and OstiaG. S. AldreteGreenwood Press0313017972  Ebook  
Rome. An Oxford Archaeological GuideA. ClaridgeOxford University Press9780199546831  Ebook  
Rome and Environs. An Archaeological GuideF. CoarelliUniversity of California Press 9780520957800  Ebook  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Ancient Rome: The Archaeology of the Eternal CityJ. Coulston and H. DodgeOxford University School of Archaeology9781782975021  

Assignment 1Assignment 1 is a brief research project relating the most important facts/details about, and the overall significance of, a site or monument in the Roman Forum (date of creation, creator, materials, notable associated events and personalities, etc.) within the context of Roman history, art and architecture, and economic, social, and urban history. For Assignment 1 the student will 1. compose a brief written summary (minimum 2 double-spaced typed pages of text) of the research to be submitted to the instructor via Moodle or e-mail, and 2. make a brief presentation of the research on-site. The individual topics for Assignment 1 will be assigned in the third week of the course. The instructor will provide guidance on research sources and expected contents. The paper and presentation for Assignment 1 will be evaluated on 1. the quality and depth of the research and 2. the clarity of the delivery, both written and oral. 10
Assignment 2Assignment 2 is an analytical exercise comparing and contrasting Pompeii and Ostia Antica. 10
Assignment 3Assignment 3 is an analytical exercise based on the Regionary Catalogs, two lists of the structures in Rome compiled around AD 354. 10
mid-term examThe mid-term exam tests the student's knowledge and comprehension of the material studied in the first half of the course.25
final examThe final exam tests the student's cumulative knowledge and comprehension of the material studied in the course.30
parThe student's presence in the class sessions is essential for learning the material taught in the course.15

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.

As the material covered in the course is cumulative in nature, students are expected to attend every class session, including the two field trips. However, there may be days over the course of the semester in which students are sick or otherwise indisposed. Students are allowed to miss one of the ten scheduled class sessions or one of the two field trips without question or penalty, although students who miss a class or field trip are required to understand the material covered in their absence. The University does not require medical certificates for routine illnesses causing minor absences from regular class meetings. Every subsequent absence from class not substantiated by a valid excuse will result in a loss of 3 points from the 15-point participation component of the course, equivalent to 3% of the final course grade. Personal travel is never considered a valid excuse for missing class.
Students 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 the student 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 December 15.
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.


Week 1 9/4 Course introduction; origins, geology and geography, and overview of Roman history

Meeting point: classroom C 2.3 8:30-9:45 (note the unusual time)

Visits: Aventine, Palatine, and Capitoline hills, Velabrum; Tiber River and Tiber Island (10:00-11:15)

Readings: Coarelli 1-9; Aicher §1-3; Claridge 4-38

G. Heiken, R. Funiciello, and D. De Rita, The Seven Hills of Rome. A Geological Tour of the Eternal City. Princeton: Princeton University Press 2007. Ch. 1

D. P. Crouch, Geology and Settlement: Greco-Roman Patterns. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2003. Chs. 1, 2, and 7


Week 2 9/11 Regal Rome

Meeting point: Tiber Island, in front of Church of St. Bartolomeo

Visits: Capitoline, Sant’Omobono sacred area, Forum Boarium, Circus Maximus, Roman Forum

Readings: Coarelli 29-47, 131-133, 307-313; Aicher §9-10, 12-21, 58-59, 111-112

C. Smith, “Early and Archaic Rome”


Week 3 9/18 Republican Rome; the triumph & triumphal route

Meeting point: Largo Argentina, next to the tower

Visits: Largo Argentina, Circus Flaminius, Temples of Apollo & Bellona, Tiber Island & bridges, Porticus of Metellus, Forum Holitorium, Roman Forum, Theaters of Pompey and Marcellus

Readings: Coarelli 261-272, 275-285, 313-321, 348-350, 537-540; Aicher §11, 81, 85-87, 98-99, 101-110, 113, 115-117, 119-120; Claridge 39-60; Aldrete Ch. 5


Week 4 9/25 NO CLASS (in lieu of Pompeii trip)


Week 5 10/2 From Republic to Empire – Assignment 1; review for mid-term exam

Meeting point: Largo della Salara Vecchia 5/6, in front of Forum ticket office

Visits: Roman Forum

Readings: Coarelli 47-99; Aldrete Ch. 4

A. J. Ammerman, “On the Origins of the Forum Romanum,” American Journal of Archaeology 94.4 (1990): 627-645.


Week 6 10/9 mid-term exam 9:00-12:00

Meeting point: classroom C 2.3


Week 7 10/16 NO CLASS (in lieu of Pompeii trip)

Week 8

M 10/23 NO CLASS (in lieu of Ostia Antica trip)


F 10/27 Pompeii

Meeting point: Lungotevere Farnesina 6 6:50

Readings: Aldrete Ch. 14

Pompeii Archaeological Park official guidebook in English: pp. 8-9, 16, 20, 25, 27, 30-32, 34-35, 38-39, 56, 59-60, 66, 69, 74-77, 83-88, 91-95, 98, 104-106, 110-115, 123

A. Wallace-Hadrill, Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1994. Chs. 1-3


S 10/28 Ostia Antica; Baths of Caracalla

Meeting point: Porta S. Paolo train station, in the entrance foyer 8:30

Readings: Coarelli 451-476; Aldrete Chs. 12-13

Internet Group Ostia website: www.ostia-antica.org


Guidebook in English   

D. J. Mattingly and G. S. Aldrete, “The Feeding of Imperial Rome: The Mechanics of the Food Supply System”


Week 9 10/30 Augustan Campus Martius

Meeting point: Theater of Marcellus

Visits: Theaters of Pompey and Marcellus, Porticus of Octavia, Baths of Agrippa, meridian, Pantheon, Mausoleum of Augustus, Ara Pacis

Readings: Coarelli 285-286, 299-304; Aicher §88, 94-96; Aldrete Ch. 7

S. Walker, “The Moral Museum: Augustus and the City of Rome”

D. Favro, “Making Rome a World City” in K. Galinsky (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2005.


Assignment 2 due


Week 10 11/6 Capital of Empire

Meeting point: Column of Trajan

Visits: Imperial Forums, Palatine hill, Colosseum (exterior), Domus Aurea/Baths of Trajan

Readings: Coarelli 103-128, 133-156, 177-190; Aicher §73-80, 60-65, 66-69; Aldrete Ch. 11


Week 11 11/13 Imperial Campus Martius

Meeting point: Largo Argentina, next to the tower

Visits: Pantheon, Temple of Divine Hadrian, Column of Marcus Aurelius, Stadium of Domitian, Mausoleum of Hadrian/Castel Sant’Angelo

Readings: Coarelli 286-299, 360-362; Aicher §89-93, 97; Aldrete Ch. 10

J. DeLaine, “Building the Eternal City: The Construction Industry of Imperial Rome”


Week 12 11/20 Entertainment and leisure

Meeting point: corner of Via dei Cerchi and Via dell'Ara Massima di Ercole

Visits: Circus Maximus, Colosseum (exterior)

Readings: Coarelli 164-172, 323-331; Aicher §70, 128, 130; Aldrete Chs. 8-9

K. Coleman, “Entertaining Rome”

G. Fagan, “Bathing for Health with Celsus and Pliny the Elder.” Classical Quarterly 56.1 (2006): 190-207.


Week 13 11/27 NO CLASS (in lieu of Ostia Antica trip)


Assignment 3 due


Week 14 12/4 Infrastructure, housing, and cemeteries; review for final exam

Meeting point: entrance to Palatine hill (Via di San Gregorio 30)

Visits: Neronian aqueduct, Servian wall, pyramid of Cestius, Aurelianic wall, Testaccio/Emporium

Readings: Coarelli 11-27, 345-347; Aicher §4-8, 126-127; Claridge 60-61; Aldrete Chs. 3 and 6

H. Dodge, “’Greater Than the Pyramids’: The Water Supply of Ancient Rome”

J. R. Patterson, “Living and Dying in the City of Rome: Houses and Tombs”


December 11-15 Final exam