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The Roman Everyday

CX284-15, CX384-15

Module Co-ordinator: Clare Rowan


This module explores aspects of Roman daily civic life in the imperial period before late antiquity. The focus of the module will be on the evidence and experience of Rome and Ostia. The module explores how we write the history of daily life and ‘history from below’, utilising material culture, texts and frameworks developed within history, sociology and other disciplines. By studying the rhythms of Roman daily life, the module explores the ideas, social relationships and interactions that constituted and reproduced Roman society.

Learning Outcomes

  • an improved knowledge of the material and texts associated with Roman daily life and social life in Rome and Ostia
  • appreciation of the issues and approaches surrounding the creation of ‘everyday’ history and history from below
  • increased ability to analyse and critically comment on modern scholarship
  • ability to communicate research in different registers, both to an academic and public audience
  • increased skills in close analysis of ancient materials
  • enhanced research skills
  • improved ability to develop original research ideas and perspectives
  • an improved ability to put forward ideas in a written format with sophistication

Illustrative Syllabus

Each topic below covered by a one hour interactive lecture. There will also be two seminars in the module, timing and topic tbc (we are awaiting funding confirmation), but likely to be focused on Roman mould made potter.

Week 1:

1.1. Writing the everyday and history from below / 1.2. Childhood

Week 2:

2.1. Work and identity / 2.2. Collegia, social life and commensality

Week 3:

3.1. Tokens / 3.2. Gems, Glass Pastes and Seals

Week 4:

4.1. The Roman Calendar / 4.2. Shopping

Week 5:

5.1. Festivals: The Saturnalia 5.2. Festivals: The Compitalia

Week 6: Reading Week (possible workshop).

Week 7:

7.1. Spectacle: Performance / 7.2. Spectacle: Audience

Week 8:

8.1. Clothing and ‘fashion’ / 8.2. Gestures and body language

Week 9:

9.1. Roman Bathing / 9.2. Insulae

Week 10:

10.1. Writing and literacy / 10.2. Magazine article assignment workshop


1x 2250-3000 word essay, 60%.

1x magazine article of c. 1500 words in the vein of British Museum member’s magazine (, submitted with an annotated bibliography of three items (up to 150 words each item, outlining main argument, methodology, + student’s critical assessment/reaction to the text), 40%.

Summer Reading

If you want to do some reading before class begins, I recommend the introduction (pp. 1-17) of Ancient History from Below, ed. C. Courrier and Julio Cesar Magalhães de Oliveira (available online through Encore and in physical form at HN9.A385), which provides an overview of how historians have approached the everyday and defines some key terms.