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Domestic Space in the Roman World: Outline

Academic Aims

This module looks at the layout and decoration of houses, villas, and palaces in the Roman world over a period of some 600 years (from the Late Republic to the Late Empire). While concentrating on the material from Italy, it will also look at comparative material from other provinces around the Roman Empire and at the reception of this material in post-classical times. The subject will be approached from a variety of angles. Looking at ancient literature, modern theories of space and the archaeological remains of domestic buildings, we will consider the ways in which Romans shaped domestic space to accommodate important social rituals at different levels of society. The decoration of these spaces with mosaics, sculptures and wall-paintings will also be an important focus of the course. The material will thus be examined both from an art-historical perspective, and within its broader social and cultural contexts.

Learning Objectives

During this module, students should gain a thorough understanding of the development of domestic architecture and decoration (including floor mosaics, wall-painting and sculpture) and their application in a variety of different domestic contexts. They will be asked to evaluate literary texts, archaeological plans and material remains from a number of different perspectives, and to set them within their historical and cultural contexts. The informal presentations in seminars are designed to give students experience and confidence in discussing examples of particular buildings or art-works as well as more general presentational and audio-visual skills. Students will also be encouraged to consider the ways in which Roman domestic space and decoration has been studied or received in post-classical times, considering issues of reception, methodology and historiography.