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Roman Culture & Society

CX 110

"All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?" Reg, in Monty Python's Life of Brian. 

What have the Romans done for us... and who were "the Romans"?

Come and explore how the Romans have shaped the modern world through their literary and material cultures. This module will asses how we define terms such as "Roman" across the broad spectrum of time and geography in the Roman Empire. The material evidence focuses from the start of the Empire under Augustus to its zenith and decline in the late 2nd/ 3rd century AD (with some analysis of Christianity into the 4th century AD). From Britain to Bulgaria and from the Nile to the Euphrates, we will consider how societies were united in Roman culture, and equally, how a number of different cultures would contribute to the concept of what is "Roman". From high literature in Rome to graffiti in a Pompeian Latrine, from massive Imperial monuments (e.g. the Colosseum) to an epitaph of a maligned Gladiator, from Trajan's column depicting the defeat of the Dacians in Rome to an altar for a Palmyrene deity in Roman Britain, we will observe and analyse Roman culture at its best (engineering aqueducts, fountains, and bathouses across an Empire).. and its worst (engineering a volcano to shoot a man into a pack of hungry dogs at a public execution). This module will illustrate how we analyse different sources from the ancient world and what these sources can reveal about the development of culture in ancient and modern contexts.

This module runs every year. See Below for Summer Reading Suggestions

Module Convenor: Dr. Abigail Graham

*Office Hours: Thursday 12-2pm, Friday 11-12pm.*

* Office hour meetings> Help me help you: to get the most out of a meeting: send an email in advance to to set up a meeting (a timeslot) and the issue that you would like to discuss. Then I can come to the meeting prepared and assure that your preferred time is available. I have ca. 90 students between two modules, so it can get quite busy.

Tutors: Prof. Zahra Newby, Dr. Elena Giusti, Dr. Dario Calomino, Denise Wilding.

SUMMER READING: Welcome Class of 2018/2019!

Roman Culture and Society assumes that you will have (or immediately acquire) an understanding of the basic historical framework of the Roman Empire (ca 30 BC- AD 330). This can be easily achieved with a bit of summer reading. The following books represent cohesive introductions to Roman Culture. While they are good for reference, it goes without saying that there will be a great deal more reading when the term starts. These books are a place to start your journey, but they are only the beginning....

Adjusting from School to University: University level analysis and research can be quite different from what is expected at school/A level exams, as are the objectives. Your degree is a journey of discovery both of the ancient world and of yourself. There are few 'correct' answers or 'set/expected' responses at university. To a much greater extent, you will decide how and what you revise from lectures. One of the best ways to prepare for this, as you read, is to consider what kind of information, events, evidence, interests you (and why). You will spend the rest of your university career choosing what topics you would like to revise, what essay and exam questions you will answer (preparing you for the even bigger questions that will come later...). So start now. If something is interesting.. dig deeper... if it is boring.. try skimming until you find something that does interest you.

Scholarship isn't just about reading but experiencing the ancient world, so the summer is also a time to visit museums and ancient sites; what does a museum exhibit tell you? What are the benefits of a face to face engagement with evidence? This is your education .. enjoy it!

A. Kamm and A. Graham (2014), The Romans, Routledge 3rd edition.

There is also a Romans Website

The new edition was significantly revised (by me) to include new resources and information (particularly relevant to the courses I teach). The first few chapters are historical (which won't be broadly covered in this course, as it is assumed that you have some Imperial history (ca. 30 BC- 220 AD) so this can be helpful revision and is useful during the year as well.) The second half is composed of thematic chapters on culture (which will be covered, in greater detail, in the course). Particularly, I recommend the online website's "Case Studies" which consider specific questions (offering further scholarship, bibliographies, and powerpoints), and illustrate a higher level of engagement and analysis with material evidence. For those trying to understand the universities expectations of source analysis and develop skills interacting with primary source evidence, these case studies are a good place to start.

G. Woolf, Rome: An Empire's Story (2013) Oxford University Press

This is an engagingly written and equally beneficial read from a world expert. It also has an excellent bibliography and foonotes, which are more useful for expanding your knowledge than a more general counterpart: Mary Beard's SPQR (<which has excellent ideas, but more limited access to further scholarship).

reinscribing handout

Reinscribing ppt

Heritage ppt

Making Rubbings of inscriptions on site in OstiaTomb of the Scipios

Warwick Students at the Tomb of the Scipios (Rome, 2014)

Reconstructing an inscription at the Main Gate in Ostia (2014)

 Dedication of the Main Gate at Ostia