Back to Course Listings
  • Discipline(s): Classical Studies
  • Available: Fall Semester Spring Semester
  • Course Type: Standard Courses
  • Taught in: English
  • Credits: 3
  • Course Travel: Overnight Field Trip to Pompeii

CLAS 355: Sex and The Ancient City: Society, Identity and Sexuality in Imperial Rome


Course Description
This course aims to explore the ways in which social, political, economic, and cultural conditions produced different ideas about sexuality and gender roles in the Roman world. Students will discover how the ideas about masculinity and femininity shaped Roman culture and eventually formed concepts that are still applied today in modern societies. Students will also learn about men’s and women’s lives, their relations and roles, the concept of marriage and family, the relationship between morality and sexuality, and the political usage of sexual identity. The class will examine these ancient constructions of social identity, gender, and sexuality through translated Roman literature, ranging from philosophy and history, to poetry and scientific as well as medical texts. Special attention will be paid to archaeological records, such as inscriptions, pieces of art, and architecture, allowing students to approach the subject through a historian and archaeologist lens, utilizing key investigative tools, including reading the texts and examining physical pieces of evidence.

Course Objectives
By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Explain the major events in the history of ancient Rome
  • Engage with both primary and secondary sources and to examine how authors of different time periods and social backgrounds present key issues
  • Describe the use of material remains (archaeological record) in learning about Roman culture
  • Relate how Roman civilization influenced their culture, and, more generally, the development of world history
  • Explain the history of classical Gender and Sexuality scholarship
  • Describe ancient Roman conceptualizations of, and attitudes to, sexuality and gender; and how those conceptualizations and attitudes found expression in their literature and art
  • Compare and contrast differences/continuities between ancient and modern ways of viewing sexuality and gender
  • Interpret gender and sexuality in the historical context of a culture

Course Materials and Lab Fee
Two mandatory course readers with all the required readings will be available at a local copy shop.
The lab fee covers costs for the field trip to Pompeii.