Back to Course Listings
  • Discipline(s): History
  • Available: Spring Semester
  • Course Type: Standard Courses
  • Taught in: English
  • Credits: 4
  • Course Travel: Three-day trip to Ercolano, Pompei, and Naples

HIST 215: Roman Civilization and Daily Life

Note: This course is crosslisted with CLAS 215. This course was formerly HSRC 330.

Course Description
How did an average citizen of a town in the Roman Empire live? What were his or her daily habits, duties and  pleasures? Where did the typical male citizen work, how was family life organized, and, finally, what was the system of beliefs and values that guided daily life? In order to answer such questions, we will follow the life of an ordinary Roman citizen in Pompeii, an ordinary, small city on the shores of the Mediterranean in Roman Italy during the first century AD. Famous for being destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 and uniquely preserved under feet of hardened lava, Pompeii and the neighboring towns are now one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Since their rediscovery in the 1700s, these cities have yielded tons of immensely valuable archaeological material: from remains of charred food to impressive ruins of public buildings; from written graffitti on the walls to rich art collections in individual houses.

With all categories of material culture, Pompeii can provide us with an insight into social, political, religious, and commercial life in the ancient Roman world. By tracing the footsteps of our hero, the typical male citizen, we will explore the streets, homes, shops, and public buildings of Pompeii and neighboring cities of Herculaneum and Stabiae. Through the things they left behind, we will learn about everyday life, and ultimately death, in the context of the ancient Roman world in general. Pompeii will serve as a microcosm for studying Roman society and culture. The overarching goal is to integrate archaeological, art historical, and primary literary material into a single, coherent intellectual narrative in order to gain a complex understanding of Roman Civilization at its height.

Note: The course will include a weekend field trip to Pompeii.

Course Materials
A comprehensive course reader available from The Umbra Institute. When needed, additional handouts will be provided by the instructor.