Ancient Rome was a city of contradictions. In this course we will spend a weekend studying some of its most interesting extremes, from its famous military might and urban sophistication, to its fabled decadence and debauchery. Can we work out what is the ‘real’ Rome?
On the first day we will consider the official structures of the city: its government, its empire, its religions and its legends. We will also look at the way ordinary and extraordinary people experienced ancient Rome, whether they were politicians or poets, soldiers or slaves. What did it mean to be a Roman, living one’s life in both the private home and the public forum, moving between law courts and assemblies, bathhouses and theatres? How did slaves and freedmen affect the way in which Roman society worked?
On the second day we will turn all this on its head, to look at the darker side of Roman society. What was the place of gladiatorial shows? Did the Romans really have orgies? Who were the Roman women to whom some of the most scandalous love poetry was written? Why were some emperors so notoriously sadistic – or were they? And finally, why are we once again making films about events in the Roman amphitheatre? What does this say about our culture?
No previous knowledge required.
Day 1: the respectable face of Rome
Session 1: City to Empire: Stories and Histories of Rome, from its Foundation to Fall
Session 2: The Roman Family and the State: Caesars, Citizens, Slaves.
Session 3: Everyday Rhythms: A Day in a Roman Life
Session 4: Striking a Pose: How to Play the Respectable Roman
Homework: Mapquiz, timeline, readings from Roman inscriptions, poems, speeches and
Day 2: the disreputable face of Rome
Session 1: Lust and Love in Roman Life and Literature
Session 2: The Emperor Strikes Back: Civil Wars and the Insanity of Power (Mary Beard)
Session 3: Stuffed! Dining and Death in Rome
Session 4: Rome in Retrospect: Is it all just about Gladiator(s)?
Mary Beard is a Professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and the classics editor of the TLS. Her books include the acclaimed and best-selling Pompeii, The Roman Triumph, The Parthenon (in the Wonders of the World series of which she is general editor) and It’s A Don’s Life. She is the winner of the Wolfson Prize for History for Pompeii (Profile, 2008), writes a highly successful blog for The Times and recently presented a wonderful BBC TV series on the Romans.
Dr Emily Pillinger studied Classics as an undergraduate at Oxford University and then went to teach and study in America for several years, gaining a Ph.D. in Classics from Princeton University in 2009. She moved back to the UK to work at Bristol University and more recently at Balliol College, Oxford. Her research focuses on unusual forms of communication in the literature of the ancient world, and she is particularly interested in the mysterious voices of prophets, witches, and ghosts from beyond the grave.
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