Italy - Rome - Extended Study - Off-Campus Study Skip Navigation

Extended Study to Italy

Classics 250 and 250E: Private and Public Life and the Material Culture of Rome and the Cities of Vesuvius

On-campus seminar followed by three-week extended study in Italy

Director: Professor William Stull, Department of Classics
On-campus course: Spring 2014
Tentative extended study dates: May 13 - June 2, 2014
Course credit: One credit for CLAS 250; one-half credit for CLAS 250E
Prerequisites: Latin 123, or 121 and 122 or a higher-level language course in Latin and CLAS 250 during spring semester directly preceding departure for Italy for CLAS 250E
Application deadline: October 30, 2013

Private and public life in the urban centers of Roman Italy forms the focus of this extended study. Through direct study of the material culture of Rome and the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the course investigates what life was like for men, women, and children of every socioeconomic class. From the grandiose villas and urban palaces of the emperors to the modest quarters of slaves, students explore at firsthand the settings of the private lives of individuals.

Attention is also given to the public urban spaces not only of the capital city of the Empire but also of the agricultural and seaside towns covered by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. The course will trace the history of the city of Rome, with all of its political, economic, social and religious institutions, from its origins in the 8th c. BC to the end of the Roman Empire in the 4th c. AD.

Emphasis will be placed on the Etruscanized city of the Archaic period, the Rome of Julius Caesar and Augustus in the 1st c. BC, and that of the high Empire in the 2nd c. AD. The extended study introduces students to the physical spaces where Roman urban life developed and made its fundamental contribution to western civilization.

This seminar provides a much-needed, interdisciplinary balance to the education of students who, on-campus, tend to concentrate on mastering the intricacies of the ancient Latin language and the literary styles of individual Latin authors. The extended study allows students to place Latin literature within its broader historical setting by acquainting them with the material culture recovered by archaeologists primarily at Rome, but also at sites covered by the eruption of Vesuvius. Students will become directly acquainted with several types of evidence:

(a) public physical spaces (e.g., the fora, or market places and civic centers, sanctuaries, baths, theaters, and sporting arenas)
(b) public and private architectural monuments (e.g., the columns and arches recording the military conquests of the emperors, honorific statues, and tombs)
(c) private homes and slave quarters (imperial palaces and villas, middle-class homes and gardens, apartment blocks, brothels)
(d) objects (e.g., household furnishings, kitchenwares, tools, jewelry).

Students will develop an appreciation for the challenges that faced growing urban centers (e.g., provision of potable water and food, dangers for public health and welfare, threat of fire and flooding, establishing effective structures for governance and administration) and how the Romans met these challenges. In addition, they will gain a deeper and more concrete understanding of the urban development of Rome, the Eternal City, and what life in Roman Italy was like for individuals, especially those living at the smaller commercial centers in the shadow of Vesuvius whose lives were snuffed out in an instant but have been painstakingly recovered by the trowel of the archaeologist.

An additional component of the extended study is to retrace the mythical footsteps of Aeneas along the Tyrrhenian coast from Lavinium (the city he founded in Latium) to Cumae (where he visited the Sibyl who was his guide to the underworld).

Instruction and Course Work

Students will spend three weeks in Italy using Rome as their main base for daily visits to archaeological sites and museums. Each student presents several (4-7) related site reports accompanied by detailed handouts based upon the research paper he or she has already completed for CLAS 250. The professor also provides a wealth of information in the form of on-site lectures on the materials not assigned to individual students. When possible, arrangements are made for archaeologists currently engaged in on-going excavations and the study of artifacts to guide students through their excavation while in progress and speak to the group about the research methods, goals, and expected outcomes of the fieldwork.

During the field trip to Campania, emphasis will be placed on the investigation of individual members of Roman society, specifically the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Students will thus focus their second project on reconstructing the life of a given person, usually within the larger social group of a household. Students will collaborate to create a brief documentary video narrative for each family group showing the physical places and objects that reflect the possible daily life of the individuals whose lives they are investigating.

Before leaving Rome, students will write a brief final essay reflecting on the importance of the material culture that is related to their research topics as they experienced it on-site in Italy.


The course is open only to students who have completed Latin 123, or Latin 121 and 122 or a higher-level language course in Latin as well as CLAS 250 during the spring semester directly before departure for Italy.


Student cost estimate