Prof. Ulrich - Dept. of Classics
   This course aims to explore the zenith of Imperial Rome and its subsequent decline, primarily as seen through the archaeological record.  The "collapse" of Rome includes military failures, economic crises, and cultural transitions, as the Capital first absorbs and is finally transformed by the interactions with her provinces.  Course topics include exploration of the urban site of Ostia, port city of Rome, which flourished during the empire's "Golden Age" (mid-second century CE). Our review ends with the transfer of the capital of the empire from Rome to Byzantium (324-330 A.D.; renamed Constantinople, now modern Istanbul).  During the term we will also examine the spread of Roman civilization through the provinces: sites in Sicily, central and northern Europe, northern Africa, the Dalmatian coast, Asia Minor, and the Near and Middle East.  We shall consider the phenomenon of "Romanization" of non-Italic peoples, the effect of military and fiscal crises on the material culture of Rome, and the role of Christianity during the late Empire.

Learning Outcomes: By the end of this course you will have a broad introduction to the “material culture” of the High Roman Empire.  You will understand the physical characteristics of art and architecture that are associated with ancient Rome and achieve a basic understanding of how to “read” an ancient site or artifact.  You will attain a basic understanding of the changes that took place in the Roman world during the last two centuries of Rome’s period of dominance.  You will improve your ability to read plans and elevations and develop a basic vocabulary for describing physical objects from the ancient Roman world.  You will be able to apply general concepts of spatial organization and environment to the world you live in today.

Requirements of the Course

Reading Assignments will be available on the course website and from books on Reserve in Baker Library

Recommended text to own:
 • H.P. L'Orange, Art Forms and Civic Life in the Late Roman Empire   *ArtForms (best to purchase used copies online)

Written/Graded Work (final grade is determined by attendance and five graded exercises):

1. 1000 word descriptive Exercise or a sample catalog entry: 10% of final grade

2. Hour Test: 20% of final grade

3. Review Quiz: 15% of grade

4. Formal Essay 30% of final grade
Students are also required to write 2000-2500 word paper on an assigned topic (see course website).

5. Final Take-home Test: 25% of total grade

Honor Code:
I invite all members of the class to share ideas both within and outside the classroom.  I expect all written work, however, to be composed by the individual under whose name it is submitted. For papers, students are reminded to cite all ideas that are not their own– these include traditional sources such as articles and books, as well as information or data acquired from electronic (e.g., the internet) sources.


Week 1:

Introduction – Chronology and Structure: Where does this course begin in space and time?  What are some of the important questions to consider when we study the late Roman empire?

Hadrian and Antoninus Pius: Self Representation: Who were the two emperors associated with Rome’s “Golden Age,” a time when the empire reached its apogee in terms of peace and prosperity?

Marcus Aurelius as "Ideal Emperor": This emperor would be held up by later generations as one of Rome’s premier examples of imperial leadership.  How was this message of achievement projected during his reign?  We will focus on official relief sculpture made in his honor, including his representation on a triumphal arch and a commemorative column.

Week 2:

The Imperial Roman City – the topography of Ostia Antica: Introduction to the physical characteristics of a Roman city during the High empire.  How did Rome’s port city of Ostia come into being?

The Imperial Forum of Ostia: What are the essential characteristics of a town’s civic center in the imperial period?  How does the forum at Ostia balance the needs of official religion, commercial activity, and civic administration?

The Fora of North Africa: The Roman-period urbanization of provinces in the West, like those of North Africa (now in areas of Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria) vividly demonstrates how the Capital represented its power through architecture.  The Roman “franchise” can be studied through comparative study of civic spaces (the focus here will be on forum design) in her colonies and rebuilt cities.

Week 3:

Basilicas and Audience Halls: The Roman basilica is one of the most durable legacies from the ancient world, a multi-purpose hall that was eventually adapted by Early Christian architects to shelter the first Christian congregations in the fourth century CE.  In this class we will review the development of the basilica in the late Roman period, focusing on examples from Rome and the provinces.

The Public Baths and Water Supply of Ostia: Bath complexes like the Baths of Neptune and the Forum Baths of Ostia were among the most lavish public buildings of the ancient port town.  We will consider how they came into being, how they worked, how they were decorated, and what they can tell us about Roman concepts of organization of civic life.

Imperial Bathing Establishments: the Baths of Caracalla: By the Severan period (third century) the Imperial Bath complexes paid for by the emperor could accommodate thousands of bathers in a setting that is only rivaled by the imperial residence in terms of its luxury building materials and decoration. 

Week 4:

Insulae, Apartments, and Warehouses: How did Roman planners respond to population increase in the urban environment?  Do multi-family housing solutions necessarily require a degradation of quality in living space for the individual family or owner?  How are infrastructural needs, including a secure food supply, best guaranteed for concentrated populations?

Houses of the Elite at Ostia: From the ruins of houses at Ostia can we distinguish between dwellings for the rich and the poor?  How are resources expended to make some residences more desirable than others?  How do the wealthy compete with their peers?

The Piazza Armerina of Sicily: Having explored the phenomenon of elite housing at Ostia, we turn to some provincial villas and palaces of the most privileged members of Roman society, and begin with a late villa that has been excavated in Sicily.

Week 5:

Diocletian’s Palace at Split (intro to the tetrarchy): An introduction to Diocletian and the creation of the “tetrarchy.”  To continue the themes introduced in the previous two classes, we will examine Diocletian’s palace in Split (Spalato), Croatia.

From Split to Constantinople: A review of the development of imperial palaces in the late Roman empire.  What are the essential components of the palace of the emperor; are they replicated from place to place?  How will these be transferred from Rome to the new capital, Constantinople?

Worshipping the Emperor: Apotheosis and The Imperial Cult at Ostia (Severans): The first of a series of lectures that examines Roman religion from an archaeological perspective in the late Roman period.  We will examine the concept of imperial apotheosis and study how the cult of the emperor worked in everyday life.

Week 6:

The Transformation of the Emperor, the Concept of the Deus Praesens: How was the emperor transformed into a kind of “living god” over the course of the third century?  We can trace this development through official portraiture from the late second century to the early fourth.

Foreign Cults at Ostia: In addition to the “traditional” gods and goddesses worshipped by Romans (many of them adopted from Greek cults), contact with exotic places through military campaigns and trade introduced many new cults to Italy.  We will consider in this lecture how new gods were absorbed and in some cases supplanted the traditional gods, and why this took place. In this context we can also consider the communities of Jews and Christians.

The First Christian Churches: In the wake of the Edict of Milan (313 CE), the first officially sanctioned Christian churches were built in Rome.  In this lecture we will trace the earliest development of the Christian basilica.

Week 7:

Honoring the Dead: Isola Sacra: Roman cemeteries skirted every Roman town; the interplay between the living and the dead was vivid and important to the identity of surviving family and town.  This is the first of a series of classes where we will explore how art and architecture forged a tangible relationship between this world and the one “beyond.”

The Roman Sarcophagus:  In the second and third centuries, the marble sarcophagi made to hold and protect mortal remains developed into one of the high art forms of the Roman sculptor. 

Late Imperial Mausolea and the development of the Christian baptistery: We will consider how the mausolea-shrines of the last emperors and their families influenced the design of the earliest Christian baptisteries.  How rituals and art of imperial death and apotheosis might have served as a model for spiritual death and rebirth.

Week 8:

Early Christian Catacombs: What models did the early Christian wall painters and sculptors use to decorate the tombs of the faithful?

Ports, Shipping and Commercial Space at Ostia:  In this class we examine the archaeology of the pan-Mediterranean marketplace.  How did goods flow into Rome’s port city? What was the role and nature of the guilds in late antiquity?

Provincial Marketplaces and Trade: Continuing the theme of the last lecture, we will consider how trade routes and market centers were developed in the provinces, focusing on the important trade routes that ran across the Middle East, across the Mediterranean, and westward to Italy.

Week 9:

The Last Walls of Ostia, Rome, Trier, and Constantinople: Sustained and expensive efforts to build massive walls and gates around Roman cities in the late Roman period provide poignant evidence of the threats faced by the empire.  Civic fortificationbecome monumental works in their own right; we will consider a few of the greatest examples.

The Arch of Constantine: An examination of the last great triumphal arch built at Rome is both a nostalgic review of Rome’s glorious history and a hint at the first Christian emperor’s delicate balancing act between the old and new orders.

Imperial Christianity: When Christianity was embraced by the imperial household in the fourth century, it was itself transformed into an “imperial” religion.  The “imperialization” of Christianity will be considered through contemporary sculpture, painting, numismatics, and mosaics.