Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module CLAS3321: Urbs Roma

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS3321: Urbs Roma

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • CLAS1301 or CLAS2631 or ARCH 1131 or ARCH 2091 or ARCH 2161 or GEOG1211 or GEOG2511


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To equip students with an understanding of the city of Rome from its origins to the late Empire in its historical, cultural, topographical and architectural context and to introduce students to wider themes in urban history and their application to the ancient world.
  • To provide experience of evaluating different types of evidence from antiquity and the classical tradition, including maps, plans, drawings, coins, archaeological excavations, standing remains, models and digital reconstructions, and to make sense of and engage with scholarly discussions of history, topography and archaeology.
  • To enable students to form independent conclusions relating to the material studied.
  • To facilitate research into the urban texture of ancient Rome in a detailed and contextual way and into historical, topographical and architectural aspects of urban history, and to aid the development of independent aesthetic and historical judgments in order to be able to assess visual evidence for ancient Rome.
  • To consolidate students' study of historical and art-historical modules relating to the Roman world by helping them to acquire a fuller understanding of how buildings and spaces in ancient Rome are related to Roman history, society and culture and of how they have been used, studied and interpreted up to the present day.
  • To provide a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials developing skills in particular aspects as a basis for student learning.
  • To test subject skills of investigation, interpretation and evaluation regarding the urban history of ancient Rome through essays on a variety of topics submitted by written coursework.


  • The module, intended for students with some previous knowledge of Roman society and of selected buildings of the city of Rome in the Augustan period, but open to others with previous understanding of Roman history or archaeology of the Roman world or understanding of issues of urban geography, approaches the study of Rome as a city, regarded above all as a physical and an architectural entity, as well as a cultural phenomenon, and an ideal.
  • This topic is organized both chronologically and thematically and involves historical, archaeological, topographical and literary approaches to a wide range of evidence drawn from the Republican and Imperial periods and from the classical tradition.
  • Aspects covered include themes such as: 1. The site of Rome, its urban origins and early development. 2. The physical and social changes to Rome between the Archaic period and the Republic. 3. The organisation and interpretation of the Roman Forum. 4. The impact of empire on the urban texture of the city. 5. The buildings of the Campus Martius. 6. The Imperial Fora. 7. Housing and burial 8. The religious buildings of the city 9. The aqueducts and imperial bath buildings 10. The social transformation of the city in late antiquity 11. The changes to the city in the medieval period. 12. The urban developments of the early modern period.
  • Archaeological, visual and cartographic material, including modern reconstructions of ancient Rome in models and films, as well as selected extracts in translation from various sources (literary and epigraphic) are studied.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A knowledge of the chief city of the ancient Roman and Catholic world over a time span of some 2500 years, based on an acquaintance with the varied range of evidence (visual and literary) which pertains to it; a grasp of Roman self-awareness in relation to the buildings of their city as a cultural monument; sophisticated ability to handle issues of scholarly debate in the areas studied.
  • An awareness of the topography and architecture of ancient Rome and an understanding of the literary and archaeological material employed in its reconstruction; sophistication in using cartographic and archaeological evidence.
  • A knowledge of relevant aspects of the classical tradition and reception of ancient Rome and an understanding of its importance for shaping modern knowledge and interpretation and modern urban development.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to handle the methodologies appropriate for a sophisticated understanding of the diverse range of evidence that exists for the history of antiquity: in particular archaeological remains of structures and artefacts, topographical sources, written texts (literary and otherwise), and early modern engravings and maps of the city; an ability to synthesize these different forms of evidence in reconstructing a coherent and plausible picture of the city of Rome and its culture and evaluating modern reconstructions of the ancient city through models, films and digital reconstructions; and an ability to present ideas and arguments in written form according to the conventions of academic writing.
  • Subject knowledge and skills in historical and topographical evaluation and research, in evaluation of modern receptions of ancient Rome and in illustrated written presentation are tested through the submitted coursework.
Key Skills:
  • The skills needed to analyse, evaluate, and synthesise a wide range of evidence, and to select and apply the methodologies appropriate in different cases;
  • The capacity to sustain a clear, well-structured, and well-defended argument in written form;
  • The ability and self-discipline to work autonomously, and the capacity for organisation required to meet deadlines and to negotiate competing claims on finite resources;
  • The ability to communicate orally in an academic context and to organise, plan, articulate oral presentations in groups and individually;
  • Facility with key IT resources: in particular, the ability to use word-processors and online databases of archaeological or pictorial material;
  • Also the ability to make fruitful use of selected scholarly internet resources and to apply scholarly techniques to ancient and modern material.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures are appropriate to the imparting of information and of methods of interpretation, of both ancient evidence and modern scholarship.
  • Student-led seminars on archaeological and topographical material provide engagement with varieties of historical evidence and opportunities to gain practical experience in discussion of film extracts, as well as developing skills in oral presentation of arguments.
  • Writing essays enables the assembling and evaluation of material and the formulation of logical and coherent argument, as well as skills in written English.
  • Formative and summative oral presentations in groups and individually enable students to practise skills in presenting information and ideas orally to an audience and in collaborating with and assessing peers and enhance students' employability by developing skills of communication and presentation.
  • The written coursework (research project) tests students' ability to focus relevantly on historical issues and visual material and the changes in the urban environment across a period of time, assesses their understanding of the methodologies for handling artefactual, visual and written material, and demonstrates their ability to organise knowledge and argument for the purposes of a research project appropriate to the level and to questions raised in the module.
  • Skills tutorials contribute to the critical handling of evidence required to be evaluated in the portfolio assignments and to facility of discussion of methodological issues. They provide an introduction to a range of specialist skills and techniques relevant to the study of the ancient city, including cartography, numismatics, archaeological research, architectural evaluation, plastic and digital models, and cinema.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 1 per week in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms 1 Hour 20
Skills tutorials 4 3 in Michaelmas Term, 1 in Epiphany Term 1 Hour 4
Seminars 6 3 in Michaelmas Term and 3 in Epiphany Term 1 Hour 6
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Individual oral presentation (topography) in Epiphany Term, assessed according to demonstration of oral skills [with use of Powerpoint and handout 10 minutes 25% Yes
Research project (urban history) 4,000 words 75% Yes

Formative Assessment:

One oral group presentation on topographical material (in Michaelmas Term), assessed by peer assessment, lasting 15 minutes, and one plan for the research project (early Epiphany Term), 1,000 words. No collections.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University