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Ancient Mediterranean

Fall 2023

On a fall day in 79 CE, the Roman city of Pompeii was engulfed by a catastrophic eruption of nearby Mt. Vesuvius. Over a millennium later, this once unremarkable small city began to be rediscovered, and it quickly captured the imaginations of early archaeologists, collectors, travelers, and writers of the Grand Tour era. To this day, Pompeii remains one of the most popular, informative, and yet vastly misunderstood archaeological sites. For Pompeii is more than a city entombed, a time capsule buried in one moment, to be uncovered in another, and then preserved for eternal display. This course explores what lies beyond this immediate image of Pompeii. It reveals the many layers with which the remains from the site tell of multiple phases in the city's history and multiple geologic events both prior to and during the 79 CE eruption. At the same time, it highlights the history of intervention at the site as emblematic of some of the deepest problems inherent in the archaeological acts of excavation, interpretation, and preservation. The course then considers the extent to which Pompeii constitutes a "typical" Roman city, by on the one hand studying what its remains can reveal about Roman society, culture, and daily life, while on the other hand viewing those remains in both a regional and an empire-wide context. We will explore the streets, homes, shops, sanctuaries, and tombs of Pompeii but with an eye looking outward, not only to the complexities of the ancient Roman world but also to an ongoing, ever fluid history of engaging with the past. May be taken for credit toward the Greek and/or Roman history elective requirement of the Classics major.

Prof. Davies, 4 credits, TTh 1-2:20 p.m.

-Fulfills Social Sciences or Humanities distribution and Classics elective requirements.

-History major: pre-modern; Cultures & Ideas; Before Modernity

By the age of thirty-three, Alexander III of Macedon had done the unthinkable: through a startling combination of violence, propaganda, and sheer showmanship, he had "claimed mastery" over regions and peoples extending from Athens to Asia Minor, from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to Egypt, and across western Asia as far as Bactria and India. In doing so, he captured the giddy imagination of "Big Man History," supercharging debates, both ancient and modern and in multiple traditions, regarding imperial power and the role of the individual in society. And although Alexander's myth has continued to loom large -- with a myriad of interpretations, from the celebratory to the moralizing to the subversive and condemnatory -- Alexander himself did not live to do more than "conquer." At his death, his titanic project fractured, re-emerging more than twenty years later as four kingdoms interlocked by competing visions of "global" power. It was this world -- known to scholars as the "Hellenistic" -- that experienced new dynamics of power/knowledge, from brutal wars and colonial displacements to international libraries and monumental museums leveraging cultural capital, to challenges to old forms of authority and the peculiar advent of a new geo-political force, Rome. This course examines the full range of these stories and their many receptions, from the meteoric career of Alexander to the last stand of Cleopatra. At once book-ended and punctuated by large-scale personalities, this course also explores the profound importance of social, political, and economic trends, using a combination of literary, archaeological, art-historical, and theoretical analyses to re-read a three-hundred-year period of rapid change.

Prof. Davies, 4 credits, MW 2:30-3:50 p.m.

-Fulfills Social Sciences or Humanities distribution, as well as SAMES, Global Studies, and Classics elective requirements.

-History major: pre-modern; Cultures & Ideas; Empires & Colonialism; Before Modernity

Spring 2024

(No Courses Offered)

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