Greek and Roman Archaeology

Academic year: 2021-22
Course: Greek and Roman Archaeology, Foundation Course Humanities
Credits: 6
Period: Second semester

Number of hours: 48

Teacher(s): Salvatore Vitale (

Language of instruction: English

Learning outcomes


The goal of this class is to provide students with a basic comprehension of the most significant historical developments and material cultural elements of Ancient Greece and Rome from the Aegean Bronze Age (3rd Millennium B.C.E.) to the beginning of Late Antiquity (4th century C.E.). Critical thinking and elaboration of the notions discussed in class are highly encouraged and promoted.

Assessment criteria of knowledge

Competency in the subject matter addressed in the course is tested through oral discussions during classes and a final written exam (see below, Assessment methods). 


By the end of this class, students will have gained familiarity with the main historical and socio-political trajectories characterizing Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. They will also be able to frame these trajectories in the context of the complex dynamics of cultural interaction that typify Mediterranean civilizations between the 3rd Millennium B.C.E. and the 4th century C.E. 

Assessment criteria of skills

The skills gained during this class are verified through critical open discussions held during classes, an oral discussion at the end of the course, and a final written exam (see below, Assessment methods).


During this class students will develop the ability to critically discuss the material culture of Ancient Greece and Rome and the complex relationships between Ancient Greece and Rome and other Mediterranean civilizations from the 3rd Millennium B.C.E. to the 4th century C.E.


This is a survey course. No specific prerequisite is required.


This class is a survey course of the archaeology, art history, and material culture of the Greek and Roman worlds from the Aegean Bronze Age to Constantine and the beginning of Late Antiquity. Particular attention is placed on three subjects. The first one is the diachronic development of Greek and Roman civilizations and arts within their specific socio-cultural and political settings. The second is the dynamic legacy of Classical antiquity in the contemporary world. The third is the study of identity formations and cultural entanglements in the ancient Mediterranean from prehistory to the late Roman period. This third subject emphasizes the crucial contribution of diversity and interaction for the development of human cultures and societies.

These topics are presented and critically discussed through the following 24 individual subjects (for the abbreviations, see the bibliography provided below).

Subject 1: Introduction to Greek and Roman Archaeology

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 1–18; (and) Renfrew and Bahn 2014

Subject 2. Greek Prehistory Part 1: Minoan Civilization

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 19–24, 32–43, 48–52; (and) Rutter,

Subject 3. Greek Prehistory Part 2: Mycenaean Civilization

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 43–47, 52–67; (and) Rutter,

Subject 4. Cultural Narratives: Entangled Things in the Prehistoric Aegean

Readings: J.B. Rutter,; (and) Vitale 2016

Subject 5. Greece from the 12th to the 8th Century B.C.E.: From the End of the Mycenaean Palaces to the Rise of the Polis

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 68–96; (and) Rutter,

Subject 6. The 7th Century B.C.E. and Greek Religious Architecture

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 130–178; (and) Antonaccio 1994

Subject 7. Archaic Greece: Sculpture, Architecture, and Vase Painting

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 179–208

Subject 8. Classical Greece Part 1: Olympia and Aegina

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 235–246

Subject 9. Classical Greece Part 2: Athenian Public Space and Architecture during the 5th Century B.C.E.

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 97–110

Subject 10. Classical Greece Part 3: The Acropolis of Athens in Its Socio-Political Context

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 246–253

Subject 11. The Fourth Century in Greece: Archaeology and Identity

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 286–340

Subject 12. Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Period

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 343–379

Subject 13. Cultural Narratives: Greek Culture and the Mediterranean Worlds, 3rd to 2nd Centuries B.C.E.

Readings: Stansbury-O’Donnell 2015, pp. 380–387

Subject 14. Italy before Rome: Magna Graecia and Etruria

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. xxi–xlviii

Subject 15. Rome from the Foundation to the End of the Republican Period

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. 1–60

Subject 16. Augustus and the Early Empire

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. 61–102

Subject 17. The Julio-Claudian Dynasty

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. 103–120

Subject 18. The Civil War, the Flavian Dynasty, and Nerva

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. 121–138

Subject 19. Pompeii and Its Surrounding in the 1st Century C.E.

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. 139–152

Subject 20. The High Empire 1: Trajan

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. 153–170

Subject 21. The High Empire 2: From Hadrian to Commodus

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. 171–230

Subject 22. The Severan Dynasty

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. 231–246

Subject 23. From the Crisis of the 3rd Century C.E. to Constantine and Early Christian Art

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. 263–306

Subject 24. Part 1: Cultural Narratives: Romanization and the Mediterranean Worlds

Readings: Kleiner 2010, pp. 247–262; (and) Alcock 2001

Subject 24. Part 2: Archaeological Dialogues. Interactive Discussion of Relevant Slides and Subjects Presented throughout the Course.


The bibliography for the course includes two textbooks and a list of additional readings (see above, Syllabus). Textbooks are mandatory and are supplemented by the contents of the lectures (specific subjects and the iconographic repertoire enclosed in the PowerPoint presentations shown during each class). Additional articles are not mandatory, but are suggested for those who wish to know more on some specific subjects treated within the class.


  • Greek Archaeology and Art History:

Stansbury-O’Donnell, M.D., A History of Greek Art. Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell, 2015. [ISBN: ISBN 978-1-4443-5015-9].

  • Roman Archaeology and Art History:

Kleiner, F.S., A History of Roman Art. Boston: Wadsworth, 2010.

[ISBN: 978-0-495-90987-3].

Additional Readings:

  • Alcock 2001

Alcock, S., “Vulgar Romanization and the Dominance of Elites,” in S. Keav and N. Terrenato (eds.), Italy and the West. Comparative Issues in Romanization. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2001, pp. 226–230. [ISBN 1842170422]

  • Antonaccio 1994

Antonaccio, C.M., “Contesting the Past: Tomb Cult, Hero Cult, and Epic in Early Greece,” American Journal of Archaeology 98, pp. 389–410.

  • Renfrew and Bahn 2014

Renfrew, C. and Bahn P., Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (Sixth ed.).London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2014, pp. 12–19. [ISBN 978-0-500-29021-7].

  • Rutter

Aegean Prehistoric On-Line Lessons:

  • Vitale 2016

Vitale, S. “Cultural Entanglements on Kos during the Late Bronze Age: A Comparative Analysis of Minoanisation and Mycenaeanisation at the ‘Serraglio’, Eleona, and Langada,” in E. Gorogianni, P. Pavúk, L. Girella (eds.), Beyond Thalassocracies. Understanding Processes of Minoanisation and Mycenaeanisation in the Aegean. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2016, pp. 75-93. [ISBN 978-1-78570-203-7].

Further materials may be provided during the lectures.

Assessment methods

Grades are based on the combination of three factors, which include attendance and active participation in class, ability to discuss relevant slides and topics presented during the course (see above, Syllabus, Subject 24, Part 2), and a final written exam. Specifically, grades are determined as follows:

Attendance and Active Participation in Class20%
Archaeological Dialogues (Oral Discussion during Subject 24, Part 2)30%
Final Written Exam50%

In the evaluation process, students’ skills are verified through questions concerning the contents of the mandatory textbooks and the lectures, including specific subjects and the iconographic repertoire enclosed in the PowerPoint presentations shown during each class.