ARCH1120 Spring18 S01 Pompeii

ARCH1120 Spring18 S01 Pompeii


Under Pompeii’s ashes:  

Contesting Roman identities



 Spring 2018 ARCH 1120 S01

Course Title: Under Pompeii’s ashes: Contesting Roman identities

Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10-10.50 AM

1000-level course (undergraduate and graduate students)

Classroom: Rhode Island Hall 108


Instructor: Eva Mol

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World

Office Hours:  Wednesday, 11-13 or by appointment, Rhode Island Hall 210



Course description

Everybody knows Pompeii, the city that was buried under the ashes of the Vesuvius in AD 79. No site in the Roman world it seems, preserved the daily life of the Romans as well as this town and Pompeii is therefore traditionally viewed as the quintessential example of a Roman town. But how ‘Roman’ was Pompeii and what do we actually mean with calling something Roman? This course will challenge existing views on Roman cultural and social identities and material remains using Pompeii as a case study. Besides a view on ancient town life, Pompeii has much more to offer to archaeology due to its complex but unparalleled contextual information. Pompeii in fact, offers a unique playground to test a variety of ideas about the relation between material culture, style and ancient societies in the past and the present.


Course goals

During class we will discuss what scholars think is actually ‘Roman’ in terms of people and objects and how Pompeii’s archaeological remains are able to challenge that image. We will make use of a wide range of authors that have catered ideas about Roman identity: about the image of the ‘Other’,  ethnicity, gender, and about power relations. Next to works on Roman identity, we will read recent research on identity and material culture other than Roman archaeology and compare this to the contemporary world (Do we really become Buddhists by having a Buddha-statue at home?). How are we able to reflect ourselves through objects, and how are objects able to change us? Furthermore, as a regularly used example of the reflection of the so-called ‘true Roman’ in contemporary society, Pompeii can also be used to explore current debates on politics, ethnic diversity, social inequality, or technological innovations.


Next to this, the class wants to study and treat Pompeii in a different way than has traditionally been done by many archaeologists. Usually, scholars who studied the site focused on a very particular subject often based on object categories (bronzes, sculpture, paintings, mosaics, temples, coins etc.). This is a pity, because such scholarly categories did not exist in that way in the past, and therefore do not give a good image of the social and symbolic richness the site actually entails. While the abundancy of material might make us think that Pompeii delivers straightforward answers about the Roman world, this is not the case. We will therefore try to view Pompeii in a holistic way and study how the material, spatial, symbolic, and social together was able to produce meaning, social relations, norms and values and identity; but even more perhaps how this constant interplay was able to stretch and change notions of the self and the other.


Credit hours (180 hrs in total)

Over the course of 14 weeks, students will spend 3 hours per week in class (42 hours in total). Required reading for the seminars and discussions will take up around 6 hours per week (84 hours). In addition, research and writing the two essay assignments will take up 5 hours each. Preparing for two short presentations will acquire approximately 4 hours. Research and writing and editing of the research project is estimated at total of 40 hours over the course of the term.



Assessment and examination

Weekly attendance and reading – critical reflection on key topics and readings (10%), 2 short 4-page essay assignments (30 %),  2 short presentations (10 %), one research project (40 %), editing (10%).


Assignment 1: My style at home and my identity: short presentation and 4-page analysis on how you think archaeologists would analyze and interpret your identity(ies) if they would excavate your house/room. Use the literature assigned during class. What they will say about you and what would they deduce about your ‘culture’ according to the way they connect material to identity? bring one object or image to class to give a short 5 min. presentation.


Assignment 2: Pompeii and the classical ideal: short 4-page essay writing a critical reflection on how the Roman world and the Romans are used –or misused- in modern society and within contemporary issues and debates (students can pick their own examples from newspapers, websites or blogs) and how both Pompeii’s complexity and the current discussions about Roman identity in archaeology could be used as an example to challenge or expand these debates.


Research project: Beyond Pompeii’s Ashes book project

Pompeii is at once the most studied and the least understood of sites.” (Andrew Wallace-Hadrill 1990)


The above quote is derived from a famous Roman historian, who acted out his frustration on the lack of understanding and perhaps also on the lack of interpretative research done to Pompeii: its material wealth actually might be working against a better understanding of the site as well as that its potential to challenge existing ideas about the Roman world is not always fully seized. This quote will be our guiding idea for the final project. During the course we will discuss why Pompeii suffers from this lack of understanding, but we also want to make a serious attempt to change this. All students will become Pompeii-experts and learn about its wide variety of material remains: from bath houses, graffiti, and wall paintings, to gardens, graves and roads. However- the final research paper will be focused on how Pompeii can be better understood and how Pompeii can be used to critically approach existing ideas about Roman identities. For this reason during the course of the class, we will together ‘publish’ a book that will approach Pompeii in more daring ways and in a more interpretative way. The individual research project will consist of contributing a book chapter that tries to challenge and expand current thinking about Pompeii.


The chapter has to apply a particular theoretical issue, debate, method or particular analytic, poetic or artistic approach to the site of Pompeii (as will be discussed during classes), with the aim of understanding it in a different way. Together with the previous assignments, the book project as a whole has a threefold aim: how can we apply and integrate current archaeological, sociological and anthropological theories to a site like Pompeii, what can we learn from Pompeii and how can we use its contextual and holistic complexity to question other cases and ideas? During the research week (in week 9), every student will present a topic with a research question and approach to challenge Pompeii and Roman identity. In the remaining weeks the individual projects will serve as a constant ‘case study’ for the student to explore theories and methods and use these for his or her project. During the weeks to follow, we will together work on the final book and acquire the necessary skills (through workshops and discussion) on how to write a chapter, edit papers and how to publish.


Course materials

Readings and necessary literature and course material for this course are provided as PDF in Canvas or accessible or available online via the university library.


Learning goals

At the end of the course students have acquired:

  • Knowledge on the history, archaeology, material culture and afterlife of the site Pompeii
  • Knowledge on existing debates about the relation between material culture and identities in the Roman world and beyond
  • The ability to understand Pompeii within the wider Roman world and to use Pompeii to question long held ideas on Roman identity
  • The ability to reflect on modern issues concerning the ‘Classics’ and the use of Roman world and Pompeii in contemporary society
  • The skill to apply theories and methods to an archaeological site and setting up an independent research project
  • Skills in writing a book chapter potentially meant for publication
  • Knowledge and skills in the editing process of a publication



Accessibility and Accommodations

Brown University is committed to full inclusion of all students. Please inform me early in the term if you have a disability or other conditions that might require accommodations or modification of any of these course procedures. You may speak with me after class or during office hours. For more information please contact ‘Student and Employee Accessibility Services at 401-863-9588 or Students in need of short-term academic advice or support can contact one of the deans in the Dean of the College office.



Course Calendar

Course Outline – Pompeii: Contesting Roman identities









Week 1



Course introduction: Pompeii and its remains I





Wed 1/24

Introduction class aims&goals



Fri 1/26

Pompeii introduction

-Watch Mary Beard, Pompeii, Life of a Roman town

-Zanker 1998, Urban Space as a Reflection of Society, 27-77



Week 2

Pompeii and its remains II: overview

Mon 1/29

Burying Pompeii: life before the eruption

- Zanker 1998, Urban Space as a Reflection of Society, 78-134

- Zanker 1998, Domestic Taste and Cultural Self-Definition

- Beard, Street life, from Pompeii, Life of a Roman Town

-Beard, House and Home, from Pompeii, Life of a Roman Town


Wed 1/31

Excavating Pompeii: life after the eruption

-Rowland, I., 2014, Before Pompeii: Kircher and Holste

-Beard 2008, Introduction, from Pompeii, Life of a Roman Town

-Moormann, 2016, From Treasure Hunting to Archaeological Dig. History of the Excavations of

Herculaneum and Pompeii


Fri 2/2

RISD visit




Week 3


Not the Pompeii premise

Mon 2/5

Pompeii in the Roman world

-Lomas, 2006, Italy, during the Roman Republic

-Hekster, 2006, The Roman Empire

-Gruen, 2004, Rome and the Greek World


Wed 2/7

Contextual histories

-Allison, P, 2001, Artefact Assemblages: not ‘the Pompeii Premise’

-Wallace-Hadrill, A., 2009, Pompeian identities: between Oscan, Samnite, Greek, Roman and Punic

-Hardwick, 2006, Classical legacies


Fri 2/9

Discussion: what can we learn from Pompeii?


Topic exploration



Week 4




Identity and material culture

Mon 2/12

Cultural identity, ethnicity and the material past

-Lucy, S., 2005, Ethnic and cultural identities, in M. Diaz-Andreu, The Archaeology of Identity 175-219

- Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the

Origins and Spread of Nationalism, Ch. 1

-Cohen, A., 2002, Discriminating relations: identity, boundary and authenticity, 1-7

-Langnes and Fasting 2016, Identity construction among break dancers


Wed 2/14

Personhood and assemblages

- Fowler, Chris 2010,

From Identity and Material Culture to Personhood and Materiality

-Harris, 2016, Becoming Post-Human: Identity and the Ontological Turn, 17-37


Fri 2/16

My style and identity


Deadline Assignment 1


Week 5


Roman identity and material culture

Mon 2/19

Long weekend, no class



Wed 2/21

Romanizing and globalizing identities

-Dench 2010, Roman Identity

-Versluys, M.J., objects in motion, archaeological Dialogues

-van Oyen and Pitts, 2016, What did objects do in the Roman World? Beyond Representation


Fri 2/23

Romans outside Rome: frontiers and interaction

- Hingley, 2015, Postcolonial and global Rome: the genealogy of empire, Globalisation and the Roman world : world history, connectivity and material culture

-Revell 2009, Ch. 1 The Context of the Argument, in: Roman Imperialism and local identities, 1-39

-Webster, 2014, Linking with a Wider World, Romans and Barbarians, 415-38



Week 6


Pompeian social identity and material culture

Mon 2/26

Slaves and society

-Holkeskamp, 2004, under Roman roofs, Family, house and household

- 2012 The material life of Roman slaves, Introduction, 1-23

-Malamud, 2016, Ancient and Modern Slavery, African Americans and the Classics, Ch. 3, 105-146


Wed 2/28

Women and society

- Allison, P., 2009, Building Communities

-Bernstein F., Pompeian women 526-537

-Kampen, N., 2015, Gender and Roman Art

-Welch, K., Pompeian men and women in in portrait sculpture


Fri 3/2

Discussion: Pompeii and the usable past


Deadline assignment 2



Week 7




Style, Art and Agency in Pompeii

Mon 3/5


-Hallet, 2015, defining Roman art, Cambridge Companion to Roman Art

- Bergmann, The Roman House as Memory Theater: The House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii

-Petersen 2015, Arte Plebea and non-elite Roman Art


Wed 3/7

The Agency of Egyptian art in Pompeii

-Gell, art and agency

-Mol, E., 2012, The Perception of Egypt in Networks of Being and Becoming: A Thing Theory Approach to Egyptianising Objects in Roman Domestic Contexts


Fri 3/9

Ancient art/Modern art RISD  visit


a study in red




Week 8


Embodying Pompeii

Mon 3/12

The body

- Loren and Fischer, 2005, Embodying Identity in Archaeology-introduction, 225-230

-Iovino, Serenella. "Bodies of Naples: A Journey in the Landscapes of Porosity." Ecocriticism

and Italy: Ecology, Resistance, and Liberation

- Dwyer, E., 2010, Pompeii’s Living Statues: Ancient Roman Lives Stolen from Death, Epilogue, 114-23


Wed 3/14

 The house

-Allison 2009, Understanding Pompeian houses through their Material Culture

-Wallace Hadrill, 1994, reading the Roman house, 3-16

-Highmore 2011, Ch. 3 Familiar things


Fri 3/16





Week 9


Research Week

Mon 3/19

Round table


5 minute pitch on topic

Wed 3/21

How to edit a book? Workshop and discussion by dr. Katia Schörle (JRA)



Fri 3/23

Essay discussion




Week 10



Mon 3/26

Spring recess



Wed 3/28

Spring recess



Fri 3/30

Spring recess




Week 11


Technology, space and Pompeii

Mon 4/2

Technology, material culture and society

-van Oyen, Finding the material in ’material culture’, form and matter in Roman concrete

- Latour, B., Technology is society made durable

- Swift, 2017, Behaviour/Experience, 102-123


Wed 4/4

Space and society

-Ingold 2015, The Life of Lines, 3-21

-Laurence, 1994, Space and Society, 12-50


Fri 4/6

 Exercize in space




Week 12


Production and consumption in Pompeii

Mon 4/9

Producing and consuming

-Laurence, R., 1994, Ch. 4, production and consumption, 51-69

-Bradley, 2001, The Roman family at dinner, I Nielsen and H.S. Nielsen (eds.) Meals in a Social Context, Aarhus University Press 36-55

-Holtzman, J.D. 2006 Food and memory. Annual Review of Anthropology 35: 361–378.


Wed 4/11

Guest lecture Mateo Gonzalez Vazquez



Fri 4/13

No class


Deadline first draft


Week 13


Materiality and Religion

Mon 4/16

Roman religion: Public and Private worship

-Smith, 2014, Cult and Ritual, The Roman world, 268-292

-Revell 2009, Ch. 4: Addressing the Divine, in Roman Imperialism and local identities, 110-49

-Orlin 2010, Ch. 7, The Challenges of the First Century in Foreign Cults in Rome, Creating a Roman Empire


Wed 4/18

Materiality, experience and religious practices

-Insoll, T., 2009, Introduction, materiality, belief,


and material religion:

an introduction, 1-6

- Hutchings and McKenzie 2017, Materiality and the Study of ReligionThe Stuff of the Sacred, Afterword: Manuel Vásquez


Fri 4/20

Discussion communities and practice


 Deadline peer review


Week 14


Research week

Mon 4/23

Final Research Project discussion, themes, and presentation



Wed 4/25

Concluding discussions and introduction



Fri 4/27

layout and publication



Deadline final version



Week 15



Understanding Pompeii



Mon 4/30

Work on publication



Wed 5/2

Book launch party: Beyond Pompeii’s Ashes



Fri 5/4






Course Summary:

Date Details Due