CL3UL-Urban Life: The Archaeology and Anthropology of Roman Cities

Module Provider: Classics
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Dr John Hanson


Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module asks a seemingly simple question: why did so many people live in ancient cities and what were their lives like? To answer this, we will begin by considering what a city is, what approaches should be used to understand them, and whether it is legitimate to think about all cities the same way. We will explore a range of topics, including demography, textual descriptions, urban form, inequality, social networks, mobility, life-ways, migration, and the environment. In doing so, we will try to think more like anthropologists, distinguishing between what is common to all human experience and what unique challenges and opportunities were faced by people of the past.

This module is delivered at the University of Reading.


This module aims to:

  • Introduce students to the latest thinking about what urban life was like in ancient cities

  • Use a range of approaches to understand urban life, drawn from both more familiar fields, such as classical archaeology and ancient history, and related disciplines such as anthropology, geography, and economics

  • Look at a wide variety of ancient cities and examine the similarities and differences between them

  • Use a combination of textual sources and archaeological material to understand urban life, thinking about the unique contribution each form of evidence has to offer

  • Set their understanding within a broader comparative framework

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:

  • Display familiarity with various ancient sites

  • Draw inferences from textual and visual material

  • Understand different kinds of evidence and how to use them

  • Think critically about different scholarly approaches and interpretations

  • Embed their discussion within wider debates

  • Organize i nformation and articulate coherent and cogent arguments in writing

Additional outcomes:

The module also aims to encourage students to:

  • Develop their oral communication skills and ability to collaborate with others through participation in group discussions and activities.

  • Develop their ability to interpret both textual and visual material and comment on its wider significance

  • Extend their understanding of ancient life by drawing on a range of theoretical and methodological material from related disciplines

  • Gain a more nuanced understanding of the rewards and hazards of interdisciplinarity

Outline content:

This module examines one of the most important aspects of ancient life: the concentration of large numbers of individuals in cities. It will begin by asking what cities are and why we need a ‘science of cities.’ It will then focus on various themes: how large cities were; what ancient sources tell us about them; whether all cities looked and felt the same; what the costs and benefits of urban life were; how people moved around; what they did for a living; how dangerous urban life was; and what the effect of cities on the environment was. The module concludes by asking how unique ancient cities were from a cross-cultural perspective.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This module will be taught by lectures and seminars.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 10
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 50
    Wider reading (directed) 50
    Advance preparation for classes 20
    Preparation for presentations 10
    Group study tasks 10
    Essay preparation 30
    Reflection 10
Total hours by term 200 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

The module will be assessed by two 500 word responses to a set image (due in on the Friday of 4th week and on the Friday of 8th week respectively) and one 2,500 to 3,000 word essay (due in on the last day of term).

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:

An overall mark of 40%.

Reassessment arrangements:

Re-submission of coursework over the summer.   An individual piece of coursework will be carried forward if it has a grade of 40% or more.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 17 September 2020


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