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ART/CLA 377 The City of Rome

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The Roman Forum (L to R: Temple of Divine Vespasian and Titus, Church of Sts. Luca and Martina, Arch of Septimius Severus, the Curia, and Temple of Saturn)

Instructor: John Gruber-Miller; x4326;; Christina McOmber; x4137 or x4346;

Class Hours during Week 1: M-T 9-11 a.m.: 1-2:15 p.m.

Required Texts

  • Alta Macadam. Blue Guide Rome. 9th edition. New York: Norton, 2006.
  • George L. Hersey. High Renaissance Art in St. Peter's and the Vatican: An Interpretative Guide. Chicago, 1993.
  • photocopies of maps, sites, plans, reconstructions, and articles


This course, taught in Italy, traces the evolving nature of the Eternal City from antiquity and the world of Julius Caesar to Mussolini's vision of a New Rome and Empire in Fascist Italy.  Topics include the evolution of the ancient city into the capital of the Roman Empire, the Christianization of Rome, the revival of the past through Renaissance urban planning, and the Church Triumphant of the early modern popes.  We will visit many of the most important sites and museums in Rome such the Forum, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon, Saint Peter's, Bramante's Tempietto, and the Trevi Fountain.


  • To learn how to "read" the material remains of the city of Rome;
  • to become sensitive to the relationship between space, time, and Roman values in any given era;
  • to understand how and why images, culture and values changed in Rome through time from antiquity to the present;
  • to explore the role of power and empire as manifested in Rome by senators, emperors, popes, and Mussolini and experienced by those who had little or no power;
  • to reflect on your experience of being a hospes "guest" in a country different from our own.

By the end of the course, each participant should have a greater understanding of how art, architecture, and archaeology contributes to our knowledge of the culture, society, politics, and religious customs of those who have lived in Rome and identified with Rome from the Roman Republic to Mussolini.


Class participation: Given the class format, participation is vital to the success of the course. Come to class with an agenda for discussion: comments, questions, evaluations of the primary and secondary readings. Advance the discussion by raising questions and making a point with a specific reference to the text or image under discussion. Listen attentively and build on the arguments of all participants; if you disagree, make sure that your critiques are specific and sensitive. You are in a foreign country representing Cornell College; therefore, you need to be considerate of others and respectful of the cultural context. A breach of this expectation may result in a return home at your expense.

Oral Presentations: Each participant will prepare one site report. A list of topics can be found here. Each report should be accompanied with a site plan, chronology, bibliography and a summary of the important features of the site or topic to be given to the members of the class on site. See the handout on Oral and Written Reports for further details. The written portion of the report will be due the first Monday at 9:00 a.m. The oral portion will be given on site.

As James Ackerman once stated, “[a] city is not just a place where many people gather for social and economic interchange: it is a symbol, an expression of the unique way of life that takes shape in a particular setting.” We are investigating the history of a city nurtured by a rich cultural heritage and the self interest of powerful leaders. It will be your job to help your listeners to see how your work or monument fits into the theme of the city and the time period in which it was created. If you are addressing a work from the mediaeval, early modern or modern world, make sure to address how the image or structure was linked to the ancient world of the Romans and evolving tradition.

You must bring 31 copies of your written analysis of the site with you to Rome. You will distribute your discussions to your fellow travelers when you present your work. You can determine the day of your presentation based on the itinerary. The one exception is the Sistine Chapel. In this case, presentations will take place the night before our trip to the Vatican Museums.

Written Response: Review the mediaeval guidebook to Rome for Christian pilgrims from the Mirabilia Urbis Romae and Paul Hetherington’s analysis of the significance of this popular text. Then choose one or two monuments to compare with your experience of the object/structure and its description in the recent 2006 Blue Guide. Be creative and allow for discrepancies between the two guidebooks. Ask yourself about the values of our culture and that of the twelfth century. The essay should be two-three pages long and may be handwritten. This assignment will follow our discussion of the ancient world and coincide with our consideration of the mediaeval city and its shift toward a Christian center.

Journal: You will also keep a daily journal while we are in Italy. In it you can record your observations, comments, and reflections on the events of the day. It is not meant to be a diary (i.e. what happened), but an exploration of your reflections on your experiences (how or why it happened). You should of course comment on the art and architecture and how it helps you understand the city of Rome. What patterns, themes, parallels (and differences) do you see that help you understand the lives of those who populated the city? In addition, you may reflect on how the ancient Romans have influenced later periods, and on your interaction with modern Italian culture. In other words, you should comment not only on the "content of the course," but also reflect on the "whole" experience.

Final Exam: The test will include a mixture of map identifications, short answers on specific monuments (a paragraph or two), and more general essays that explore larger issues.


  • punctuality, cooperation, preparation and participation in class and at each site 10%
  • written portion of site report 10%
  • quiz on chronology, terms, forum, etc. 10%
  • oral portion of the site report 20%
  • final exam 30%
  • journal while on trip 20%

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John Gruber-Miller
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