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Greek and Roman Archaeology

The Greeks and the Mediterranean World c.950 BC-500 BC
The period from 950 to 500 BC sees the emergence of many of the institutions, practices and
products that characterise Greek culture, the city-states, the Panhellenic sanctuaries, the
colonies in the west, the introduction of alphabetic writing, coinage, and many others. It is a
period within which Greeks, Phoenicians, and others travelled widely in the Mediterranean, in
search of wealth in both finished goods and raw materials. The evidence for much of the
period is almost entirely archaeological, much of it recovered only in the last 30 years or so.
The course introduces this physical evidence, and examines how it can be used to illuminate
changes in social and religious behaviour, to demonstrate contacts between the Greeks and
their Mediterranean neighbours, and to investigate important questions of origin and
development. Some of these questions naturally overlap with I.1 Greek History 650-479 BC,
with which this paper may usefully be combined. This course has a distinctive emphasis on
understanding the physical evidence, and on the strengths and weaknesses of the
archaeological methods used to reconstruct unrecorded aspects of society.

Greek Art and Archaeology from c.500 to 300 BC
The images and monuments of the fifth century BC. made a decisive break with the visual
modes of the archaic aristocracy and established the influential idea that images should try to
look like what and whom they represent. This subject involves the study of the buildings of
classical Greek cities and sanctuaries as well as the images and artefacts that were
displayed in them, and one of its major themes is the swift emergence and consolidation of
the revolutionary way of seeing and representing that we know as ‘Classical art’. The images
and objects are best studied in their archaeological and broader historical contexts, and
typical questions to ask about them would include: What were they used for? Who paid for
them, made them and looked at them? And what ideas and priorities did they express in their
local settings?
The course looks at the full range of ancient artefacts, from bronze statues and marble
temples to painted pots and clay figurines. The Ashmolean Museum has a fine collection of
relevant objects, especially of painted pottery, and the Cast Gallery houses plaster copies of
many of the key sculptured monuments of the period, from the Delphi Charioteer and the
Olympia sculptures to portrait statues of Demosthenes and Alexander the Great.
A wide range of lectures and classes are given throughout each academic year – on the
sculpture, wall-painting, vase-painting, and architecture of the period, and on their
archaeological contexts in sanctuaries, cities, and cemeteries.

Art under the Roman Empire, AD 14-337
The long imperial Roman peace has left the densest and most varied record of artistic and
visual representation of any period of antiquity, and at the height of the empire more cities,
communities, and individuals than ever before came to invest in the 'classical' culture of
monumental representation. The course studies the art and visual culture of the Roman
empire in its physical, social, and historical contexts.
The period saw the creation of a new imperial iconography – the good emperor portrayed in
exemplary roles and activities at peace and war. These images were deployed in a wide
range of media and contexts in Rome and around the empire, where the imperial image
competed with a variety of other representations, from the public monuments of city
aristocrats to the tombs of wealthy freed slaves. The course studies the way in which Roman
images, self-representation, and art were moulded by their local contexts and functions and
by the concerns and values of their target viewers and 'user-groups'.
Students learn about major monuments in Rome and Italy and other leading centres of the
empire (such as Aphrodisias, Athens, Ephesus, and Lepcis Magna) and about the main
strands and contexts of representation in the eastern and western provinces. They will
become familiar with the main media and categories of surviving images – statues, portrait
busts, historical reliefs, funerary monuments, cameos, wall-paintings, mosaics, silverware,
and coins – and learn how to analyse and interpret Roman art and images in welldocumented
contexts and how to assess the relation between written and visual evidence.

Hellenistic Art and Archaeology, 330 – 30 BC
The Macedonian conquest of Asia brought a forced expansion of the Greek imagination and
environment that has left an abundant and varied trace in the visual and material culture of the
period. The course studies major themes, contexts, and media of Hellenistic art, set against the
dense archaeology of the best-preserved cities and sites of the period – from Macedonia to
Bactria, from the Aegean to central Italy. The material includes distinctive categories of object,
such as bronzeware, clay seals, gems, glassware, grave stelai, jewellery, mosaics, silverware,
statues in bronze, statues in marble, terracottas, and wall-paintings. Major subjects include:
(1) the art and cities of the kings at the height of their power in the late fourth and third centuries
BC, (2) the visual remains of Greek-local interaction in Egypt and Iran, (3) the monuments of the old
city-states that flourished within and between the Macedonian kingdoms, and (4) the complex
process of acculturation by which the apparatus and technology of Hellenistic art and material
culture were adopted in Italy.

Roman Archaeology: Cities and Settlement under the Empire
In exploring the development of towns and their related territories in the first three centuries
AD, this course provides an introduction to Roman urbanism and the lively debate over how
it worked and whom it served. The study of the physical design of the city, its public and
private buildings, and its infrastructure, along with the objects of trade and manufacture, is
placed in the broader context of the types and patterns of rural settlement, agricultural
production, transport and communications. This allows various themes to be investigated,
including what it meant to live in a Roman town, and in its countryside, and what contributed
to the remarkable prosperity of urban centres before the widespread retrenchment of the
third century.
Those taking the course will become familiar with the physical character of Roman cities
based on selected representative sites (primarily Ostia, Pompeii, Corinth, Caesarea
Maritima, Palmyra, Lepcis Magna, and Silchester) and with major landscape studies in Italy,
Greece and North Africa. Particular attention is paid to problems and biases in assessing the
character of the physical evidence; and in testing theoretical models against hard data.
Evidence from written sources will be incorporated where appropriate.

Thesis in Greek and Roman Archaeology
Any candidate may offer a thesis in Greek or Roman Archaeology. This subject may not be
combined with any of I.14, II.199, III.16 or V.5 (a thesis in Greek and Roman History,
Philosophy, Greek and Latin Literature, or Philology and Linguistics).