Everyday Life in the Roman Empire - CL675

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 6 30 (15) DR L Lavan checkmark-circle


How do you imagine Roman Antiquity? How do the images produced for film, TV and popular fiction reflect the lives of those in antiquity? Can we see the everyday experience of Pliny, Juvenal or Augustine or of those who were killed in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79? This module will explore everyday life in the Roman world, from haircuts, tattoos and gestures, to everyday rites and rhythms, whether domestic, social, political or religious, focusing on human experience, with its culturally specific organisation rather than abstract scholarly constructions. It will range from Augustan Rome to Late Antique Constantinople, and will draw on depictions, literary evidence (such as poems), original documents (from personal letters to minutes of meetings), inscriptions and especially archaeology, focusing on key sites where preservation is good, such as Pompeii, Ostia, Sardis and Petra. Here buildings, graffiti, occupation deposits and other traces will allow snapshots of everyday life to be constructed: of the houses, workshops, taverns, temples, theatres and churches of Antiquity. Students will be encouraged to undertake both empirical studies and imaginative reconstructions as part of their assessment, so that they understand the importance not only of describing what evidence remains of everyday life, but of actively reconstructing the past, and of engaging different types of evidence in a critical dialogue.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40


Also available at Level 5 under code CL674

Method of assessment

Essay 1 (1,700 words) – 20%
Essay 2 (2,300 words) – 30%
Historical Reconstruction (3,000 words) – 40%
2 x Seminar Handout (equivalent to 500 words each) – 10%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Casson L. (1999). Everyday Life in Ancient Rome (Revised and Expanded Edition). Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
Connolly P. and Dodge H. (1998). The Ancient City: Life in Classical Athens and Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Laurence R. (2007). Roman Pompeii. Space and Society (2nd Edition). London: Routledge.
Laurence, R. (2009). Roman Passions. A History of Pleasure in Imperial Rome. London: Continuum.
Lavan L., Swift E. and Putzeys T., ed. (2007). Objects in Context, Objects in Use. Leiden: Brill.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module, Level 6 students will be able to:

Demonstrate systematic knowledge of the distinctive character of Roman society, at the level of everyday experience, as it was conceived by the Romans;
Demonstrate extensive knowledge of the different everyday experiences of people with different socio-cultural status;
Demonstrate comprehensive understanding of the biases in the use of archaeological and written sources in this period;
Demonstrate systematic understanding of the potential of engagement with historical reconstruction, not only as a guarantee of authenticity, but also as a means of testing academic hypotheses, as well as demonstrating awareness of the limitations of reconstruction authenticity.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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