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The University of Southampton

ARCH3028 Living with the Romans: Urbanism in the Roman Empire

Module Overview

The towns in which the Romans lived are some of the most familiar features of the Roman world. Although they seem to look and feel like modern towns, they actually worked in quite different ways, a reflection of the fact that ancient Roman society was distinct to our own. This module introduces you to archaeology of towns from across the Roman world between the 3rd century BC and the 6th century AD. You will learn of the very different ways in which the Romans thought about towns and how they were organized. In particular, you will be introduced to the vibrant political and commercial life of towns in the Roman towns and provinces, and their links with Rome itself. You will also gain an appreciation of how Roman towns actually worked from day to day and their roles within the broader empire, and will also discover why there were very marked differences between towns in different parts of the Mediterranean, northern Europe and north Africa and the Middle East. You will also venture out into the countryside surrounding the towns, and learn something of their links to villages, farms and villas. Following this module, in short, will introduce you to some breath-taking archaeological sites and provide you with a fascinating glimpse into a key part of our European cultural heritage.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the relationship between pre-Roman and Roman towns
  • the structuring principles underlying the layout of different kinds of public and residential buildings and townscapes
  • the ways in which monuments and public texts worked together to help articulate ideologies of empire
  • the ways in which monuments and public texts created a sense of “belonging” within the empire
  • the ways in which towns acted as key conduits for social and political change in the Roman empire
  • social, economic and cultural connectivity between towns in the Roman empire
  • the role of Roman towns in creating interlinked economies within the Roman empire
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Integrate the analysis of different kinds of archaeological and historical data
  • Be more critical in your thinking about the nature of urbanism in the Roman world
  • Better understand the complex interplays of academic argument in Roman archaeology
  • Think across the academic divide between the Late Pre-Roman Iron age and the Roman period
  • Analyse and interpret evidence for towns within the broader social, economic, political and cultural contexts of the Roman empire.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work successfully in a group
  • Make/contribute to group presentations with confidence
  • Critically analyze complex issues
  • Evaluate and synthesize complex bodies of data
  • Undertake research on a specific theme
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Deal with historical, epigraphic, geophysical and architectural evidence
  • Undertake comparative analyses of archaeological evidence for towns across the Roman empire
  • Understand the broader ramifications of the archaeological evidence for towns on study visits and on the excavation/survey of Roman towns


The module is organized thematically, and encompasses Roman towns from across the Roman world between the 3rd century BC and the 6th century AD. Part One explores ideas concerning the origins of the Roman concept of town, the susceptibility of towns to definition from a range of different perspectives, and the relevance of urban models to our understanding of towns in the Roman empire. Part Two looks at the archaeological evidence for townscapes, analyzing evidence for the changing roles and character of walls, streets, public building and public architecture, houses and gardens, cemeteries, and buildings/areas set aside for production and exchange. Part Three introduces you to issues such as visibility and access, the ways in which people may have “negotiated” townscapes, either individually or as groups through processions and in meetings. Part Four explores the relationship between buildings and monumental writing and art. In particular, it presents a range of texts and examples of monumental art, examines the kinds of information/message that they carried, and looks at the ways in which both were meant to be read in the context of the buildings themselves. In Part Five the module concludes by looking at towns in the broader landscape, touching upon issues such as the “edges” of towns, the relationship of towns to non-urban settlements, and the connectivity of towns in regional contexts. The module will maintain a balance between general background and specific case-studies in different parts of the Roman empire at different periods.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Student-led discussion groups • Student led presentations Learning activities include • Formal and structured seminar classes to support the lecture programme. • Standard lecture and class-based activities; use of handouts • Essay writing, source evaluation and learning through oral presentation • Preparation of detailed reading lists for assessments • Some informal self-learning through videos/CD-Rom/Web

Follow-up work30
Preparation for scheduled sessions15
Wider reading or practice35
Completion of assessment task45
Total study time150





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Written assignment 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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