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The University of Southampton

HIST3256 A Short History of the Ancient City

Module Overview

Alexandria, Athens, Babylon, Cairo, Carthage, Jerusalem, Rome and Constantinople are just a few of the iconic cities of the ancient world and many still have a very strong presence in the modern world. This module will explore the impact of city life on the social, religious, political and cultural experience of the people who lived in these urban spaces in the ancient world. Covering a broad geographic and chronological spread, it will consider the distinctive nature of specific cities in particular times, while also exploring common themes that unite city dwellers, regardless of time and location.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The form of the ancient city
  • of life in the ancient city e.g. immigration, daily life
  • of how power operated in the ancient city e.g. religious, or financial power
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • engaging with a range of primary sources e.g. archaeological sites, written material, visual sources
  • assessing scholarship on the ancient city
  • exploring urban histories in an ancient history context
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • writing an analytical piece of work drawing on primary and secondary sources
  • reflecting on your learning across the module
  • undertaking individual research with guidance


List of indicative topics: The module will be focus on three themes. The form of the city (so buildings, roads, water supply), experiencing the city (immigration, daily life) and power and the city (this might be religious or financial power, of the city as an expression of power in terms of creating an empire or the destruction of cities) and three periods. The latter could include classical Greece, Roman empire/Italy, post Roman, ancient near eastern and include a number of cities in those geographical areas such as Athens, Jerusalem, Constantinople and Rome with a view to studying different periods and spaces within the ancient world.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

One weekly lecture and one weekly seminar Individual tutorials on essays Optional field trip to a post-Roman city

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

C. Gates (2003). Ancient Cities: the Archaeology pf Urban Life in the Ancient Near East and Egypt, Greece and Rome . 

J. Rich (2002). The City in Late Antiquity. 

M. I. Finley (1977). The Ancient City: from Fustel de Coulanges to Max Weber and beyond. . Comparative Studies in Society and History . ,19 , pp. 305-327.

A. Zuiderhoek (2016). The Ancient City. 

Mary Beard (2010). Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town. 

P. Erdcamp (2013). The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Rome. 



Learning journal


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2750 words) 60%
Learning journal  (1500 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2750 words) 60%
Learning journal  (1500 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Field Trips

Optional field trip to post-Roman city - transport will be provided and there are no entry costs

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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