HF200 Honors Workshop:
Domus and Villa

Prof. Michael Arnush Ladd 209 x5462
marnush@skidmore.edu Hours: W 9.00 Th 8.30 F 10.30


Classics Department

Skidmore College
Isometric view of a Roman domus (mislabelled as a villa), courtesy Getty Museum

This course serves as a corollary to CL200, "The Classical World," and addresses family life--such as divorce, remarriage, infidelity, rebellious children and aging parents--in the ancient world. In this Honors workshop we will focus on the Roman domus or "household" and the complex relationships that made up the center of private life in antiquity. In both Greece and Rome, men's lives were lived mainly in the public domain, while the existence of women, children, and slaves was confined for the most part to the house. We will analyze the dynamics of power between public and private as well as the roles of each member of the Roman household in order to determine the extent of influence and importance the family, which was controlled and managed by women, exerted on society as a whole. This will work hand-in-hand with the theme of "community" for this year's "Classical World," for in the end our frame of reference will be the public and private nature both of the family-as-community and the family within a larger community.

At the centerpiece of this workshop is the recreation of aspects of a fictional Roman domus for presentation at the end of the semester. Students in HF200: Domus will spend most of the semester researching various aspects of a typical Roman domus, particularly
its architecture, and the types of materials found in excavations - sculpture, pottery, coins, papyrus, frescoes, mosaics, inscriptions. Utilizing archaeological materials in the Classics Department, and creating some replicas of typical artifacts, the students will assemble an archaeological "horizon" of the excavation of this domus. These materials will comprise the centerpiece of an exhibition curated by the class that will go on display on May 1st for the Academic Festival.

Students in HF200 will demonstrate the ability to

  • read and analyze historical documents within their social contexts and evaluate the role of the individual in ancient cultures
  • develop multi- and cross-cultural perspectives and apply them to gender, ethnic and social issues
  • read critically and analyze closely literary texts and modern scholarship
  • present orally - in class discussions - and in written form - on exhibition descriptions, in the exhibit webpage and in the catalogue - arguments supported by primary and secondary sources
  • conduct research by traditional and digital methods and produce an exhibit at the end of the semester