Pompeiian wall painting, 1st c. AD
Cave canem!

CL311 Life in Pompeii
TuTh 2.10-3.30

Prof. Michael Arnush Ladd 209 x5462

Classics Department
Skidmore College

Once a city shrouded in darkness, lost except for a few brief references in the late Republic and early Empire, Pompeii has emerged since the 18th century excavations as the quintessential Roman city. Sited on the southern reaches of the Bay of Naples and at the foot of the destructive Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii was inhabited at least as early as the 7th century BCE, then became a Sullan colony in 80 BCE, and in the first century of the principate served as the home to as many as 50,000 people.
This semester we will explore the forum and temples, theaters and shops, streets and alleys, and houses and brothels, through the literary and epigraphic texts that survive or are relevant to life in a city in the Roman world. Our readings will derive from three types of texts: the few literary extant references to Pompeii and its inhabitants; passages in Latin literature that pertain to travel to and life in a Roman city; and inscriptions and graffiti culled directly from the walls and monuments of this urban community.
Because Pompeii is such a rich archaeological zone we will locate our readings within the context of material culture as much as possible. Our focus, though, will be on reading Latin: both "high Latin," the texts of great prose and poetry writers of the 1st century BCE and 1st century CE; and "low" or vernacular Latin, the language of the inhabitants of the city.
Over the course of the semester you will read excerpts from literary masterpieces and the graffiti and epigraphic remains of a once-vibrant culture. There are, as we shall learn, dramatically different approaches to spelling, grammar and presentation between these two diverse modes of communication, and you will develop your skills as a reader of different genres of expression.
For most of you, this course represents your first experience devoting a semester to reading a collection of diverse texts, and so you will focus on sharpening your reading skills within each genre. Grammar review will continue to play a signficant role as you enhance your skills, but increasingly you will review Latin grammar on your own. We will, of course, discuss grammatical points as they arise, but we will concentrate on reading continuously. In addition, you will work on a final project which will emerge from discussions of scholarship.

Students in CL311 Life in Pompeii will demonstrate the ability

  • to read continuous prose and poetry, employing skills developed in previous semesters of Latin
  • to contextualize literary and epigraphic works from Pompeii in their larger cultural settings, by becoming proficient with
    • biographical details about each author and his literary work
    • the archaeological context of the extant graffiti or inscriptions
    • the history of the city and specific sites and monuments
    • the social context of aspects of a Roman city
  • to use digital technology (web-based resources such as the lexical and morphological tools in Perseus, and cultural databases on ancient Rome) to enhance an understanding of Pompeii and its legacy.