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Group D: Classical Art and Archaeology


Paper D1: Aegean Prehistory

Course Director: Dr Y Galanakis

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce students to Aegean archaeology: its theories, methods and practices.
  2. To explore the societies preceding the Bronze Age.
  3. To explore the emergence of complex societies, and the formation and transformations of the palatial systems in Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece.
  4. To familiarise students in a range of different datasets: from material culture and Linear B to theory- and lab-based work.
  5. To explore current debates on Homeric scholarship and its relationship with the Bronze Age past of Greece.


Scope and structure of the examination paper 2019–20

Candidates are required to answer three of a choice normally of twelve or thirteen questions. The answers required are all of essay type, except for one optional question set in most years which invites ‘short notes’ on two or three from a list of six or eight options, the options varying from sites, artefacts or chronological periods to issues covered in this course. The range of questions should broadly reflect the balance of teaching offered in the course, in lectures, classes and supervisions; candidates may select any three to answer, without restriction.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

In 2020-21 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.

Course descriptions


(16 L, 2 C (2 hr): Lent; 4 L: Easter)

The broad aim of these lectures is to introduce students to the fascinating world of Aegean archaeology covering a period of 800,000 years: from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Early Iron Age of Greece. How can we reconstruct and ‘read’ the past without the aid of textual records? What are the methods, research questions, principles and current debates in Aegean archaeology? What can we learn from the study of Greece’s rich and varied pre-classical art and archaeological record about the people of Bronze Age Aegean? When, where and why do complex societies ‘emerge’ and ‘collapse’? What is the relationship between the Epics and Classical myths with the archaeology of Bronze and Early Iron Age Greece?

This course offers an in-depth survey of the archaeology of the Aegean within the framework of the wider Mediterranean world. Particular emphasis is placed on the societies of the Bronze Age (c. 3200-1100 BC): the worlds of the Early Cyclades, Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece. It examines critically the emergence of complex societies and their social, political and economic organisation, the trade and exchange networks, attitudes to death and their burial practices, the archaeologies of ideology, and cult and the integration of textual evidence with the material record.

Rich in data, theoretical approaches and problems of interpretation, Aegean Prehistory offers an excellent training ground for explaining the formation, transformation and demise of early bureaucratic societies in the East Mediterranean. It is a journey into our deep human history. Within this framework of investigation, emphasis is also placed on how shifting attitudes to archaeological practice, collection strategies and interpretations have developed over time and have influenced what we know – or think we know – about Greece’s astonishing pre-classical past.

Four lectures on Linear B shed light on the documents, the economy, bureaucracy, and people of Mycenaean Greece. The course ends in the Early Iron Age with an exploration of the art and archaeology at the time of Homer and Hesiod. Despite the focus of the lectures on the Aegean region, the interaction and contacts between this area and the broader Mediterranean world (and their significance) are also explored.

As part of the course there is also a tour and handling session at the British Museum.

Useful preliminary reading: D. Preziosi & L. Hitchcock, Aegean Art and Architecture (Oxford, 1999); O. Dickinson, The Aegean Bronze Age (Cambridge, 1994); Wardle and D. Wardle, Cities of Legend: The Mycenaean World (Bristol, 1991); C. Shelmerdine, The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age (Cambridge, 2008); C. Broodbank, The Making of the Middle Sea (London, 2013); J. Bintliff, The Complete Archaeology of Greece (Oxford, 2012); J. Chadwick, The Mycenaean World (Cambridge, 1976).

In addition to the above courses candidates for D1 may also be interested in the following:


(8 C: Michaelmas)

Instruction in how to read and understand Linear B tablets covering both epigraphy and approaches to interpretation. No previous experience required. All teaching materials will be provided. This course is also an ideal complement to D1 Aegean Prehistory and E2 Greek in the Bronze Age.


Paper D2: Beyond Classical Art

Course Director: Dr C Vout

Aims and Objectives

  1. To work with a broader range of painting and sculpture from the Greek and Roman worlds and its contact zones than is usually considered in books on ‘classical art’.
  2. To understand what ‘classical art’ traditionally is as a category and how it evolved.
  3. To understand why art historians look in the way that they do, and to become more adept at visual analysis.
  4. To push at the limits of stylistic analysis.
  5. To reassess the relationship between the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ and how painting and sculpture in the Greek and Roman worlds functioned .


Scope and structure of the examination paper in 2019–20

Candidates are required to answer three of a choice of about twelve questions, some of which will be picture related.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

In 2020-21 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.


Course description


(16 L , 3 C (2 hr): Michaelmas;
1 C: Easter)

Text books on ‘classical art’ tend to privilege the same sorts of object (monumental sculpture from major Greek sanctuaries, Attic painted pottery, statues from Rome and its environ, paintings from Campania). But is this the whole story? What does this leave out of our picture of Greek and Roman artistic production, and the reach of Greek and Roman production, and why? This course starts from the understanding that ‘classical’ (and the qualities of beauty, purity and virtue that come with it) is neither an obvious nor a natural category, and attempts to integrate objects often left on the margins. These include, aniconic, ‘ugly’ and painted images, graffiti from Pompeii, tombstones from Roman Britain and Palmyra, ‘egyptianising' and ‘orientalising’ elements, and, from beyond the ancient Greek and Roman world, reliefs from Gandhara and sarcophagi from China. How should we study them? How have they been studied in the past and what does their inclusion do to our appreciation of what Greek and Roman art was, what it looked like, and what it has become? Answering these questions will demand that students test existing vocabularies for talking about material, form and content, and find new vocabularies, building visual knowledge as they do so. The course ends by thinking about the reception of ancient art in the modern period; about how from early in the nineteenth century, this reception increasingly privileged Greek and Roman elements to the exclusion of the Hebraic, Egyptian and Persian; and about how the emergence of the ‘classical’ as an explicit visual category coincided with the celebration of the Hellenic ideal and the down-grading of the Roman. Hopefully, the skills and self-awareness learned on this course will have us better understand what is classical and constraining about ‘classical art’, and also perhaps use current ‘world art’ approaches, issues of art’s agency, and so on, more responsibly.

Recommended reading: Boardman, J. (1993) The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity. Princeton; Boardman, J. (1995) The Late Classical Period and Sculpture in Colonies and Overseas. London; Cohen, B. (ed.) (2000) Not The Classical Ideal: Athens and the Construction of the Other in Greek Art. Leiden; Vlassopoulos, K. (2013) Greeks and Barbarians. Cambridge; Alcock, S. E. et al. (2017) Beyond Boundaries: Connecting Visual Cultures in the Provinces of Ancient Rome. Los Angeles; Elsner, J. (2005) ‘Classicism in Roman art’ in J. I. Porter (ed.) Classical Pasts: The Classical Traditions of Greece and Rome. Princeton: 270-97; Fullerton, M. D. (2015) ‘Style: applications and limitations’, in Friedland, M. A. et al. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Roman Sculpture. Oxford: 209-23; Bindman, D. et al. (2010) The Image of the Black in Western Art. Cambridge, MA and London; Elsner, J. (2003) ‘Style’ in R. S. Nelson and R. Schiff (eds.) Critical Terms for Art History. Chicago: 98-109; Settis, S. (2006) The Future of the Classical, trans. A. Cameron, Cambridge and Malden, MA; Onians, J. (2004) Atlas of World Art. Oxford; Vout, C. (2018) Classical Art: A Life History from Antiquity to the Present. Princeton; 'Fowlkes-Childs, B. and M. Seymour (eds.) The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East. New York.


Paper D3: Roman Britain

Course Director: Prof. M Millett

Aims and objectives

  1. To develop students’ understanding of the history and archaeology of  Roman Britain.
  2. To increase awareness of, and competence in, the use of a range of archaeological evidence.
  3. To increase familiarity with current theoretically informed debates about Roman provincial archaeology.
  4. To develop student skills in presenting material in seminars.


Scope and structure of the examination paper 2019–20

The examination will comprise a three-hour three question examination paper with a choice of about twelve essay-type questions, some of which will be picture related.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

This course will NOT be running in 2020-21.

Course description


(16 L, 4 C: Lent;
 4 L, 4 C: Easter)

This paper will focus on contemporary debates about the art and archaeology of Roman Britain, exploring different interpretative themes through a series of case studies, each of which will enable students to develop a detailed knowledge of a variety of different types of evidence and a familiarity with the issues raised by attempts at their integration. The long history of research on Roman Britain means that there is rich bibliography but also that it is difficult to provide comprehensive coverage within a conventional lecture-based course. Instead, this course will be structured around complementary lectures and classes – the latter focused on specific sites and involving structured student seminar input – with each general theme approached through detailed study of particular finds and sites. After introductory lectures, there will be a 2-hour lecture and a 2-hour class devoted to each theme.

Introductory reading:

Frere, S.S. (1987) Britannia: a history of Roman Britain (3rd edition)

Mattingly, D. (2006) An imperial possession: Britain in the Roman Empire

Millett, M., Moore, A., and Revell,. (2016) The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain


Paper D4: Empire's Legacy: the transformations of Roman Italy, 350 BC to AD 300

Course Director: Dr A Launaro

Aims and objectives

  1. To explore the archaeology and history of Roman Italy.
  2. To understand the broad and varied impact of Roman empire-building on the political, social, economic and cultural development of ancient Italy.
  3. To appreciate the dynamic relationship between (medium-term) transformations and (long-term) continuities in the development of Roman Italy.
  4. To consider ways in which a rich and varied array of material, literary and epigraphic evidence might effectively be integrated.


Scope and structure of the examination paper 2020–21

Candidates are required to answer three of a choice of about twelve questions, some of which will be picture related.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

This is a NEW COURSE and will be running for the first time in 2020-21.


Course description


(16 L, 8 C: Lent)

It is fairly common for studies of (Roman) imperialism to concentrate their attention on its relative consequences on newly-acquired provinces or peripheral regions. However, the impact of empire on the centre may be as great, if not greater, especially as peripheries develop from a land of political and military conquest into an integrated and ‘global’ empire. A case in point is Roman Italy between 350 BC and AD 300: those 650 years saw the Italian people being (reluctantly) brought together under Roman hegemony, supplying Rome’s imperial ambitions with soldiers and resources, eventually achieving a position of unique privilege within the empire, only to lose it – somewhat ironically – once that same empire had fully matured. As conquerors became emperors, the people of Italy became just a part of a wider empire.

This course will explore the political, social, economic and cultural transformations which took place within Italy as a result of its own changing relationship with Rome and her empire. Its approach will combine both a chronological and thematic element, discussing specific themes (e.g. colonization, identity, ‘Hellenization’, villa economy, demography) as the defining features of specific historical phases (or conjonctures). In order to achieve this, it will deploy the full array of available evidence – both archaeological and textual – as part of an effectively integrated account. Moving beyond easy narratives of ‘rise and fall’, this analysis will offer a more dynamic view of the transformations of Roman Italy, highlighting a remarkable degree of flexibility and adaptation to the new conditions and varied opportunities which the empire presented in the longue durée.


Preliminary readings (those reported in bold are digitally available): G. Bradley, E. Isayev and C. Riva (eds.) (2007), Ancient Italy: Regions without Boundaries (Exeter); G.D. Farney and G. Bradley (eds.) (2017), The Peoples of Ancient Italy (Berlin); A. Cooley (ed.) (2016), A Companion to Roman Italy (Chichester); T.C.A. De Haas and G.W. Tol (eds.) (2017), The Economic Integration of Roman Italy (Leiden & Boston); J. De Rose Evans (ed.) (2013), A Companion to the Archaeology of the Roman Republic (Chichester); A. Launaro (2011), Peasants and Slaves (Cambridge); K. Lomas (1996), Roman Italy, 338 BC – AD 200: a Sourcebook (London); J.R. Patterson (2006), Landscape and Cities (Oxford); T.W. Potter (1987), Roman Italy (London); S. Roselaar (2019), Italy’s Economic Revolution (Oxford); N. Terrenato (2019), The early Roman expansion into Italy (Cambridge); A. Wallace-Hadrill (2008), Rome’s Cultural Revolution (Cambridge).


General Course


(4 C: tbc)

See under ‘General Courses’ and ‘Graduate Courses’. For students who would like to explore numismatic aspects of their Part II papers or thesis there will be a preliminary session in the first week of Lent Term (date to be confirmed) and up to four follow-up classes.

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