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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 2023–24

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 2024-25 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.


Course description


16 L: Michaelmas; 8 L: Lent)

The broad aim of this course is to introduce you to the fascinating world of Aegean Archaeology. We will journey through time, focusing specifically on the Neolithic, Bronze and Early Iron Age cultures of Greece.

Some of the course’s key questions include: how can we reconstruct and 'read' the past without the aid of textual records? What can the study of art and archaeology of Greece's rich and varied pre-classical past tell us about the societies of the Bronze Age Aegean? How did these societies manage to transform from village-based communities to ‘palaces’? What is the connection between the myths of later Greeks and the archaeology of Bronze Age Greece?

This course offers an in-depth survey of the archaeology and art of the Aegean world within the framework of the wider Mediterranean. Particular emphasis is placed on the societies of the Bronze Age (ca. 3200-1100 BCE): the worlds of the Early Cyclades, Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece. We will examine critically the emergence of complex societies and their social, political and economic organisation, the trade and exchange networks, attitudes to death and 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. 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 museum displays have all influenced over time what we know - or think we know - about Greece's astonishing pre-classical past.

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 a pottery handling practical in Cambridge (no previous knowledge required!) Involving a series of guest lectures and handling sessions, the course also includes a tour of the British Museum & short presentations of particular objects by students (March 2023, wk8).


Introductory reading:

Knappett, C. 2020. Aegean Bronze Age Art, Cambridge.

Lemos, I. and Kotsonas, A. (eds.) 2019. A Companion to the Archaeology of Early Greece and the Mediterranean, Chistester (browse through to get an idea of topics/themes covered)

Shelmerdine, C. (ed.) 2008. The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age, Cambridge. Cambridge Companion to Aegean Bronze Age (browse through to get an idea of topics/themes covered)


Recommended reading

(following the links, you may be asked to log-in using your institutional details to gain access)

Bintliff, J. 2012. The Complete Archaeology of Greece, Oxford.

Broodbank, C. 2013. The Making of the Middle Sea, London.

Chadwick, J. 2014 (2nd ed.). The Decipherment of Linear B, London.

Decipherment of Linear B

Cline, E. (ed.) 2010. The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean, Oxford.

Oxford Handbook Bronze Age Aegean

Deger-Jalkotzy, S. and Lemos, I. (eds.). Ancient Greece. From the Mycenaean palaces to the Age of Homer, Edinburgh.

Johnson, M. 2010 (2nd ed.). Archaeological Theory: An Introduction, Oxford.

Archaeological Theory

Knappett, C. 2020. Aegean Bronze Age Art, Cambridge.

Lemos, I. and Kotsonas, A. (eds.) 2019. A Companion to the Archaeology of Early Greece and the Mediterranean, Chistester.

Shelmerdine, C. (ed.) 2008. The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age, Cambridge.

Cambridge Companion to Aegean Bronze Age


Paper D2: Beyond Classical Art

Course Director: Prof. 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 2023–24

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 2024-25 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.


Course description


(16 L , 3 C (2 hr): Lent;
1 (2 hr) 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.

Content note: Included in this course is discussion of ethnicity, disability, sexual activity, and body image.

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; 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. Classical Art: a Life History from Antiquity to the Present. Princeton; Fowlkes-Childs, B. and M. Seymour (eds.) (2019) The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East. New York; Bond, S. (2017) 'Whitewashing ancient statues: whiteness, racism And color in the ancient world', Forbes, 27 April:; Talbot, M. (2018) 'The myth of whiteness in classical sculpture, The New Yorker, 29 October:


Paper D3: Visual Narratives

Course Director: Dr N Spivey

Aims and objectives

  1. To introduce students to the concept of narrative art, and its position within modern theories of narrative and semiotics generally.
  2. To draw attention to the 'narrativity' inherent in what survives of ancient visual media, from large monuments to microscopically-crafted objects.
  3. To provide a chronological series of close-focus case-studies that will give students opportunities to practice various strategies of interpreting images from Classical antiquity.
  4. To locate the Classical development of visual storytelling within a transhistorical and cross-cultural perspective.


Scope and structure of the examination paper 2023–24

Candidates are required to answer three of a choice of about twelve questions.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

In 2024-25 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.


Course description


(16 L; Michaelmas:
4 (2 hr) C: Easter

Story-telling is conventionally associated with words, in oral and written communication. Yet today stories are mainly relayed by images, or image-dominated media. Was this also true in antiquity? Including an introductory survey of narrative art in societies with zero or restricted literacy, and a bracing immersion into the depths of narrative theory, this course traces an evolutionary ‘story’ of visual story-telling in Classical antiquity, from Geometric Greece to the Roman empire under Constantine. The order of lectures is chronological, with certain general questions addressed alongside a series of case-studies. Is the ‘naturalism’ of Classical art due to the graphically descriptive style of Homeric epic? Should ‘art’ and ‘text’ be considered as siblings (rival or cooperative), or do they occupy categorically different ‘parallel worlds’? Must every story have a beginning, middle and end? Does the Hollywood formula (directly derived from the mythography of Joseph Campbell) ultimately arise from Classical codification – or cross-cultural practice? Are some stories most effectively told only by words? To what extent did early Christians evangelize with images?

Content note: By its nature and scope the course contains some graphic images of violence and trauma.

Students intending to follow the course might prepare themselves by looking at Aristotle’s Poetics (with commentary), and some primer of ‘narratology’, such as R. Altman, A Theory of Narrative (New York 2008), D. Herman, Basic Elements of Narrative (Wiley-Blackwell 2009), or M-L. Ryan ed., Narrative across Media: The Languages of Storytelling (Nebraska 2004). For the sort of case-studies we will be addressing, see H.A. Shapiro, Myth into Art: Poet and Painter in Classical Greece (Routledge 1994), M. Stansbury-O'Donnell, Pictorial Narrative in Ancient Greek Art (Cambridge 1999), R. Brilliant, Visual Narratives (Cornell 1986), P.J. Holliday ed., Narrative and Event in Ancient Art (Cambridge 1993), and K. Lorenz, Ancient Mythological Images and their Interpretation: An Introduction to Iconology, Semiotics, and Image Studies in Classical Art History (Cambridge 2016).


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 2023–24

Candidates are required to answer three of a choice of about twelve questions, one or more of which may be picture related.

(Supervisions for this course will be centrally organised.)

In 2024-25 the scope and structure of the paper will remain unchanged.


Course description


(16L, 8 C: Michaelmas; 1 C: Easter)

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).


Optional Art & Archaeology courses

The following optional courses will provide interested students with additional content which they may find useful. These courses are open to all Part IB, Part II and MPhil students.


Roman Architecture

(4L: Lent)

This course offers a thematic introduction to the architecture of the Roman period. The focus is on human agency – not just on users, but also on patrons, builders and architects—in order to explore the impact and role of architecture on society. Lectures will look at different ways to approach and study architecture: art historical, architectural/design, economic, structural/construction, sensorial. Along the way we will also tackle questions of urbanism, economy, construction and technology (esp. water), among others. Although we will focus on the Mediterranean, the course looks outside of Italy—and to materials beyond Pompeii, Campania and Rome alone. 

Introductory readings: DAVIES P. J. E. (2017) Architecture and politics in Republican Rome, Cambridge; GROS P. (2001–2002) L'architecture romaine : du début du IIIe siècle av. J.-C. à la fin du Haut-Empire, 1. Les monuments publics, 2. Maisons, palais, villas et tombeaux, Paris; LANCASTER L. C. (2015) Innovative vaulting in the architecture of the Roman Empire: First to Fourth centuries CE, New York; WARD-PERKINS J. B. (1994) Roman imperial architecture, 2nd edition, New Haven.


The Archaeology of Rome's North-Western Provinces

(4L: Lent)

This course introduces the archaeology of Germania, Gallia Belgica, and Britannia in order to explore the history of Roman-period north-western Europe. The aim is to encourage students to assess the interaction between different types of sources – including between material and textual evidence – when thinking about imperial occupation. In particular, we will be evaluating the relevance of archaeology to current debates about identity, resource exploitation and community relations, while also thinking across provincial boundaries. The course will be comprised of four one-hour lectures: 1) Introduction: learning about the ‘outer ring’ of Rome’s provinces; 2) Forms of urbanism in north-western Europe; 3) Rural lifeways: acceptance or rejection? 4) ‘Who’s that knocking?’: Connections between and across communities.

Introductory readings: H. Eckardt 2014 Objects and Identities; M. Pitts 2020 The Roman Object Revolution; J. Webster 2001 Creolising the Roman Provinces, American Journal of Archaeology 105.2: 209–25; G. Woolf 1998 Becoming Roman.

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