The Roman world seems largely distant to students today. After all, its empire was formed over 2000 years ago, and choosing a career as a gladiator is far from anyone’s mind. Yet, if you think about the buildings you enter, the literature you read, the language you speak, and the art you admire, you will recognize much that the Romans left behind. Their legacy is found in the Wheaton Campus buildings (the facade of the library), in the laws that govern our land (a man should have the right to face his accusers), in the stadiums that house our favorite sports team (Romans cheered for the Greens, the Reds or the Blues-Charioteers) and even in the American obsession for cleanliness (at one point there were nearly 1000 baths in the city of Rome, and the central building of the Baths of Caracalla covered 6 acres, the same size as the U.S. Capitol).
This connection seeks to inspire students to embrace the bond that ties the present with the past through close reading of ancient texts and ancient objects. An introduction to methods of art historical analysis will allow our students to take mute objects such as a Roman sculpture and encourage them to speak. Deft historical analysis of primary texts will bring the ancient world into greater focus. Using ancient texts, images, and popular culture within a comparative analysis framework, both classes will bridge the gap between contemporary life and the ancient world while at the same time highlighting the key differences between Rome-then and now. As connected courses, ARTH 274 and HIST 111 will also demonstrate the different methodological perspectives in history and art history, while ultimately focusing on the same question, When in Rome, do we do (or did we do, historically-speaking) as the Romans have done?
(Previously ‘When in Rome.’)