Hartnett, Students Off to Visit Ancient Rome

Michael Carper ’13 – After having spent countless hours pouring through journal articles for homework, analyzing archaeological plans during class, and skimming secondary research for paper topics, our immersion group, is finally going to Rome/Pompeii.

The immersion class, led by fearless professor of Classics Dr. Jeremy Hartnett, is titled “Self and Society in Ancient Rome,” which describes the social approach of our class. Instead of dwelling on emperors and Augustan literature, as fun as those are, we are paying close attention to how Romans actually lived. Such an approach doesn’t get much love from the typical literary and historical sources, who were more concerned with elite politics than the trials and tribulations of your everyday garum (fish-sauce) maker. However, by gleaning whatever perspective we can from our canon of sources, and adding it to our archaeological and epigraphical knowledge, we can construct basic facts about Roman life.

Our two platforms in Italy for doing this will be Rome and Pompeii. Rome, of course, because it was a host to a teeming mass of people, provides a collection of noteworthy and well-studied sites, and is the general locus of Roman classical studies. We’ll be hitting the basic canon of sites like the Colosseum and the Mithraic Temple underneath St. Clemente, as well as various museums and monuments throughout the city.

The first half of the trip, however, will be spent around the Bay of Naples, and especially Pompeii. Pompeii was not an especially interesting Roman colony, but allows an unparalleled look at a so-called “city frozen in time.” Such a label isn’t completely accurate, but Pompeii does provide an in-depth, well-excavated look at Roman daily life. The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD has given us a depth of social data that would have never been preserved otherwise, beyond the iconic images of plaster cast bodies.

We’ll also visit Herculaneum, a much less-excavated pictue, closer to Mt. Vesuvius. A recent NYTimes article highlighted the restoration and preservation efforts that are helping the Herculaneum staff avoid the pitfalls currently threatening Pompeii.

Going on this trip are 12 students, including myself, some who have more extensive abroad experience, and some who have never traveled outside the country. Accompanying us will be Classics professor Dr. Matt Sears and his wife, so it should be a lot of fun, and of course, educational.

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