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Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration of Antiquity's Greatest Empire

Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration of Antiquity's Greatest Empire

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Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration of Antiquity's Greatest Empire

Course No. 3430
Professor Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.
Miami University
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4.7 out of 5
72 Reviews
87% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 3430
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Course Overview

Rome was the greatest empire of the ancient world, a colossus that spanned three continents, ruled over millions of people, lasted more than a thousand years, and left as its most enduring legacy the foundation of much of Western culture. Yet, in an empire in which perhaps only one person in ten was literate, how was Rome able to so successfully communicate its civic and cultural values, or project a knowledge of Roman power, to every corner of the realm?

In Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration of Antiquity's Greatest Empire, award-winning Professor Steven L. Tuck of Miami University offers a unique way to understand the relationships that connected Rome, its citizens, and its subjects, and to see the visual and experiential ways in which Rome made and kept those relationships clear.

A Unique Opportunity to Explore the Roots of Our Own Culture

In this fascinating course on the visual nature of ancient Rome, Professor Tuck helps you understand the foundations of your own culture that simply cannot be conveyed through standard courses in art, ancient history, architecture, or religion.

By learning how Rome communicated in so many visually symbolic ways, you gain insight into how similar tools are still used today. You are able to hone your ability to see them at work in the visual symbols that are part of government, the military, religion, and just about every aspect of contemporary public or private life.

And if you're planning a trip to Rome or any other location bearing the marks of its empire, these lectures will also help you prepare for your trip, experience it, and get the most benefit for your travel dollar.

Learn How to Read a Message Meant for an Empire

Professor Tuck guides you through all the ways in which Rome set forth its message, showing you how it flawlessly conveyed all that needed to be said through a vast range of visual spectacle, shared cultural experience, and deliberately crafted structure or imagery:

  • Extravagant public displays, including triumphal marches, gladiatorial combat, chariot races, animal hunts, executions, and even life-sized re-creations of its naval triumphs in vast flooded arenas
  • The architecture of its leading citizens' lavish homes, where design and decor carried a message, from the achievements of a host's lineage to a visitor's position within Rome's civic and social hierarchy
  • The design of its imperial forums and other public spaces and even its harbors, which made clear the voyager's return or his entry into the orbit of Roman power and civic obligation
  • The unavoidable and deliberate messages in Rome's beautiful statuary, sculptural reliefs, and other visual art
  • Rome's emphasis on spectacle and entertainment over political engagement and introspection in the design and use of its theaters
  • The extraordinary engineering achievements that not only built roads, bridges, and aqueducts across the vast range of its empire, but imposed on the very forms of nature itself an often brutal—and always self-aware—topography of Roman power
  • The role of religion in reinforcing Roman values and even in building Rome itself, with the city's very shape altered by the monuments and temples built to fulfill its citizens' vows to deities

Experience the Significance of Rome in a New Way

Even if you have some familiarity with ancient Rome, you'll likely be surprised at the vividness with which Professor Tuck immerses you in Roman life:

  • Elite homes: You learn how the houses of Rome's most powerful families played a significant role in reinforcing social structures and the achievement and stature of the host's family. Deceased family members were represented in a home's public areas by mementos of accomplishments, such as military trophies or the blood-stained armor of defeated foes, and also by imagines of those decedents—images rendered in the form of portrait busts or wax death masks.
  • Rome's imperial baths: In a culture in which so many of the institutions that define Rome were off limits to most people, you see how Rome's magnificent public bathing spas were an exception—a chance for every Roman to experience the tangible benefits of empire and wealth. Free of charge and extraordinarily opulent, these grand complexes were used by everyone, from slaves to the emperor himself. Within their lavish walls, favors would be curried and the obligations of the elite met.
  • Rome's triumphal arches: The 100 triumphal arches that line the great avenues of Rome—and have inspired similar structures throughout the world—represent perhaps the quintessential form of Roman monument. In the stories told by their carvings, as well as by their very presence, they serve, as Professor Tuck notes, to "literally petrify victory imagery in stone," making ephemeral events permanent in the eyes of both the subsequent processions that march beneath them and the Romans who line the streets to watch.

And, of course, there are our eyes as well, still able to read Rome's messages, even after 2,000 years, as accurately as the Romans and non-Romans alike to whom they were first intended.

A Stunning View of Ancient Rome

Representing the most extensive investment we've ever put into a course, this provocative and lavish learning experience is different from any visual course The Teaching Company has ever presented.

Featuring more than 1,000 visuals—including original art commissioned exclusively for this course—Experiencing Rome draws on computer animations of Roman villas, actual artifacts, and revealing maps, along with breathtaking photography of Rome's statuary, mosaics, sculptural reliefs, buildings, public spaces, and monuments.

Many of those photographs were taken by Professor Tuck himself on the numerous study trips he has led to Italy and England. His discussions of the details behind many of the photos add immensely to their impact.

Similarly, his exceptionally well-rounded background in history, classics, classical art, archaeology, and even epigraphy—the study of ancient inscriptions—adds an extra dimension of richness to every discussion.

Combined with a dry sense of humor that balances the sense of gravity that often accompanies explorations of Roman antiquity, his superb teaching skills make him particularly well suited to this subject.

Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration of Antiquity's Greatest Empire shows you how very much there still is to discover in a historical legacy you've been experiencing your entire life.

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36 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
  • 1
    Rome—A Spectacular Civilization
    You examine the visual nature of Roman society and the key role of spectacular display—ranging from its center in the Roman Forum to its frontiers. x
  • 2
    A Brief Survey of the Roman Empire
    This lecture provides the chronological, thematic, and geographical framework for understanding the visual components of the Roman Empire, especially how different forms of governments and their citizens affect their art, architecture, and public display. x
  • 3
    Power, Conquest, and Romanization
    You learn the fundamental role of Rome's military in expanding the empire through conquest and in creating and projecting the image of Roman power, as well as in introducing non-Romans to Roman values and identity. x
  • 4
    Triumphal Processions—Victory Parades
    Conquest provided a reason for triumphal processions, sacrifices, games, and other grand spectacles. It also allowed for public and religious participation in a reinforcement of Roman values and identity. x
  • 5
    Imperial Palaces
    You tour the palaces of Rome's powerful rulers to see how power and culture were displayed in forms that were admired and imitated by lower social classes. x
  • 6
    The Roman House—Space and Decoration
    As a stage for political, religious, and social display, the houses of Roman elites celebrated Roman virtues and cultural identity, reinforcing to social equals and inferiors the influence of the inhabitants. x
  • 7
    Roman Houses as Greek Palaces
    You tour the largest house in Pompeii and an enormous pleasure villa along the Bay of Naples, seeing how Greek material became the standard for Roman prestige display in public and private venues. x
  • 8
    Pompeian Houses and Greek Myth
    The House of Octavius Quartio in Pompeii offers an example of what has been termed "middle-class emulation" of the elite use of Greek material. x
  • 9
    Ritual, Sacrifice, Vows, and Prayers
    As Romans used their homes to declare their values and identities, they also used visual display to proclaim their religious beliefs. x
  • 10
    Sanctuaries, Temples, and Religious Ritual
    Roman religious space was organized around sacrifice and procession but with an absence of congregational space. You look at sanctuaries, altars, and temples as spaces for interaction with the divine. x
  • 11
    Roman Elite Funerals
    You trace a Roman elite funeral as a public and often political statement designed to celebrate the extended Roman family, its place in society, and its contribution to the Roman state. x
  • 12
    Forum Romanum—The Core of the City
    The Roman Forum, which encompassed religious, legal, commercial, and recreational spaces, reflected the forms of government and the role of elite male public service in creating public space. x
  • 13
    Death on Display I—Amphitheaters
    This lecture examines the purposes of spectacles, the buildings themselves, their role in reinforcing Roman social and political power, and the parts played by various participants in the spectacles. x
  • 14
    Death on Display II—Gladiators
    You explore the different types of gladiators, armor, weapons, and training, as well as how gladiators in the republic differed from those in the empire. x
  • 15
    Death on Display III—Gladiatorial Combat
    Gladiators were highly skilled, specifically trained, and determined not just to kill but to entertain and display virtus, the quality of courage or martial prowess that defined Roman manhood. x
  • 16
    Death on Display IV—Animal Hunts
    The animal hunts staged in Rome's amphitheaters were wildly popular, the final stage of a process that symbolized the power of Rome over the dangers of nature—especially exotic foreign nature. x
  • 17
    Death on Display V—Prisoner Executions
    Spectacular prisoner executions were used to fulfill Roman notions of punishment—reciprocal, exemplary, and public—while instructing spectators in the fates of those who reject Roman law and values. x
  • 18
    Death on Display VI—Christian Martyrdom
    Christian martyrdom represented a confrontation of cultural values. While Rome sought to punish with public, shameful deaths those who rejected its legal, social, and political rules, Christians saw the condemned as heroes, who celebrated their status as devout followers of Christ. x
  • 19
    Small Town Spectacle—Games at Pompeii
    This lecture explores the critical role of games in a small community, where they reinforced the prestige of patrons, bolstered the political system, and were an outlet for community identity. x
  • 20
    Aquatic Displays
    The grandest of Roman spectacles might have been the aquatic displays. This lecture introduces you to nonblood sports and mock naval battles, held in large artificial basins and flooded theaters and amphitheaters designed for that purpose. x
  • 21
    Roman Circuses—Arenas for Chariot Racing
    For sheer scale and audience, no spectacle in ancient Rome competed with chariot races, especially those held in Rome's vast Circus Maximus. You explore how this originally Greek competition became a highly organized Roman institution. x
  • 22
    A Day at the Races
    This re-creation of an ordinary Roman's experience at the Circus Maximus shows what the races contributed to the urban experience and how they were a spectacular diversion from the everyday. x
  • 23
    Theaters and Plays
    You explore the rich variety of forms of entertainment in the Roman theater, including music and dance, choral performances, and the wildly popular Roman institution of mime, more pageant than pantomime. x
  • 24
    Emperors as Performers
    Several emperors—including Caligula, Nero, Domitian, and Commodus—chose to participate in spectacles. This lecture discusses their motivations, performances, and the inevitable consequences. x
  • 25
    Imperial Forums—Power and Policy in Rome
    You look at the individual forums created by Julius Caesar, Augustus, Vespasian, Domitian, and Trajan, which answered a need for expanded public space and also allowed for buildings and decorations that reinforced each emperor's rule. x
  • 26
    Imperial Arches, Columns, and Monuments
    You learn how these structures, through the rich sculptural reliefs and statues that covered them, celebrated imperial achievements and policy and the socially formative acts of emperors. x
  • 27
    Imperial Baths in Rome—Spas for the Masses
    Rome's public bath complexes provided a way for everyone to gain tangible benefits from Rome's political system and military successes. x
  • 28
    Roman Engineering—Linking the World
    The entire Roman Empire was linked by a series of roads, tunnels, aqueducts, canals, and bridges unmatched until the 20th century. These buildings were messages of Rome's presence and imperial power meant for both Romans and non-Romans in the empire. x
  • 29
    Roman Military Forts and Fortifications
    The placement, form, and embellishment of Roman forts seem to have been designed as much for visual impact as for defining the edges of Roman ground and often projecting Roman power into disputed territories. x
  • 30
    Images of Warfare—Roman Military Monuments
    The placement, form, and embellishment of Roman forts seem to have been designed as much for visual impact as for defining the edges of Roman ground and often projecting Roman power into disputed territories. x
  • 31
    Roman Colonies—Small Romes
    This lecture shows you how Roman colonization created reflections of Rome and the benefits, stability, and integration of its rule throughout a new urban world. x
  • 32
    Local Baths and Roman Bathing Culture
    You see how public bathing created communal identity, reinforced political power, provided an outlet for generosity, and defined one as a Roman. x
  • 33
    Roman Harbors—Liminal Monuments
    The great artificial harbors built by Rome were not merely utilitarian but were also meant to readjust travelers to Roman space and values and for them to acknowledge the rule of emperors whose monuments defined those spaces. x
  • 34
    Putting It All Together I—A Day in Pompeii
    You follow a fictional traveler, seeing the various visual markers that define his position in the Roman hierarchy, indicate the cultural identity and values of an inclusive but controlled Roman city, and set forth expectations of behavior and contribution. x
  • 35
    Putting It All Together II—A Day in Rome
    Now you are in Rome in A.D. 115, sharing with a fictional Roman his encounters with the major spaces and monuments that define Roman values and identity and shape his experience of living in the city. x
  • 36
    Conclusions and the Images of Empire
    Long after its fall, the acceptance of many of Rome's major visual themes continues, as you see in several examples from around the world and in Washington, DC. x

Lecture Titles

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Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 36 lectures on 6 DVDs
  • 152-page printed course guidebook

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 152-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider
  • Timeline

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Your professor

Steven L. Tuck

About Your Professor

Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.
Miami University
Professor Steven L. Tuck is Professor of Classics at Miami University. After earning his B.A. in History and Classics at Indiana University, he received his Ph.D. in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. He held the postdoctoral Arthur and Joyce Gordon Fellowship in Latin epigraphy at The Ohio State University. An esteemed teacher, Professor Tuck received the 2013 E. Phillips Knox Teaching Award,...
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Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration of Antiquity's Greatest Empire is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 72.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing!! This DVD is like my own private tour guide to these amazing sites of the city of Rome.
Date published: 2017-07-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Read the content carefully I assumed the title meant the course would be filled with visual images. It is not. Focus is on how Rome used visual images in the empire. I suppose this interests some - not me
Date published: 2017-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect! Content, presentation and graphics are all excellent! I learned so much!!!
Date published: 2016-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rome Enjoy learning about what happened before the "Dark Ages".
Date published: 2016-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from For Those Who Like to Look I just finished watching Experiencing Rome for the second time. It is a very good course that emphasizes Roman art, architecture, ceremonies, and spectacles as visual projections or dramatizations of Roman political and military power. Whether through triumphal processions, triumphal arches decorated with reliefs of soldiers and captives, imperial forums in Rome, Trajan’s famous column, or sculptures of an emperor putting his knee into the back of a bare-breasted woman representing a beaten people, the empire set in stone its boast of world domination. Other monuments such as Hadrian’s Wall in Great Britain, outposts along the Rhine and Danube Rivers, or elaborate harbor entrances defined the limits of Roman rule. Ordinary Romans could enjoy the fruits of empire by watching wild beast hunts or gladiatorial games in the Colosseum, or by getting a massage at one of the imperial baths. This is the course where I learned that chariot racing fans didn’t just cheer for their favorite teams; they also nailed down lead curse tablets at the edge of the race track in hopes of sabotaging a rival team. Most lectures deal with Rome and Pompeii, but some also examine places like Leptis Magna and Timgad. The last lecture shows the continuing influence of Roman architecture and art overseas and in the U.S. Professor Tuck is more hesitant here than in his Pompeii course, which he made the following year, and more reliant on his notes, but he sometimes made me laugh with his amusing quips. Those who buy this course will still want to get the one on Pompeii, because he manages to minimize overlap in content.
Date published: 2015-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How Rome Consistently Portrayed Its Culture One never has to be concerned that a course, such as this one, taught by Professor Tuck might prove uninteresting! True to form, Dr. Tuck is his usual engaging, informative, and -- with his interesting sense of humor -- amusing self. His theme is how Roman culture, through the employment of all manner of visual arts -- including architecture, games, monuments, statues and painting -- consistently portrayed and reinforced its image of itself. Since the vast majority of the ancient world was illiterate, visual display was a vital clue by which to communicate both what Rome was as well as who "you" were, which turned upon whether you were a Roman citizen or not. In a way, this well-organized tour through ancient Rome (including other cities and ranging from the time of the kings through the later days of the empire) is familiar: a well educated citizen will recognize familiar landmarks of ancient Rome, such as the Colosseum, the great bath complexes, and the intriguing Forum. But in another way, it is unfamiliar, as Dr. Tuck helps us "get inside" the heads of ancient Romans where we find that, in some significant respects, their values were definitely not those we profess, most especially manifest in their great spectacles arranged for the masses featuring animal hunts, gladiatorial contests, execution of prisoners, and the punishment of Christians. Thanks to Dr. Tuck, we come to understand what these meant and why they were retained for so long, even as we are uncomfortable at the seemingly prolific taking of human and animal lives. But even here we learn that this was far from cruelty for cruelty's sake. These were, rather, preeminently teaching moments for all who observed and even for those who participated. For the latter -- either non-Romans or Romans who had violated some serious law -- by being on the floor of the arena (or Colosseum) they were literally where "no Roman should be." Romans, by contrast, were all those in the stands around and above them. Even as those about to die understood their place, so also did the assembled Romans watching the events have their own cultural values reinforced: "I am here because I am a Roman, I am in this level of the seating because of my class relationship to others, what I observe teaches me that there are both benefits that flow from Roman power and terrible costs for those who resist or violate Rome." I gained a deeper appreciation for the skill of Roman artists, too, in gazing upon the lovely decorations that graced middle and upper class Roman houses and villas (many of these well-preserved as a consequence of the otherwise disastrous eruption of Vesuvius and its rain of death upon Pompeii). It was good to be reminded that all of the statues and detailed sculptures still extent were once in glorious color, and were not intended to be viewed in the bare marble or stone as they are today after all those centuries. The exquisite artistry of those who carved the hundreds of detailed figures and buildings that steadily rise upwards upon the incredible Pillars of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius is also amazing. While much of ancient Rome has been destroyed or, at the least, badly ravaged by time, enough remains to provide us with haunting shadows of what once had been, as well as to allow skilled persons to create remarkable visual reconstructions of Rome's former glory. Several times during this course, Professor Tuck refers us to such a reconstruction of Rome, and "walks us" along routes that triumphant processional marches once took. Many of these images will remain with me a long time; even more permanent will be the "feel" I have acquired for what it would have felt like to be a Roman. A thoroughly interesting and exciting journey in the footsteps -- and in the houses of -- some of our ancestors!
Date published: 2015-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting study of Roman values & society These lectures are on Roman values and social structures as understood through the architecture, art, and written records that have been left behind. The professor clearly conveyed the information and covered a lot of information without leaving me feeling overwhelmed. Each lecture was focused around a structure, like houses, temples, forums, theaters, amphitheaters, baths, or harbors. He takes you through a triumphal procession or a gladiatorial combat or a day at the races while explaining the cultural significance of the statues you saw while entering, where you'd sit, etc. The professor used a good number of photographs, short videos, reconstructive drawings, and animations to help illustrate his points. He did a good job of explaining how he came to various conclusions. If you're interested in Roman culture and how they were so successful at spreading that culture, then you'll probably really enjoy these lectures.
Date published: 2015-03-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Numerous factual errors I purchased this course in preparation for my 3rd visit to Rome. I was having fun and rapidly going through the lectures. Then I got to lecture 24. There was a slide showing the age when the four "transgressive emperors" came to power. It listed Caligula's age as 16, and Commodus' age as 24. Shortly afterwards, another slide listed 70 AD as the time of mass suicide at Masada. Hmmm. Then, in what appears to me as an attempt to bolster a weak argument, Professor Tuck describes Claudius as "very popular and apparently very good" emperor. He can't say it with a straight face so he adds "apparently" in his sentence. In lecture 34, Professor Tuck lists 79 BC as the year Sulla died. In the same lecture, he presents a diagram which shows a shrine to deified Titus right next to the shrine of deified Vespasian at the forum in Pompeii. I can't imagine that is accurate since Titus didn't die until 81 AD. Some might say that I'm nit picking. I understand that these are minor errors which does not affect the overall theme of the course. However, I am dismayed that Professor Tuck and his editor are so careless about factual data. I have no idea how many other mistakes are present in the course. Hard to enjoy a course when you are not confident that the material present in the course is accurate.
Date published: 2015-01-16
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