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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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
 |  Average 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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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

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

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
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 4.5 out of 5 by 79.
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
Rated 5 out of 5 by from super review of this superpower I've been to Rome many times - read a lot of books about its history, etc - yet I learned a lot from this course (example - intricacies of the Colosseum and the realities of gladiatorial combat) - very well done - instructor excellent - Prof Tuck has relaxed presentation that brings this monumental subject matter informally into your home in a fascinating manner - heartily recommend this course to anyone interested in Roman history and how it became a superpower
Date published: 2013-12-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing I'm a relatively new (Fall 2012# Great Courses customer and am an ancient Greek and Roman history 'nut' though not a scholar. I am now the proud - and pleased - owner of nine different lecture series on ancient Greek and Roman, and Near Eastern history & civilization. This is the first review I've felt compelled to write. While interesting and informative with many #though, not enough# visuals, Professor Tuck's concept and manner of presentation made this one a 'chore' long before I reached the end. While I 'got' the notion of the significance of visual cues to not only the novice modern but, also, the ancient citizen, I found the whole concept a bit of a stretch for a 36 lecture series. It clearly was the presenter's pet idea but - while different and plausible for, perhaps, more limited material - it got stale early for me. As for the presentation, my biggest problem wasn't the 'ah's' and 'um's' mentioned by others #though excessive and, eventually, distracting# . . . . it was the REPETITION! We all know people who when trying to provide more in-depth commentary end up just repeating themselves with slightly different verbiage. Professor Tuck is a member of that club. Additionally, in the last few lectures of the series he drags us back over much of the well-plowed ground from previous lectures. When I chose this course , it was after a prolonged self-debate about whether to go with it or Professor Garrett Fagan's HISTORY OF ANCIENT ROME. I understand Tuck's isn't meant to be such a history . . . . . but I still wish I'd gone the other way. Fortunately, I have Professor Thomas Noble's THE FOUNDATIONS OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION #Course No. 370# in my 'library' and it provides just the right level of detail about Rome for my current tastes. Everyone has their 'druthers' about presentation style, but I think Professor Tuck's goes beyond simple personal foible into ineffectiveness.
Date published: 2013-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Under the title "outstanding" we've described at length the excellence of Prof. Tuck as a presenter of his course on Pompeii, which we viewed first, before going on to this one. We were not disappointed. In fact, we were sorry to miss him, having looked forward to his lectures once a week for two years! There's only one qualification we'd add in regard to this course: while it was packed with great information and insight, and appropriate illustrations, it spent more time than we needed on gladiators--though perhaps Prof. Tuck would say "so did the ancient Romans."
Date published: 2013-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! My husband and I are planning a first trip to Italy and were looking for courses to make our trip more enjoyable. Professor Tuck did a great job - not too dense, enthusiastic, well-organized, informative, and light-hearted. We are now fans. Recommend highly. Thanks,
Date published: 2013-04-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A worthwhile course The history, visuals, and content leave little to be desired. If you have a "thing" for ancient Rome, this is a good course to satisfy it. Many previous reviewers make mention of the professor's "wit" and "character,' but these take a few discs to appear. I was mostly distracted by his heavy dependence on "ums" and "uhhs." However, it doesn't make the course unwatchable.
Date published: 2013-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Roman assimilation machine DVD review. When we examine the earliest ancient empires bordering the Mediterranean, a common pattern emerges: a cultural core area increases its wealth by extracting tribute from its neighbours. This required military superiority and proxy overseers, but no attempt was made to impose "core" culture on the subjugated. Just keep the money coming! New Kingdom Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and Macedonia all fit this pattern. But Rome broke that mold. It did so in two ways: 1. While initial subjugation followed the old pattern, locals could accede to Roman citizenship through various means, all of which required some acculturation to Roman religion, languages and values. 2. Rome's open trade and communication infrastructure encouraged foreign enclaves in Italy and Greco-Roman settlements everywhere else. How was cultural unity encouraged in this multi-lingual, geographically-spread-out empire where barely 10% of the population could read? Somehow, non-verbal ways had to be developed to communicate both the carrot and the stick of Roman sovereignty. These "non-verbal" communication patterns are what Dr. Steven Tuck's EXPERIENCING ROME is all about. The symbolic visual cues he examines were both an implicit threat to all troublemakers, and a backdoor invitation to ambitious foreigners seduced by Roman identity. Animal hunts in the Coliseum, for example, often featured beasts captured in recently subjugated territories. The goal of course was entertainment, but a message about Roman superiority — the Roman system, not this or that soldier — was communicated as well. This course is NOT therefore • an exploration of Roman art or architecture on purely aesthetic grounds, • an analysis of Roman city planning and engineering purely as technical problem-solving exercises, or • a presentation of Roman mass entertainment merely as bread-and-circus escapism. Tuck's approach instead is to treat each visual cue as a message designed for three different audiences: the Roman-born, foreign Roman wannabes, and potential rebels. He does not deny aesthetic excellence or religious content. But his course is about something new in the Mediterranean world: the creation of an open-ended, empowering, cultural-assimilation system that is not restricted to the native born. As long as you are clear on this, Tuck's very comprehensive course should satisfy. He is very knowledgeable and a good communicator. Could he have achieved his goal with a 12- or 24-lesson offering? Perhaps. But this is a course designed for TTC clients VERY interested in ancient Rome, ancient culture as propaganda, or the open-ended nature of Greco-Roman internationalism. This last thread played a huge role in the development of early Christianity from its Judaic roots. But that is another story. Bravo, Dr Tuck! Strongly recommended.
Date published: 2013-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressive Presentation Another excellent course by Professor Tuck. I was impressed with his presentation on Pompeii and equally impressed with this course on experiencing the "Visual" aspects of the Roman Empire. The course is well illustrated and well researched and presented enthusiastically. Ranging from the serious aspects of Roman gladiatorial and execution practices to the construction of elaborate bath complexes, the life in this period was highlighted and explained simply but thoroughly. From majestic monuments to the smallest paintings and reliefs, it is possible to gain a better understanding of how the Romans viewed their existence and relationship to others. Many of the aspects of Roman life have made their way through the ages and appear in our depiction of governmental aspects of American culture. Dr Tuck leads us through these similarities and makes watching the course more applicable to life today. The course is especially worthwhile if you are considering visiting Italy and especially Rome itself. I strongly recommend this course; it's worth every penny spent.
Date published: 2012-04-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring Course! As someone who's been to Rome a few times, I wondered if there was much left to learn. Professor Tuck proved me wrong- this course is excellent! The content is superb, and the presentation pitch-perfect, neither too jocular nor pedantic, it manages a great balance of being entertaining and informative. The visuals are a huge plus. And perhaps I can offer no better praise than to say that my sixth grader relied on it for his report on Rome for his social studies class, and his teacher was so impressed she showed part of it in school!
Date published: 2012-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Next Best Thing to Visiting Rome in Person In this video series, Dr. Tuck has created a great companion piece to his series on Pompeii. Here, the ancient Romans come alive and give us great examples of what to do and what not to do today, both as individuals and as a nation. For example, I was shocked to learn that the Romans had no prisons but merely sent criminals into amphitheaters to be devoured by wild beasts. Although I do not think I could stomach such a sight, it would provide a new and different kind of closure for criminals' victims! Dr. Tuck's series is filled up with similar illuminating facts, and Rome will never be the same to me in future visits. I should also mention Dr. Tuck's incredibly funny but understated self-effacing humor while delivering his lectures. My wife and I are waiting and hoping for more videos from Dr. Tuck in the near future.
Date published: 2012-03-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a bit dry but worthwhile This course was a bit tough going at first but the professor's wit and style came through as the course continued, especially during the last 3 DVDs, his enthusiasm was infectious. The visual elements were very good and it helped greatly in understanding a fairly comprehensive course in 36 short episodes.
Date published: 2012-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very different, Very Good This is a DVD course which lives up to the promise of the DVD medium. Interesting perspectives on Roman daily life are spiced with generous visuals which come at a pleasing and absorbable rate. As a longtime Roman history buff, I found many new things to learn, new trivia and interesting asides provided by the enthusiastic Professor Tuck. Over my many visits to Rome, I have quite literally spent weeks in the Roman forums and atop the fabled hills; most often afoot, I have crisscrossed this legendary city from the Vatican to Hadrian's palace, from the Trastevere to the catacombs and I must say even so,I learned many new things in every lecture. I cannot imagine a more enjoyable format for absorbing real history. This course only approaches a rigorous level and thus the rigor remains unnoticed in the pleasure of the many images, drawings, CGI and refreshingly new facts. I enthusiastically recommend this course for any level of scholar. The only requisite for total enjoyment, is an abiding enthusiasm and healthy interest in all things Roman.
Date published: 2012-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Worthwhile Course I had purchased Professor Tuck's course on Pompeii first and enjoyed it very much. I had reservations about this course on Rome because it has overlap with Pompeii. But I was pleased to see that the overlap complimented rather than repeated material. Were I to do it again I would watch this course first and then Pompeii and when I do the courses over again (as I often do with these courses) I will do them in that order. Professor Tuck has a bit of a halting style at times but once you get used to his manner of presentation is it actually engaging. His enthusiasm for the subject is infectious and draws the viewer in with excellent visuals. As with many of the Great Courses that overlap others I have found for the most part that they can work together to give a richer understanding of the subject. This is not intended as a course on Roman history so if that is your objective there are other courses that go into that detail. Instead this focuses on the visual and putting that into context. Sadly the state of most Roman structures is not good. I have many books showing reconstructions which are helpful, in particular the Past and Present series of loose leaf books with plastic overlays that show what is there now and what it looked like in antiquity. If you travel to Rome or other ancient sites these are usually available there or you can fine them on Amazon often at good prices. I found these useful when watching both of Dr. Tuck's courses. If you plan a trip to Rome and/or Pompeii then you will get far more out of the visit if you watch these courses before you go. If you have been you will likely learn more about things you did see and probably things you missed seeing. But even the armchair traveler will enjoy these courses and have a sense of Rome as it developed and fell. Can recommend this course to anyone having interest in Ancient Rome.
Date published: 2011-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful course As a teacher, I am always looking for ways to enrich and expand my knowledge base. This course has been extremely valuable both as a way to learn more about Roman civilization, and as a way to fill the gaps in my knowledge of classical history and the Latin language. If you enjoyed this course, do try Dr. Tuck's course on Pompeii as a follow-up. This course is well worth the time and money, and I recommend it without reservation.
Date published: 2011-09-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Stunning Visuals I just finished viewing this course for the second time, in preparation for a trip we're taking to the Eternal City next month. The great strength of this course is the stunning visuals -- a constant flow of photos, models, maps, and animated three-dimensional graphics -- that help us to imagine life in Rome at the height of the empire. The first time around, Tuck struck me as somewhat jejune, but upon second viewing I have a new appreciation of his qualities as a lecturer. He amply satisfies the most important criterion of success as a TGC lecturer -- passion for the subject -- and I found his colloquial and frequently self-deprecatory approach to be very engaging. This course could easily have been compressed to 24 instead of 36 lectures. There's too much repetition, and way too much time devoted to certain topics (e.g., six full lectures on violent entertainments in the arena). in addition, Tuck has a few explanatory concepts -- e.g., how Roman social hierarchy is reflected in architectural arrangement -- that he flogs to death. Nonetheless, this series is well worth the purchase price -- especially considering the high-quality visuals -- and it is a useful complement to TGC's other course offerings on Rome and the classical world.
Date published: 2011-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An original and absorbing approach If you are looking for a dry recitation of dates and facts, you need to search elsewhere. This series of lectures is an ambitious portrayal of Roman history (roughly from 500 BC to 300 AD) through the lens of cultural artifacts. It makes for fascinating viewing aided by an excellent, knowledgeable lecturer. The many visuals with computer aided analysis of structures add to the enjoyment. Dr Tuck makes the times come alive with his descriptions of what Romans did with their time and how they impressed on other peoples their superiority. He points out the role bath houses played in Roman society. He used the imperial bath house in Rome and one unearthed in Pompeii as examples. Since Romans bathed every day, the bath houses were centers of political and social life. Since I spent three years in Japan during the early fifties and enjoyed the bath experience in the rural, country inns, I kept wondering about the cleanliness of the Roman baths. The Japanese were fastidious about such things. You were thoroughly scrubbed with soap and brush before you were allowed to enter the hot tub or communal bath. What did the Romans do, and what did they use for soap? The lectures are well-constructed and follow a logical pattern of development. Dr Tuck covers all the bases and concludes with some interesting comments about the public buildings in the United States with their Roman heritage in design. If I could be indulged a modest piece of humor about a trivial point, it's ironic that reviewers occasionally comment on the appearance or dress of female lecturers. The females who watched this series with me continued to point out Dr Tuck's exceptional taste and quality of the fabrics he wears and the cut of his clothes. He presents an outstanding impression of how the well-dressed gentleman should appear. This series is highly recommended for learning in depth something about the Roman empire and its people. As other reviewers have pointed out, it would be helpful to review by anyone before they journey to Rome.
Date published: 2011-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rome comes alive.... visually Professor Tuck is an excellent speaker and his materials are concise, yet thoughtfully presented. His sense of humor comes through in his presentations. I especially enjoyed his use of computer graphics to enhance the paintings and sculptures in these lectures. He also gives credit to others when appropriate, yet does not shy away from his giving own views. One of the best courses and presenters with the teaching company. This is why the DVD and on-line downloaded dvd materials are clearly the best and the wave of the future. Thanks for including these materials in your library.
Date published: 2011-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Well Done! This course offered more than a dry history - it offered a window from archaeology and art history - into the thinking and motivations of people two millennia ago. As a teacher, I was thankful for the careful preparation of all the materials by Professor Tuck, and I believe it was the best presentation of ancient Rome that I have seen (I have attended symposia in Rome on the subject and am very familiar with it). The course offers a richness in texture to what many present as a flat history. If you are truly interested in the subject of ancient Rome, you will be thrilled with this professor's presentation.
Date published: 2011-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorites! I've probably watched or listened to over a dozen Teaching Company courses and this is certainly one of my favorites. While the first lecture or two may have been a bit slow, I encourage you to hang in there - by the 3rd or 4th lecture I was fully engaged in a great journey with a lot of insightful information. Unlike many other courses - this one is well served by the DVD format.
Date published: 2011-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration This course was so great that we were sorry when it ended! Professor Tuck was very engaging - he brought ancient Rome to life with great enthusiasm and wonderful visuals - pointing out similarities between ancient Rome and our present day world.
Date published: 2011-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough and entertaining Dr. Tuck does an thorough and entertaining job bringing the empire to life through the evidence left to us. It really gives me a feel for the way the Romans used artwork, city planning, public and religious space and service, and entertainment and spectacle to knit together its diverse military conquests, and create a unified society. Well worth the cost.
Date published: 2011-01-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A mediocre performance I think this course has some good content. But there's a lot of uninteresting content in-between (i.e., lots of boring filler). I had the DVD version. There were some good images. But most of the focus is on the instructor, whose style rubbed me the wrong way. He repeatedly used the term "really," saying one thing is "really" this or another thing is "really" that. I found that annoying. Also, the DVD sometimes had the visual on the screen for too short a time, returning to the professor too quickly. I think The Teaching Company should have a policy of focusing less on the professor, and more time with the visuals on the screen. Finally, I think the course is too long. Valuable course content should not, imo, be watered-down with filler. A 24-lecture length would have been preferable, and the valuable images would have been more frequent. I don't doubt that others will feel differently about this course, and enjoy it more than I. I think that's great. Vive la difference. My tastes, however, were not satisfied by this course.
Date published: 2010-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Insight into the Roman Mind I have no credentials to comment on this course other than a typical liberal arts education. With that caveat, I have to say that course was a fantastic window into the size, shape and dimensions of Roman material culture, art, and religion, as well as into the meaning of these things to the different classes of Roman citizens and residents. At last, after so many history courses that simply look at Rome as a state or through the eyes of Emperors, we see Rome through the eyes of all its people and begin to understand the Roman mind. The only criticism I have is that there weren't even more graphics and photos. But the ones chosen for these lectures certainly help convey the key insights. Rome is a an ancient mirror of our times because it achieved a certain level of prosperity and state cohesion that lasted for many generations. It left a huge legacy that continues to influence us even though fewer and fewer people are educated to understand this. Another reason why I recommend this course. It helps people like me, amateurs interested in getting a reasonable understanding of Rome, vastly improve their appreciation for this remarkable culture. Professor Tuck does a great job and I strongly recommend this lecture series.
Date published: 2010-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "That's Entertainment!" My own road to Rome began from repeated viewings of the BBC series I,Claudius. After watching it over and over, over the years, I finally became curious as to the historical background of the drama. One day yet another Great Courses catalog came in the mail (don't know why, I hadn't gotten any up to that point) and in leafing through it, I came upon the Experiencing Rome lectures. It was on sale (!) so I went online and ordered it, figuring if I could sometimes drop/waste $99 on dates with women I'd never see again, why not spend the same amount on something that promised to be hopefully more interesting and more lasting. So it arrived, and I began watching. Well, let me tell you, these lectures are so addictive! It has come to the point where instead of putting on the latest Netflix fare, I actually have to decide, "Am I in the mood for a movie or TV series tonight, or, for a Rome lecture?" And I guess because the professor, Dr. Tuck, is so entertaining as well as concise and informative, half the time I choose "a Roman lecture". (Clearly if my original impetus was I,Claudius, the entertainment requirement apparently must be high re. anything I watch, as perhaps embarrassing as that is to admit. On the other hand, maybe that's what makes a professor "good", if he/she is entertaining. I didn't go to college so I never had a benchmark re. what academic lectures are like.) And I can tell that he is a scholar as well, that the "visual message" theme running through the series, is one that he has originated in some significant degree. All I know is, it's fun and entertaining to watch these lectures, and because my brain is more like a sieve than a sponge, I expect to watch the series again (and again, I'm sure; like how one can watch Fawlty Towers over and over.)
Date published: 2010-09-27
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