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BA Latin and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Roman Women in 22 Objects

Unit code CAHE20531
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics & Ancient History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course explores the material culture of Roman women. This includes any kind of object, artefact or archaeological evidence related to women, used by women or even produced by them. Twenty-two key objects, one for each lecture and dating from the early Principate to Late Antiquity, will be used as tools to introduce wider topics (e.g. the archaeology of birth and childcare; marriage and relationships in material culture), archaeological corpora (e.g. portraits, terracotta votive offerings, textiles), and specific archaeological contexts (e.g. female burials, female public and domestic spaces) in order to investigate women’s lives and roles in Roman society. Through close analysis of evidence in lectures and seminars, students will learn different approaches and methodologies to critically engage with Roman material culture. 



  • to be introduced to the study of women in antiquity
  • to learn how to analyse material evidence in order to explore ancient women lives
  • to locate material evidence into the wider historical background
  • to learn how to use archaeological objects for research


Objects and topics covered in weekly lectures and seminars may include: Roman architecture (e.g. the Ara Pacis; Pompeii houses); portraits of Roman empresses (e.g. marble statues and coins); everyday use objects (e.g. hair pins, cosmetic containers, utensils, toys, clothes); votive objects (e.g. terracotta wombs and breasts; terracotta and bronze statuettes); funerary inscriptions; papyrus documents written by women; portraits of Roman women (e.g. Fayum portraits; fresco portraits from Pompeii and elsewhere)

Teaching and learning methods

Blackboard; training sessions in the Manchester Museum.

Knowledge and understanding

  • to understand how archaeological objects are related with the study of Roman women
  • to understand how objects were produced, used and exchanged or commodified in the Roman world
  • to be able to classify ancient objects according to their aims, contents and material aspect

Intellectual skills

  • To construct an argument in written and oral form
  • To assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence, and to engage critically and analytically with this evidence
  • To conduct independent research
  • To present the results in a professional manner with appropriate and detailed reference to sources and modern published scholarship

Practical skills

  • To manage time
  • To engage with collections of material evidence
  • To engage in critical discussion and debate

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • To be able to communicate ideas in appropriate written and oral form
  • To work in groups
  • To analyse data and be able to interpret them

Employability skills

The course involves a large number of important employment skills, most notably an ability to analyse and examine complex information, an ability to synthesise an argument in a cogent form, the ability to collaborate with experts in different fields, the retrieve information from complex sources and present it in a compelling and cogent fashion.

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

essay 1


1,250 words


essay 2


1,250 words




2 hours



Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback


Oral feedback



Recommended reading

  • E. D’Ambra, Roman Women, Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press 2007
  • E. Fantham, H. Foley, et al., Women in the Classical World: Image and Text, Oxford:  1994
  • S. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity, London: Penguin Random House 1995 (first published in 1975)
  • J. Rowlandson (ed.), Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998
  • P. Zanker, Roman Art, Los Angeles: Getty Publications 2008

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

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