Yale MOOC: Roman Architecture

Notes for Roman Architecture by professor Diana Kleiner on Coursera/Yale University.

The 9-week Roman Architecture course was recorded in 2009 and you can enroll regularly (the course is also available on YouTube and iTunes). It is one of the early MOOCs – lecture recording without multi-media, gamification, etc., but viewed by “massive” numbers of students, no doubt.

  1. Week
    • Introduction to Roman Architecture
    • It Takes a City: The Founding of Rome and the Beginnings of Urbanism in Italy
    • Technology and Revolution in Roman Architecture
  2. Week
    • Civic Life interrupted: Nightmare and Destiny on August 24, A.D. 79
    • Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: Houses and Villas at Pompeii
    • Habitats at Herculaneum and Early Roman Interior Decoration
  3. Week
    • Gilding the Lily: Painting Palaces and Villas in the First Century A.D.
    • Exploring Special Subjects on Pompeian Walls
  4. Week
    • From Brick to Marble: Augustus Assembles Rome
    • Accessing Afterlife: Tombs of Roman Aristocrats, Freedmen, and Slaves
    • Notorious Nero and His Amazing Architectural Legacy
  5. Week
    • The Creation of an Icon: The Colosseum and Contemporary Architecture in Rome
    • The Prince and the Palace: Human Made Divine on the Palatine Hill
  6. Week
    • The Mother of All Forums: Civic Architecture in Rome under Trajan
    • Rome and a Villa: Hadrian’s Pantheon and Tivoli Retreat
    • The Roman Way of Life and Death at Ostia, The Port of Rome
  7. Week
    • Bigger is Better: The Baths of Caracalla and Other Second-and Third-Century Buildings in Rome
    • Hometown Boy: Honoring an Emperor’s Roots in Roman North Africa
    • Baroque Extravaganzas: Rock Tombs, Fountains, and Sanctuaries in Jordan, Lebanon, and Libya
  8. Week
    • Roman Wine in Greek Bottles: The Rebirth of Athens
    • Making Mini Romes on the Western Frontier
  9. Week
    • Rome Redux: The Tetrarchic Renaissance
    • Rome of Constantine and a New Rome

There is a guidebook, Roman Architecture, a Visual Guide that accompanies the course, available for iBooks, Kindle, etc.


Google Earth is used extensively in the course (Streetview was just released in 2008). At the time, there even was a 3D Ancient Rome overlay but unfortunately, it is no longer available. The new version (Rome Reborn VR) is still under construction, see http://romereborn.squarespace.com


The list of films, documentaries, and docudramas for TV about ancient Rome is impressive, if not overwhelming. Fortunately, the more recent ones also tend to become more realistic.

Building the Ancient City

Building the ancient city – Andrew Wallace-Hadrill (BBC, 2015). With the focus on architecture and city planning.

Ultimate Rome, Empire Without Limit

Ultimate Rome Empire Without Limit – Mary Beard (BBC, 2016). From the early days until the end of the empire, exploring the outer limits and how it affected the center.


Meet the Romans

Meet the Romans – Mary Beard (BBC, 2012). About how the patricians and plebs lived in the empire.



Caligula by Mary Beard (BBC, 2013) – Xanten, Capri.

Eight Days that made Rome

Eight days that made Rome, docudrama presented by Bettany Hughes (Channel 5, 2017)

The Last Days of

The Last Days Of – docudrama by Toby Jones, published by Channel 5 in 2015 includes one episode about antiquity:

Rome: A History of the Eternal City

Rome: A History of the Eternal City, by Simon Sebag Montefiore (BBC, 2012)

Des Racines et des Ailes

Romulus and Remus

How it all got started…

Regal Period

  • Romulus (753-715)
  • Numa Pompilius (715-673)
  • Tullus Hostilius (673-642)
  • Ancus Marcus (642-616)
  • Tarquinius Priscus (616-578)
  • Servius Tullius (578-535)
  • Tarquinius Superbus (535-509)

Late Republic

  • Gaius Marius 157-86 (71)
  • L Cornelius Sulla 138-78 (60)
  • Pompey 106-48 (58)
  • Julius Caesar 100-44 (56)

Digging History

American Institute for Roman Culture – Digging History

  1. Digging History: Introduction
  2. The Sources
  3. The Geology of Rome
  4. The Ancient Metropolis
  5. The Layers of Rome
  6. Destroying Rome
  7. Building Blocks: The Architecture and Engineering of Rome
  8. Getting Started: The Founding of Rome in the Archaic Period (753-509 BC)
  9. The Roman Republic 509-200
  10. The Late Republic 200-44

2. The Founding of Rome and the Beginnings of Urbanism in Italy

2.1 Casa Romuli, Rome (after 753 B.C.)

2.2 Jupiter Optimus Maximus Capitolinus, Rome (509 B.C.)


2.3 Murus Servii Tullii, Rome (378 B.C.)


2.4 City Walls, Norba

2.5 City plan, Ostia (350 B.C.)

Rome grew haphazardly, whereas towns like Ostia, the port of Rome, were laid out all at once. Designed as castrum (military camp) with a north-south cardo and east-west decumanus with a forum where they met.


2.6 Templum Portuni, Rome (75 B.C.)

Forum Boarium


2.7 Temple of Hercules, Cori (75 B.C.)

underscores that melding Etruscan, Greek, and Roman elements was a first-century obsession.


2.8 Templum Vestae, Tivoli (Italy), ca. 80 B.C.

The Temple of Sibyl at Tivoli by John `Warwick' Smith 1749-1831

a4a23223dc43848897950b1428f1c2d1 266px-temple_of_vesta_3d

3. Technology and Revolution in Roman Architecture

3.1 Porticus Aemilia, Rome, 193 B.C.; restored 174 B.C.

Vast concrete warehouse: opus incertum and barrel vaults.


3.2 Mercato Romano Coperto, Ferentino, ca. 100 B.C.

One of the utilitarian concrete structures built in Rome’s new Italian colonies. Opus incertum was used to face the main barrel vault; rectangular and voussoir ashlar blocks (opus quadratum) emphasized the location and shape of the arches and supported the vaulting. The experiment at Ferentino presaged Rome’s most famous and sophisticated market hall, designed by Apollodorus of Damascus for Trajan’s Markets in Rome


3.3 / 3.4 Santuario di Giove Anxur, Terracina, ca. 100– 70 B.C.

The Jupiter Anxur temple was traditional— an Etruscan plan with a Greek elevation— but its vast podium was pioneering. Made of concrete, faced with opus incertum, it features great barrel-vaulted arches resting on piers and stabilized at points of greatest stress by rectangular blocks of stone.



3.5 Santuario di Ercole Vincitore, Tivoli, ca. 75– 50 B.C.

The Sanctuary of Hercules advances Roman sanctuary architecture by adding a theater and shops. The scheme of the temple on the podium is similar, but the temple is flush with the colonnade and is preceded by a curved staircase used as a theater for religious or other performances.


3.6 Tabularium, Rome, ca. 78 B.C.

This corridor was lighted through a series of arches divided by semidetached columns of the Doric order, the earliest example of this class of decoration, which in the Theatre of Marcellus, the Colosseum, and all the great amphitheatres throughout the Roman empire constituted the decorative treatment of the wall surface and gave scale to the structure.

rome-tabularium-interieur dscn6956


3.7 Theatrum Marcelli, Rome, dedicated 13 or 11 B.C.

Augustus erected the Theater of Marcellus in honor of his nephew and son-in-law. The structure has been preserved thanks to its reinvention as a medieval fortress, Renaissance palace, and modern condominium. It

Since the concrete vaults support the building, the columns have no structural purpose and are the icing on the cake.



3.8 Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia, Palestrina

a masterpiece of early Roman concrete construction.

4. Civic Life Interrupted Nightmare and Destiny on August 24, A.D. 79

Pompeii and Herculaneum Documentaries



Virtual Walking Tour


4.1 Forum, Pompeii, plan, second half of the second century B.C.


4.2 Capitolium, Pompeii, ca. 150 B.C., tripartite cella added ca. 80 B.C.


4.3 Basilica, Pompeii, ca. 120 B.C.


4.4 Amphitheater, Pompeii, ca. 80– 70 B.C.


4.5 Theater, Pompeii, ca. 80– 70 B.C., remodeled at end of first century B.C.

Microsoft Word - Figure 1.docx

Forma Urbis Romae




Le Destin de Rome, Venger Cesar / Das Schicksal Roms – Cäsar rächen –





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