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Masterpieces of World Literature – II Gilgamesh

Notes for week 2 Masterpieces of World Literature by David Damrosch and Martin Puchner from HarvardX: HUM12x on edX.


The Birth of Literature: The Epic of Gilgamesh



Documentaries / Lectures






Masterpieces of World Literature – IX Borges

Notes for week 9, Masterpieces of World Literature by David Damrosch and Martin Puchner from HarvardX: HUM12x on edX.

Inventing Latin America: Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo – Buenos Aires, 24 de agosto de 1899 -Ginebra, 14 de junio de 1986 (87)


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Masterpieces of World Literature – VII Candide

Notes for week 7, Masterpieces of World Literature by David Damrosch and Martin Puchner from HarvardX: HUM12x on edX.


Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes

et Pangloss disait quelquefois à Candide : Tous les événements sont enchaînés dans le meilleur des mondes possibles ; car enfin si vous n’aviez pas été chassé d’un beau château à grands coups de pied dans le derrière pour l’amour de mademoiselle Cunégonde, si vous n’aviez pas été mis à l’inquisition, si vous n’aviez pas couru l’Amérique à pied, si vous n’aviez pas donné un bon coup d’épée au baron, si vous n’aviez pas perdu tous vos moutons du bon pays d’Eldorado, vous ne mangeriez pas ici des cédrats confits et des pistaches.

Cela est bien dit, répondit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin.








Paul Klee drawings / Car le blanc seul n’est rien : Paul Klee, illustrateur de Voltaire

Masterpieces of World Literature – III Homer and The Odyssey

Notes for week 3, Masterpieces of World Literature by David Damrosch and Martin Puchner from HarvardX: HUM12x on edX.


Homer and the Archeology of the Classical Past: The Odyssey

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  • Characters in the Odyssey (Wikipedia)
  • Ὀδυσσεύς
  • Τηλέμαχος
  • Πηνελόπη
  • Ναυσικάα – She is the daughter of King Αλκίνοος and Queen Arete of Phaeacia. Her name, in Greek, means “burner of ships” (ναῦς: ship; κάω: to burn). The first person in literature to be described playing with a ball.
  • Καλυψώ
    The story of Odysseus and Calypso has some close resemblances to the interactions between Gilgamesh and Siduri in the Epic of Gilgamesh in that “the lone female plies the inconsolable hero-wanderer with drink and sends him off to a place beyond the sea reserved for a special class of honoured people” and “to prepare for the voyage he has to cut down and trim timbers.
  • Κίρκη
  • Πολύφημος


You will find the scene of Odysseus’s wanderings when you find the cobbler who sewed up the bag of winds. (Strabo 1.2.15, quoted by Moses I. Finley, The World of Odysseus)







W. Scheidel – The Great Leveler

Walter Scheidel – The Great Leveler, Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, 2017.

In 2015, the richest 62 persons on the planet (2010: 388) owned as much private net wealth as the poorer half of humanity, more than 3.5 billion people.


In England on the eve of the First World War, the richest tenth of households held a staggering 92% of all private wealth, crowding out pretty much everybody else; today their share is a little more than half.

2000 years ago, the largest Roman private fortunes equaled about 1.5 million times the average annual per capita income in the empire, roughly the same ratio as for Bill Gates and the average American today. For all we can tell, even the overall degree of Roman income inequality was not very different from that in the United States.



Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return. Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality.

The “Four Horsemen” of leveling have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich:

  • mass-mobilization warfare
  • transformative revolutions
  • state collapse
  • catastrophic plagues

Growing and persistent inequality became a defining feature of the Holocene. The domestication of plants and animals made it possible to accumulate and preserve productive resources. Social norms evolved to define rights to these assets, including the ability to pass them on to future generations. 

Reviews & Lectures





NU MOOC: Hadrian’s Wall – Life on the Roman Frontier

Notes for Hadrian’s Wall – Life on the Roman Frontier, from Newcastle University by professor Ian Haynes on FutureLearn. Originally published in 2014.

Duration: 6 weeks

    • Wall essentials
    • Life before the Wall
    • The Stanegate
    • Clues to the plan: what were the builders thinking?
    • Invasion force
    • Garrisoning the Wall
    • The late Roman Army
    • Frontier landscapes
    • Populations
    • Identity on Roman frontiers
    • Naming and seeing the gods
    • Syncretism
    • Digging ritual
    • Honouring the gods
    • Christianity along the Wall
    • The Severan period
    • The 3rd-century crisis?
    • The 4th century
    • A 4th-century banquet
    • The end of the Wall
    • The antiquaries
    • The modern landscape







UvA MOOC: Big History – From the Big Bang until Today

Notes for Big History – From the Big Bang until Today, from the University of Amsterdam on Coursera.

Duration: 4 weeks

  1. Introduction, Cosmic History
  2. The History of Earth and Life
  3. Human History
  4. Wrap up

Videos also available on ChronoZoom and BIG HISTORY web site.





Human history on cosmic scales: 13.8 billion years compressed into a single year:

  • Big bang on new years eve, first few months everything would be dark
  • In spring the first stars and galaxies emerge
  • On September 1st, our sun and solar system appear, including Earth
  • October, first bacteria (single-cellular) appear
  • Mid-December, complex (multi-cellular) organisms, like sponges, appear
  • By Christmas, the dinosaurs appear to be wiped out by December 30th.
  • December 30-31: evolution of the mammals
  • Last 6 minutes: modern human beings appear
  • Last 30 seconds: agriculture, written records
  • Last second: modern history (last 500 years)

In terms of space, the Earth (as peppercorn) would be at the distance of 10 meter from the Sun (as grapefruit) [3:00]. The next star, Alpha Centarii would be 3,600 km away.




To create a scale model with an earth only as big as a marble you need 7 miles of empty space (1:45). At this scale the sun is a meter and a half.

  • Mercury 68 m
  • Venus (same size as Earth) 120 m
  • Earth 178 m
  • Mars 269 m
  • Jupiter 920 m
  • Saturn 1,700 m
  • Uranus 3,400 m
  • Neptune 5,600 m


Agricultural Societies – State Formation and Development (2500 BCE)

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


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

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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 –





Yeshiva MOOC: Arch of Titus – Rome and the Menorah

Notes for Arch of Titus: Rome and the Menorah by professor Steven Fine on Coursera/Yeshiva University.

Duration: 6 weeks

Zooms in on the arch as a work of art, its role in history and in our current time, which clearly shows the many different ways one can look at an artifact or historical monument.

  1. Why the Arch of Titus Matters
  2. The Arch of Titus as a Work of Art
  3. The Arch of Titus in History
  4. The Arch of Titus from Antiquity to the Modern Era
  5. The Arch of Titus in the Modern World
  6. The Arch of Titus: Restoring its Color






Plan de Rome > L’arc de Titus


Art History

Diane Kleiner, Open Yale course Roman Architecture, also on Coursera.

From Wikipedia, Arch of Titus article, honorific arc built by Domitian for his deceased older brother Titus to commemorate his victories. Served as a model for later triumphal arches.


The Roman Senate and People (dedicate this) to the divine Titus Vespasianus Augustus, son of the divine Vespasian. 




The Triumph of Titus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Oil on canvas, 1885

Arch in Color

Arch of Titus project, Yeshiva University

New York Times, Technology Identifies Lost Color at Roman Forum (June 24, 2012)

Yale MOOC: Age of Cathedrals

Notes for Age of Cathedrals by professor R. Howard Bloch on Coursera (Yale Summer Session).


Duration: 9 weeks

  • Introduction & Saint-Denis I
    • Chapter 1: Origins and Birth of the Age of Cathedrals
    • Chapter 2: The First Cathedral: Saint-Denis
  • Saint-Denis
  • Architectural Innovation
    • Chapter 6: Gothic Versus Romanesque Design
    • Chapter 7: Architectural Innovations in the Age of Cathedrals
  • Notre Dame de Paris
    • Chapter 8: Building Notre Dame
    • Chapter 9: Birth of Christ and the Death of Mary on Notre Dame’s West Façade
    • Chapter 10: Entering Notre Dame to Great Rose Windows
    • Chapter 11: Saint Stephen and the Miracle of Theophilus
  • Intellectual and Everyday Life
  • Our Lady of Chartres
    • Chapter 15: Building Chartres
      • Jehan le Marchant, Miracles de Notre-Dame de Chartres
    • Chapter 16: Chartres’ Royal Portal and The Liberal Arts
    • Chapter 17: Stained Glass at Chartres
    • Chapter 18: Chartres and Charlemagne
  • Cathedrals and Crusades
    • Chapter 19: The Song of Roland
    • Chapter 20: The Sainte-Chapelle in Paris
  • Saints and Kings
  • Conclusion
    • Chapter 25: Cathedrals from the Middle Ages to the Present


  • Saint-Denis
  • Notre Dame de Paris
  • Beauvais
  • Amiens
  • Chartres
  • Sainte-Chapelle
  • Reims


Smarthistory – Gothic architecture, an introduction




Les Temps des Cathédrales (9 episodes) 1978, based on the book from Duby

Le temps des cathédrales de Georges Duby

  1. L’Europe de l’an Mil
  2. La Quête de Dieu
  3. Dieu est Lumière
  4. La Cathédrale, la Ville, l’Ëcole
  5. Louis IX, Rois Chevalier et Saint
  6. Les Nations s’affirment
  7. Le XIVe Siècle
  8. Le Bonheur et la Mort
  9. Vers les Temps Nouveaux



ND de Paris II

 Origins and Birth of the Age of Cathedrals


A period of economic growth between the Viking raids of the 10th century and the Black Death of 1348. It was a period in which the rural economy of the First Feudal Age gave way to a rise of cities: money, commerce, markets, judicial institutions, guilds, universities, and among the most impressive and enduring architectural monuments of the world, Gothic cathedrals.


Jean Fouquet, The Right Hand of God Protecting the Faithful against the Demons (ca. 1452–1460) from

The subject is highly unusual, as is the topographically accurate depiction of medieval Paris, in which the cathedral of Notre Dame, the spire of Saint-Chapelle, the Pont Saint-Michel, and other monuments of the Île de la Cité (including the Hôtel de Nesle, where the figures stand) are immediately recognizable.

Each new city tried to outdo the others in the height of its cathedral. Begun in 1225, Beauvais outdid them all with a choir vault so high, 157 feet, that it collapsed in the year 1284. All the cities adopted the high style of the high wall in the great wave of cathedral building that swept from the Parisian Basin to the rest of France and eventually, to all of Europe.

We should not forget that in an age when few people could read and manuscript books were rare, the churches, which were covered and filled with images from the Old and New Testaments, served as the Bible of the poor. The Age of Cathedrals was also the age of the birth of literature in the vernacular tongues, in French, Italian, German, and English.

Chapter 1: Origins and Birth of the Age of Cathedrals



Chapter 2: The First Cathedral: Saint-Denis

Suger (1080-1151) – Principal ministre des rois Louis VI le Gros et Louis VII, il est connu surtout par ses ambitions théologiques et artistiques qui le conduisirent à reconstruire la Basilique de Saint-Denis (…) et à donner naissance à l’art gothique.


L’ancienne abbaye royale de Saint-Denis (…) s’élève sur l’emplacement d’un cimetière gallo-romain, lieu de sépulture de saint Denis martyrisé vers 250. Le transept de l’église abbatiale (…) est ainsi la nécropole des rois de France.


Hubert Robert – La Violation des caveaux des rois dans la basilique de Saint-Denis 

Chapter 3: A Bible in Stone for the Poor

Chapter 4: Entering the House of God

Chapter 5: Dazzling Light and Rich Objects

Chapter 6: Gothic Versus Romanesque Design

Chapter 7: Architectural Innovations in the Age of Cathedrals

Chapter 8: Building Notre Dame

Chapter 9: Birth of Christ and the Death of Mary on Notre Dame’s West Façade

Chapter 10: Entering Notre Dame to Great Rose Windows

Chapter 11: Saint Stephen and the Miracle of Theophilus

Chapter 12: Peter Abelard and The Birth of the University

Chapter 14: The Fabiliaux: Urban Tales in the Shadow of The Cathedral


Chapter 15: Building Chartres

Chapter 16: Chartres’ Royal Portal and The Liberal Arts

Chapter 17: Stained Glass at Chartres

Chapter 18: Chartres and Charlemagne

Chapter 19: The Song of Roland (778)


Chapter 20: The Sainte-Chapelle in Paris


Chapter 21: Holy Relics

Chapter 22: The Stained Glass of Sainte-Chapelle

Chapter 23: The Life of Saint Louis


Chapter 24: The King Becomes a Relic

Chapter 25: Cathedrals from the Middle Ages to the Present

The history of the Gothic cathedral since their construction in the High Middle Ages for the most part in the 12th and 13th centuries, is a story of destruction, by men and by nature, and restoration.

Restaurer un édifice, ce n’est pas l’entretenir, le réparer ou le refaire, c’est le rétablir dans un état complet qui peut n’avoir jamais existé à un moment donné.