OTHM 107, T Th 11:00-12:15
Dr. Anne Duncan
Office hours: W 11:00-12:00, 2:30-3:30 and by appointment
Oldfather Hall 937; phone: 472-6094; email: email@example.com
, trans. Deena Berg & Douglass Parker.
The Roman Games
, ed. Alison Futrell.
The World of Rome: An Introduction to Roman Culture
, eds. Peter Jones & Keith
Cambridge University Press.
Books are available at the University Bookstore.
Goals and Expectations
This is a course on the different forms of mass entertainment produced in different
historical periods in ancient Rome.
We will look at Roman drama as a kind of
performance which attracted a broad audience, but also as just one kind of mass
entertainment available even in the Republican period of Roman history (up to the mid-1
We will then look at forms of spectacle in the early Empire (late 1
c. BCE – 1
c. CE) that began to center around the person of the Emperor, such as the triumph and the
theatrical extravaganzas of some of the “mad” emperors.
And finally, we will look at the
range of blood sports that were produced, and eagerly consumed, throughout the history
and territory of the Roman Empire: chariot races, military reenactments, beast-hunts,
public executions, and gladiatorial combat.
With all of these varieties of mass entertainment, we will ask the same questions:
Why did Roman society find this particular kind of spectacle entertaining?
What social or psychological function did these spectacles provide?
How alien is this kind of spectacle from our own culture’s ideas of what is
In order to critically examine a number of our own clichés about ancient Roman
“bloodlust” and “decadence,” we will watch several movies from different decades
depicting various aspects of Roman mass entertainment.
We will learn how every age
reads Roman culture through its own filter, including our own era; thus, one of the last
film clips we watch will be from HBO’s “Rome” (2005).
Finally, two words about Roman history.
First, you will encounter terms in your readings
– names of political offices (like “quaestor”), references to events (such as the “Social
War”), and other material – that will probably not be familiar to you.
course emphasizes the history, sociology, and psychology of mass entertainment; I will
give you a sense of how much historical context you will need to retain.