Sport and daily life in the roman world

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Arthur Verhoogt

Department of Classical Studies

2124 Angell Hall


Office hours: W 2-3;Th 3-4



Laura Banducci

Clara Bosak-Schroeder

Ellen Cole

Andrew Stem


Sport was as important for the ancient Romans as it is for present-day Americans. Apart from being sheer entertainment and fun, Roman sports also provided a venue for the ancient Romans to articulate the things that mattered in their culture: Sport, in other words, was all about what it meant to be Roman. In this course we will introduce the various athletic events in the Roman Empire (from the Roman version of Ultimate Fighting to the Roman NASCAR), the facilities (a Roman ‘Big House”), and people involved (from athletes to commissioners), and discuss how Roman sports help to understand the broad structures of Roman life.

Schedule of Lectures and readings
Week I
September 9: Introduction; course expectations

September 11: Why study ancient sports (Kyle, Sport and Spectacle…, 1-22; ctools)


Week II
September 14: Evidence for the Roman World (Potter, Ancient Rome, 9-18)

September 16: Rome’s playing field (Sallares, “Ecology”, in CEHGRW, 15-37; ctools)

September 18: Coming of Rome (Potter, Ancient Rome, 19-54)
Section: key terms

Week III

September 21: Towards a Roman Empire (Potter, Ancient Rome, 55-98)

September 23: Roman Society: Demography (Frier, in Potter-Mattingly, 85-112)

September 25: Roman Society: Slavery (Bradley, selections; ctools)


Section: key terms

Week IV
September 28: Roman Society: The family (Hanson, in Potter-Mattingly, 19-43)

September 30: Greek sports (Miller, Ancient Greek Athletics, 31-86; ctools)

October 2: TBD
Section: discuss computer assignment 1
COMPUTER ASSIGNMENT 1: The Roman Family (open 9/28; due 10/5 @ 9 am)

Week V
October 5: Egyptian Sports (Decker, 60-103; ctools)

October 7: Origins of Roman sports (Futrell Roman Games, 1-11)

October 9: Sports and Politics 1 (Futrell, Roman Games, 11-29)
Section: key terms

Week VI
October 12: Sporting Facilities: the “Big House” (Futrell, Roman Games, 52-67; Dodge, in: Potter-Mattingly, 224-235)

October 14: Sporting Facilities: Circus Maximus (Futrell, Roman Games, 67-77; Dodge, in: Potter-Mattingly 236-241)

October 16: Failure of Republic (Potter, Ancient Rome, 99-138)


Section: key terms

Week VII
October 19: No Class (Fall Break)

October 21: Review

October 23: hour exam


No sections (extra office hours)

October 26: From Republic to Principate (Potter, Ancient Rome, 139-174)

October 28: Augustus (Potter, Ancient Rome, 174-194)

October 30: Politics and sports 2 (Futrell, Roman Games, 29-51)
Section: key terms

Week IX
November 2: Gladiators (Potter in Potter-Mattingly, 303-324)

November 4: Life and death of gladiators (Futrell, Roman Games, 138-155)

November 6: A Day at the games (Futrell, Roman Games, 84-103)


Section: discuss computer assignment 2

COMPUTER ASSIGNMENT 2: Gladiators (open 11/2; due 11/9 @ 9 am)

Week X
November 9:  Audiences (Futrell, Roman Games, 104-113; 117-119)

November 11: Charioteers (Potter in Potter-Mattingly 284-303)

November 13: Chariot races (Futrell 189-208)
Section: key terms

Week XI
November 16: High Empire (Potter, Ancient Rome, 195-250)

November 18: More High Empire (Potter, Ancient Rome, 195-250)

November 20: Greek Sports in Roman times (Kyle, Sport and Spectacle 329-339; Miller, Arete, 160-164; ctools)
Section: discuss computer assignment 3
COMPUTER ASSIGMENT 3: Sporting Emperors (open 11/16; due 11/23 @ 9 am)

Week XII
November 23: Boxing (Poliakoff 68-88; ctools)

November 25: A Heavy-weight from Egypt (TBD)

November 27: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)


Section: High Empire

November 30: Roman male elites (Gleason in: Potter-Mattingly, )

December 2: Thinking about Greek Sports (Philostratus; ctools)

December 4: Thinking about Athletics (Galen; ctools)
Section: discuss computer assignment 4
 COMPUTER ASSIGNMENT 4: Egyptian Athletes (open 11/30; due 12/7 @ 9 am)

Week XIV
December 7: Towards a Christian Empire (Potter, Ancient Rome, 251-300)

December 9: Christians and games (Futrell 172-188)

December 11: End of Empire (Potter, Ancient Rome, 301-334)
Section: key terms

Week XV
December 14: The Worlds of Roman Sport


Final exam: Friday, 18 December, 4-6 pm


Required Readings

A. Futrell, Roman Games.

D.S. Potter and D. Mattingly, Life, Death and Entertainment in the Roman Empire.

David Potter, Ancient Rome: A New History (2009)
Other Reading on the Course Tools site as indicated on the syllabus.

Course Requirements:

The requirements for this class consist of daily preparation for class by thoroughly reading the assigned readings, 1 one-hour examination, 4 computer assignments, and 1 final exam, as well as several smaller assignments and contributions during section. These contribute to your final grade in the following manner:
Section participation: 20%

Computer Assignments: 30%

One-Hour Exam: 20%

Final Exam: 30%

The examinations will consist of identifications from the secondary readings and essay questions. The terms for id-questions will be discussed in section. Topics about which essay questions may be asked will be handed out before each examination. Essays should be well organized and thorough, taking account of the evidence from primary sources.
The computer assignments will consist of translated passages from primary sources for discussion and comment, bringing into play the things you have read in the readings and heard in lectures and sections. The assignments should be well argued, to the point, and show sufficient command and understanding of required readings.


Policy on Collaboration

We recognize that you will often work on assignments with your friends.  This is a good thing to do.  We also recognize that this will result in some sharing of ideas, but we expect that the assignments that you turn in will represent your own take on the material.  If your assignment shows verbal similarities to that turned in by another person in the course you will receive a 0 on that assignment.  You cannot redo assignments that have received a 0.  We hope that we will not have to invoke this rule.

Policy on Late Work

All work is due on the date that is listed on the syllabus.  If for some reason—illness or an unavoidable university-related travel commitment are usually the only ones that we will allow—you cannot turn in the assignment on the due date, you must notify your GSI in advance, and you will have until the next scheduled class to turn it in for full credit.  Exceptions to this policy will only be possible in cases of serious illness or family emergency, and will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
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