CLA1514 - Ancient Sources (Material Evidence) - Pompeii: Destruction, Discovery and Afterlife

2015/6 Module description

StaffDr Claire Holleran - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module description

Pompeii is one of the most recognisable archaeological sites from the ancient world. It has been a tourist site since the days of the ‘Grand Tour’, and continues to attract millions of tourists each year, offering an opportunity to walk through streets apparently unchanged for millennia. Yet the site has a complex history and interpreting the archaeological material is far from straightforward.  This course will focus not just on what we can learn about the Roman world from Pompeii, including topics such as society, economy, commercial life, streets and traffic, houses, and sexuality, but on the history of the site itself, including its destruction, ‘rediscovery’, troubled excavation history, and the current pressing issue of preservation and conservation.  It will also explore the reception of the site, considering the significant cultural influence of Pompeii from the eighteenth century onwards.

Module aims

This module aims to provide students with a thorough and detailed understanding of the archaeological site of Pompeii, including the nature of its destruction, the history of its discovery and excavation, and the issues raised by the preservation and conservation of the site. Students will learn about the particular difficulties of using the site as a source, what we can learn from it about life in the Roman world, and the reception and afterlife of the town. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Detailed knowledge and understanding of the archaeological site of Pompeii
  • 2. An appreciation of the reception and cultural influence of the site from the eighteenth century onwards
  • 3. An understanding of the ways in which Pompeii can contribute to our knowledge of urban life in Roman Italy

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Development of critical approaches to ancient source material
  • 5. Experience in conducting independent research in Classics and Ancient History
  • 6. Experience in formal academic writing in Classics and Ancient History

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Development of skills in critical analysis
  • 8. Ability to digest and organize diverse information to form a coherent argument
  • 9. Experience in writing an analytical essay or report
  • 10. Experience in conducting independent research
  • 11. Development of teamworking skills through small group work
  • 12. Experience of discussing issues with peer group

Syllabus plan

Topics may include the development of the city; the eruption; the aftermath and ‘rediscovery’ of the site; excavation and cataloguing; the use of the site as a ‘source’; preservation and conservation; reception and cultural influence; society; commercial life; streets and traffic; houses; graffiti; and prostitution and sexuality.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22Lectures (11 x 2 hours)
Scheduled learning and teaching activities5Seminars (5 x 1 hour)
Guided independent study123Independent study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Source Commentary15750 words1-10Mark and written comments
Exam 852 hours1-10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-10Ref/def period
ExamExam1-10Ref/def period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


A full and detailed bibliography will be provided by the lecturer, but key reading will include:

Allison, P. 2004. Pompeian Households: an Analysis of the Material Culture (Los Angeles: University of California Press)

Beard, M. 2008. Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (London: Profile)

Berry, J. 2013. The Complete Pompeii (London: Thames and Hudson)

Cooley, A.  2003. Pompeii (London: Duckworth)

Cooley, A. E. and M. G. L. Cooley, 2014. Pompeii and Herculaneum: A Sourcebook, 2nd edition (London and New York: Routledge)

Dobbins, J. J. and P. W. Foss (eds.), 2007. The World of Pompeii (New York: Routledge)

Laurence, R. 2007. Roman Pompeii: Space and Society. 2nd edition (New York: Routledge)

Wallace-Hadrill, A. 1994. Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press)

Zanker, P. 1998. Pompeii: Public and Private Life (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press)

ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Roman history, Roman archaeology, Pompeii

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