Roman Art and Roman Architecture

Roman Art and Roman Architecture / 2004-2005
Images, family trees, and Hollywood film bring Roman history to life

In her undergraduate courses "Roman Art" and "Roman Architecture," Professor Diana E. E. Kleiner introduces students from across Yale College to the enduring monuments and history of ancient Rome. The lecture courses rely heavily on students' ability to view artifacts from the Roman Empire, yet Professor Kleiner felt that slide projections in the classroom and images reproduced in course textbooks were insufficient resources for a full understanding of Roman culture. So in spring and summer of 2004, she worked with the CMI2 to develop a range of digital resources for "Roman Art" that could be incorporated into her fall 2004 teaching.

The collaboration resulted in an expansive database of nearly about 350 images, scanned from top quality sources (many from books in Yale's Art and Architecture library). Upon this foundation, the CMI2 built a series of monument lists, one for each lecture, which contain both the standard identificatory fields (title, location, date) as well as occasional descriptive notes indicating significant aspects of each object. Each lecture's monument list is available through the Classes*v2 course site in HTML and PDF versions; students are asked to print each list prior to attending lecture, and encouraged to take notes on the list itself during lecture.

Professor Kleiner also wished to provide students with additional resources about Roman history and culture, available only through the web portal, to supplement what was covered during lecture. These resources include custom-built maps of the Roman empire; extensive genealogical trees showing the relations among generations of emperors; an interactive diagram explaining the Roman social pyramid; and a host of recommended external web sites for further study. For their entertainment and educational value, Professor Kleiner also selected scenes from films ranging from Ben Hur to Gladiator, and selected episodes of the acclaimed 1976 BBC mini-series I, Claudius.

The web environment developed for "Roman Art" was so successful that a similar project ensued for Professor Kleiner's "Roman Architecture" course a year later. A new database was built, containing hundreds of images illustrating imperial Roman architecture. In a similar manner to "Roman Art," these monuments are available to students in weekly lists corresponding to each lecture. In addition, an interactive plan of Rome was devised to show students the placement and history of key Roman structures, including the Baths of Caracalla, Column of Trajan, and the Ara Pacis.

According to Professor Kleiner, the learning resources developed by the CMI2 "reinforce and augment my classroom lectures and breathe further life into the surviving fragments of what was once a lively empire." The Roman Art and Roman Architecture materials have been offered every year since their debut in 2004-5. "A real advantage is that these resources won't be evanescent (as lectures are), but able to be accessed over and over, as student interest and need dictate."

I hope to recreate a Rome that is vibrant enough to match my own passion for the subject. Diana E. E. Kleiner