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Roman Architecture

Roman Architecture is a course for people who love to travel and want to discover the power of architecture to shape politics, society, and culture.


Eligible for

Course Certificate

Course at a Glance


About the Course

This course is an introduction to the great buildings and engineering marvels of Rome and its empire, with an emphasis on urban planning and individual monuments and their decoration, including mural painting. While architectural developments in Rome, Pompeii, and Central Italy are highlighted, the course also provides a survey of sites and structures in what are now North Italy, Sicily, France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, and North Africa.  Some of the learning materials have been adapted from the Roman Architecture course recorded for Open Yale Courses; others are new. The lectures  are illustrated with over 1,500 images, many from my personal collection.

Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus

Week 1 

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, September 7

·       Introduction to Roman Architecture

·       It Takes a City: The Founding of Rome and the Beginnings of Urbanism in Italy

Week 2

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, September 14

·       Technology and Revolution in Roman Architecture

·       Civic Life Interrupted; Nightmare and Destiny on August 24, A.D. 79

·       Writing Assignment 1: Does New Technology Lead to Innovation or Innovation to New Technology? (250 words, due by 11:30 PM EST on Monday, September 21)

Week 3

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, September 21

·       Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: Houses and Villas at Pompeii

·       Habitats at Herculaneum and Early Roman Interior Decoration

·       Writing Assignment 1: Peer-Review Grading (You must submit your grading by 11:30 PM EST on Monday, September 28)

Week 4

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, September 28

·       Gilding the Lily: Painting Palaces and Villas in the First Century A.D.

·       Exploring Special Subjects on Pompeian Walls

Week 5

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, October 5

·       From Brick to Marble: Augustus Assembles Rome

·       Accessing Afterlife: Tombs of Roman Aristocrats, Freedmen, and Slaves

·       Writing Assignment 2: How Do the Romans Use Architecture for Self Promotion? (250 words due by 11:30 pm EST on Monday, October 12)

Week 6

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, October 12

·       Notorious Nero and His Amazing Architectural Legacy

·       The Creation of an Icon: The Colosseum and Contemporary Architecture in Rome

·       Writing Assignment 2: Peer-Review Grading  (You must submit your grading by 11:30 PM EST on Monday, October 19)

Week 7

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, October 19

·       The Prince and the Palace: Human Made Divine on the Palatine Hill

·       The Mother of All Forums: Civic Architecture in Rome under Trajan

·       Mastery Quiz 1 (due by 11:30 PM EST on Monday, October 26)

Week 8

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, October 26

·       Rome and a Villa: Hadrian’s Pantheon and Tivoli Retreat

·       The Roman Way of Life and Death at Ostia, the Port of Rome

·       Term Project: Design Your Own Roman City Project (500 words and city design drawings due by 11:30 PM EST on Monday, November 9)

Week 9

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, November 2

·       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

·       Continue to work on Term Project

Week 10

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, November 9

·       Baroque Extravaganzas: Rock Tombs, Fountains, and Sanctuaries in Jordan, Lebanon, and Libya

·       Roman Wine in Greek Bottles: The Rebirth of Athens

·       Design Your Own Roman City Project: Complete and submit the 500-word writing assignment and the by-hand or computer-generated city design drawings due by 11:30 PM EST TODAY

Week 11

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, November 16

·       Making Mini Romes on the Western Frontier

·       Rome Redux: The Tetrarchic Renaissance

·       Design Your Own Roman City Project Writing Assignment: Peer-Review Writing Assignment (You must submit your grading by 11:30 pm EST on Monday, November 23)

Week 12

Material available at 6 AM EST, Monday, November 23

·       Rome of Constantine and a New Rome

·       Mastery Quiz 2 (due by 11:30 PM EST on Friday, December 4)

Recommended Background

There is no required background and everyone is welcome to take this course.

Suggested Readings

The illustrated lectures are designed to be self-contained but we strongly recommend Diana E. E. Kleiner, Roman Architecture: A Visual Guide (Yale University Press, 2014). This interactive e-book is a companion to the Roman Architecture course, featuring chapter overviews for the major time periods, sites, and monuments and concise interpretations of the most important buildings in the Roman Empire, illustrated in over 250 photographs and site plans. They provide the “Monument Lists” mentioned in the lectures and are presented primarily through my own digital images. Above all, these custom created resources make learning easier than ever with maps, pop up references, visual book navigation, geolocation links, flashcards, and recommendations for further reading. 

Roman Architecture: A Visual Guide is available from Apple iBooks. Click here to purchase the iBooks version

The e-book is also available for Amazon Kindle. Click here to purchase for Amazon Kindle

Click here to purchase for Google Play

If you have already purchased the e-book, please make sure to enable automatic e-book updates on your Apple or Amazon account settings. This will ensure that your version of the e-book will automatically update to the latest edition, which includes several new images and cross-references.

Click here to purchase for Vital Source.

Course Format

In order to explore the expansive reach of the Roman Empire, the course unfolds over 12 weeks. All but the last week include two sets of video lectures, divided into five or six sections of 15-20 minutes in length. Each video lecture is accompanied by in-video quiz questions to assess your comprehension and provide immediate feedback. These are machine graded, as are the two required Mastery Quizzes. Two required 250-word writing assignments on thought-provoking problem-solving questions are spread across the semester and require peer-review of other students’ work. These will be assigned on Monday of the designated weeks, giving you one week to complete them and a second week to peer grade. The capstone project is to Design Your Own Roman City. You will concentrate in Weeks 8 and 9 on the research and writing of the 500-word city design paper, accompanied by a city plan. Throughout the course, we will be interacting regularly in the online forum, which is an essential part of the Roman Architecture experience. 


This course only offers a Verified Certificate. It will not offer the Statement of Accomplishment. You can start verifying your work for free and pay anytime before the final week of the course. Coursera Financial Aid is also available for learners with limited economic means.