The Archaeology of the Classical World: An Introduction


This introductory course introduces the Classical World through an exploration of the archaeology of the cities, villages, temples and daily lives of two ancient Mediterranean societies: the Greeks and the Romans.

Taught jointly by two expert tutors, this course approaches the subject chronologically, focusing first on the prehistoric and Hellenistic Greeks before moving on to the world of Rome as it became the centre of an expanding empire. 

Exploring the emergence of the City States in Greece, the archaeology of the Hellenistic household and the practice of religion, we will start by investigating both grand and everyday themes through the political identity of urban populations, and the roles of men, women and children in society at large. Moving onwards to the world of Rome, we will consider the urban and rural economies, as well as the role of the city itself in terms of what it meant to be 'Roman'. We will revisit the domestic setting, looking at how Roman houses and households functioned using evidence from archaeology and architecture. Religious practice will also be considered in the Roman world, looking particularly at what archaeological excavation can reveal about religious and ritual practices.

This is a far-reaching course, designed to provide an introduction to the main themes of Classical studies. Though our focus will be archaeological, we will also use evidence from historical texts, inscriptions, and scientific analysis, considering the past, present, and future of research into the ancient world.

Programme details

Courses starts: 3 Oct 2024

Week 1: Introduction to the study of the ancient Mediterranean world (Francesca Mazzilli)

Week 2: From Early Iron Age communities to Greek City States: urban and civic developments between 900–500 BC (Francesca Fulminante)

Week 3: The Greek expansion: communities, trade and material culture (Francesca Fulminante)

Week 4: The archaeology of the Greek Household: Family life, gender roles and society (Francesca Fulminante)

Week 5: Religion, Sanctuaries and burial until the end of the Hellenistic period in the Greek world (Francesca Mazzilli)

Week 6: Villas, villages, and farms: landscapes of the Roman world (Francesca Fulminante)

Week 7: Rome the Eternal City (Francesca Fulminante)

Week 8: Urbanscapes from East to the West in the Roman world  (Francesca Mazzilli)

Week 9: Households, families, women and children: the study of Roman domestic life (Francesca Mazzilli)

Week 10: Gods and the Afterlife: the material remains of belief in the Roman world (Francesca Mazzilli)


Credit Application Transfer Scheme (CATS) points 

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £30 fee. 

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education, you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee. 


Digital credentials

All students who pass their final assignment, whether registered for credit or not, will be eligible for a digital Certificate of Completion. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so. 

Please note that assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail. 


Description Costs
Course Fee £285.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Francesca Fulminante

After a Cambridge PhD (2008) and excellent post-doctoral positions across Europe, Francesca Fulminante is now Senior Researcher and Lecturer both in the UK and Italy. Through interdisciplinary collaborations, excavations and museum work, her research investigates the development of complex societies in Rome and the Mediterranean during the first Millennium BC, as well as more intimate topics such as infancy and gender.

Dr Francesca Mazzilli

I have been teaching Classical Archaeology at Royal Holloway University of London, the University of Durham, the University of Bergen, where I undertook a MSCA fellowship, and at the University of Münster, where I am currently a WiRe fellow. 

Course aims

  • Introduce the study of the Classical World within its Mediterranean context with particular reference to the archaeology of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.
  • Provide a general overview of the most important developments of ancient Greece and Rome over the substantial period of the 9th ce. B.C. to the 3rd ce. A.D.) through the key themes of art and society; landscape; urbanism and city-states.
  • Demonstrate how important phenomena such as Greek colonisation or the Roman empire emerged and evolved.
  • Show how we can understand other important ancient world practices such as religion and burial through their manifestation in the archaeological record.

Course objectives:

  • Develop a source-critical awareness of varied forms of evidence; principally archaeology, but also historical texts, inscriptions and images.
  • Communicate knowledge of how changes through time reflect changes in Classical society, politics, economy, religion and ritual.
  • Develop literacy in current scholarly approaches and the limitations of the archaeological evidence when it comes to interpreting material evidence.


Teaching methods

The module is taught through a series of 10 lectures accompanied by 10 seminars for a total of 20 hours of teaching sessions. Students will be required to undertake set readings, complete pre-class activities and make (non-examined) short presentations of case study material in order to be able to actively participate in the discussion. The seminars will focus upon themes that the lectures cover more widely, and seminar discussions will be structured around at least two (or more) presentations from students for each session (depending on the number of students on the module). It is essential that those not making a presentation for a specific seminar session will nonetheless read the material assigned for at least one presentation and be prepared to engage fully in the discussion. Seminar presentations are not assessed but are compulsory (Alternative arrangements for presentations, in private etc., will be made if necessary).

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • have introductory, broad knowledge of the main developments of the worlds of Greece and Rome, from the 9th century BCE through to the 3rd century CE;
  • demonstrate an elementary ability to analyse material culture and associate it with major ideas and principles of the ancient Greek and Roman societies;
  • show, through written work, some critical awareness of how archaeological material is used to interpret the ancient past.


Assessment methods

The module is assessed by means of two essays:

  • An essay of 500 words to be submitted for formative feedback halfway through the course
  • A final essay of 1500 words to be submitted for summative assessment and feedback at the end of the course contributing to 100 % of the final grade.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work the required standard.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form



We will close for enrolments 14 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (14 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment Form (Word) or Enrolment Form (Pdf)

Level and demands

The Department's Weekly Classes are taught at FHEQ Level 4, i.e. first year undergraduate level, and you will be expected to engage in a significant amount of private study in preparation for the classes. This may take the form, for instance, of reading and analysing set texts, responding to questions or tasks, or preparing work to present in class.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.