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ARCH 1715 Building Big! Supersized Architectural and Engineering Structures From Antiquity

TTh 10:30-11:50

Sometimes size does matter. The need and desire to BUILD BIG, to create colossal architectural or sculptural things, was a constant feature of antiquity, from temples to portraits, from tunnels to fortifications. Who and what lay behind this  architectural megalomania? What practical challenges to construction had to be overcome? How have such monuments affected our understanding, both of the ancient world and of modern means of self-representation?

Instructor: Felipe Rojas

Course Description

This course examines the social meaning and technical processes involved in building big in antiquity. The common attribute of the various architectural and engineering structures to be examined is that they were all thought to be extraordinarily grand. We will discuss works ranging from monumental mud-brick fortresses and inter-continental pontoon bridges to mountain-size portraits of rulers and colossal stadiums for mock sea-battles. Attention will be paid to the technical demands involved in construction as well as to the wider cultural impact of building big in antiquity.

Why did individuals and communities choose to build big and how did they go about doing so? What did their neighbors, subjects, friends and enemies think and do about such projects? Who commissioned, designed, and carried out the actual building? How did size help to articulate issues of class, gender, identity, and nationalism?

Key topics will include:

-the political, economic,and human costs of building big

-the changing meanings of colossal structures in different political and religious systems

-the relation of big buildings tocutting-edge technologies

-thel asting legacy of individual massive monuments from antiquity

We will focus primarily on Greek and Roman material, using comparative examples from other pre-modern cultures. Students will engage with primary evidence drawn from archaeology, art, and literature, as well as with modern studies of ancient sources. Lectures will include abundant visual documentation, some of which  will be accessible through the class wiki.

While the course is open to anyone, it will be of special interest to students of ancient architecture and to those studying the monumental expression of political, military and religious power in any era.

Student responsibilities 

-Everyone is required to attend regularly, read all weekly assignments, and participate in class discussion. 

-In addition to a midterm exam, a final exam, and two quizzes, students are required to participate in two group projects involving the recreation of the footprint and the elevation of an ancient building.

Textbook: There is NO textbook for this class; all readings will be available through the classwiki, either in .pdf form or via links to digitized texts.



(Key readings for midterm marked with an asterisk *.)

Week 1

January 26 Introduction

Week 2 Supersized Structures in Antiquity

February 2 Prehistoric Monumentality (*Harbison)

February 4 Greek and Roman Monumentality (*Riegl)

Week 3 Supersized Tombs

February 7 Tumuli

February 9 GUEST LECTURE: Müge Durusu on Hittite Monumentality (*Harmansah)

Week 4 Supersized Statues

February 14 GUEST LECTURE: Katherine Harrington on kouroi in Archaic Greece (*Whitley and *Osborne)

February 16 NO CLASS

Week 5 Supersized Landscapes

February 21 NO CLASS (President's Day)

February 23 GUEST LECTURE: Clive Vella on Monumentality in Malta (*AAVV, "Monuments in an Island Society")

Week 6 More Supersized Tombs

February 28 R E V I E W

March 1 Mausolea (and related structures) and QUIZ 1

Week 7 Supersized Religious Structures and more Supersized Landscapes

March 6 Temples (*Trigger and *Burkert)

March 8 Landscape as Portrait (*Dora)

Week 8 Supersized Architetural Elements

March 13 Obelisk (*Curran)

March 15 Column and Arch (*Elsner)

Week 9More Supersized statues and MIDTERM

March 20 Colossi

March 21 MIDTERM

Week 10 S P R I N G B R E A K

Week 11 Supersized Buildings for Spectacle

April 3 Colosseum

April 5 Hippodrome

Week 12 Supersized Engineering Structures 

April 10 Tunnels, canals, baths (and related structures)    ***QUIZ 2***

April 12 Fortifications, war-engines (and related structures)

Week 13 Supersizing the ancient city

April 17 Rome

April 29 Constantinople


April 24 PROJECT 2

April 26 Conclusions

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