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ARCH 1715

Fall Semester 2013

T-Th 10:30-11:50

Instructor: Felipe Rojas ( Office Hours: Mondays 9-10am; Wednesdays 1-2pm

Teaching Assistant: Claudia Moser ( Office Hours: Tuesdays 12-2pm

Course Abstract

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 statues, and tunnels to fortifications. Who and what conceived and executed this apparent material megalomania? What practical challenges did designers and builders have to overcome? How have big monuments affected our understanding, both of the ancient world and of modern means of self-representation?

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 huge. We will discuss works ranging from monumental mud-brick fortresses and inter-continental pontoon bridges to mountain-size portraits of rulers and colossal siege engines. 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, allies 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?

Topics to be treated 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 to cutting-edge technologies

-the lasting 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 examples of supersized structures. Lectures will include abundant visual documentation that will be accessible through the class wiki.

The course is open to anyone, and 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. (***Graduate students wishing to take the class should talk to instructor about readings and grading***).

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 write two short term papers (5-8 pages each) on a topic relating to one of the buildings discussed in class. Specific topics are to be discussed individually with the instructor.

-Instead of writing one or both term papers, students may choose to submit original drawings or models of one of the buildings discussed in class. Again, specific projects are to be discussed individually with the instructor.


There is no textbook for this class; all readings will be available through the private wiki, either in .pdf form or via links to digitized texts.

experimental archaeology project page

Click to go to private wiki


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