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CLASSICS 4H03 Death & Commemoration In Rome

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Michele George


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 708

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23452

Office Hours: Wednesday 1:30 - 2:20 or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This course will examine attitudes to death at ancient Rome and the various ways in which the Romans commemorated their dead.  Issues shall include:  funerary practices; mortality rates and cultural response; mourning the dead; the concept of an Afterlife; death and social status; written commemorations; tomb types; and funerary commemoration as a form of self-representation.  Students will gain practical experience in primary research covering the major kinds of evidence in Classics.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts

Valerie M. Hope. 2007. Death in Ancient Rome – a Sourcebook. Oxford.  ISBN 978-0-415-33158-6


Brian K. Harvey. 2005. Roman Lives: Ancient Roman Life as Illustrated by Latin Inscriptions Focus Publishing, Newburyport, MA.  ISBN 9781585107698

Method of Assessment:

Class Attendance & Participation                                          10%

Article Assessments (3 x 5%)                                                  15%

Annotated bibliography                                                          10%

Oral presentation & essay                                                      35% (5% + 30%)

Final Exam (as set by the registrar)                                        30%


The first part of the course will consist of the presentation of material by the instructor, with discussion and analysis by the participants.  Students will be expected to come to class with the readings done, so that fruitful discussion is generated; marks will be given for participation in these sessions, as well as in the peer presentations.  The last part of the course will consist of papers given by students (roughly 20-30 minutes each).  A sign-up sheet for topics will be posted on my office door (TSH 708) on Thursday, January 4; please choose a topic by our first class meeting on Wednesday, January 10.  Sign-up is on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, and the order of presentations cannot be changed. 


Class Attendance & Participation

Students are expected to attend all classes, both those led by me and those led by other students.  Participation and attendance are not the same thing.  If you merely attend class without participating, you will receive a mark below 5/10.  I will take attendance at the beginning of every class.


Article Assessments 3x5% = 15%

Each student will write 3 article assessments worth 5% each (a choice of 3 out of 6; see course outline).  Each assessment should be 3 pages in length (double-spaced, 12 point font, normal margins), plus a separate title page, and should have:


  • a description of the issue that is under discussion in the article in which you isolate and characterize the evidence that the author draws on;


  • ii) an analysis of the author’s argument and the methodology employed.


Article assessments are due on specific dates (see course outline) and will be collected at the beginning of each seminar meeting; assessments handed in after class will be penalized by 1%, and no assessments will be accepted after the specified due date.  They will be assessed on style, including punctuation, grammar, organisation, clarity and coherence of expression.    


Major Paper

As part of the process of researching and writing your major seminar paper, students must:


  • Prepare an annotated bibliography (worth 10%), which must be submitted in hard copy in class on Wednesday, February 7th (see separate sheet).  If your annotated bibliography is not handed in during this class, late penalties will apply. 


  • One week before their presentation date, each student must also send me (via email) a Word document with a summary of their major paper topic (approx. 250 words), with a required reading for the rest of the class.  I will upload these to the A2L course website so that everyone can prepare for the presentations.  Failure to do so will result in a penalty to your mark following the late policy (see infra for late policy). 


  • Each student will have 25 minutes to present their research topic to the rest of the class. Class participation marks will include participation in these discussions.


  • You are responsible for the material presented in the seminars of your fellow students, since all seminar reports will be represented on the final exam; therefore, it is imperative that you attend every class and read the material for each other’s seminars. 


  • A final paper (in hard copy) based on your seminar presentation and approximately 3000 words in length must be handed in one week after your presentationLate papers will receive a 3% deduction per day that they are late. 


Grading System

All written material will receive a letter grade based on the grading system outlined in the Undergraduate Calendar.  It will be assessed on style (including punctuation and grammar), organization, clarity and coherence of expression, and the development of ideas; proper referencing must be used.  Failing grades may be assigned for failure to complete course requirements by the stated deadlines, or for academic dishonesty.


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Policy

Students must complete their work by the stated deadlines (see above).  There is a rolling deadline for written essays that is determined by your presentation date, i.e., your final paper must be submitted in hard copy one week after your class presentation.  A deduction of 3% per day will be made for all work turned in late.  This applies to all assignments for the course, including:  i) the annotated bibliography, ii) the abstract to be distributed one week before your presentation date, iii) the presentation itself, and iv) the final paper. 


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Outline of seminar meetings


Required readings are given below each seminar topic and must be done in advance of the class in order to engender discussion and a fuller understanding of the material presented in class time.  Coming to class with the readings done, understood, and digested is a significant part of the preparation and participation mark.  Full references to the readings are included on the attached bibliography. 


January 10     Introduction to evidence and themes.

Reading:  Hope:  Introduction

Harvey:  Preface & ch. 1, ‘Reading Inscriptions’


NB:  Everyone must have chosen a seminar topic by TODAY!



January 17     Mortality at Rome & Attitudes to Death

Reading: Carroll:  chs. 1 (Introduction) & 6 (‘Causes of death’)

Hope:  1.6; 1.45; p. 46-7; 2.3, 2.8, 2.13, 2.29, 2.34, 2.37, 2.40, 2.46, 2.57

Harvey:  #87, 92


#1 Article Assessment:  Shaw 1996 (JSTOR)



January 24                 Treatment of the dead            

Reading: Carroll ch. 3

Hope: 3. 10; 3.42, 4.3, 4.4, 4.7


#2 Article Assessment:  Bodel 2000 (A2L)



January 31                 Funerals & Funerary practice across the social orders

Reading:  Hope pp. 85-86; 2.59, 2.60; 3.2, 3.6, 3.12 & 3.21, 3.48, 3.58, 3.65, 3.67

                        Harvey:  #56, #55


#3 Article Assessment:  Bodel 1999 (A2L)



February 7                 Death and status:  tombs

                                    Reading: Carroll 2006 ch. 4

                                    Hope: pp. 128-29; 2.35, 2.56, 4.15, 4.16, 4.20 - 21

                                                Harvey:  #1


#4 Article Assessment:  Koortbojian 1996 (A2L)





February 14               Commemoration in words  

                                    Reading: Carroll 2006:  chs. 2 & 5

            Hope:   3.33, 3.34

            Harvey:  #158

laudatio Turiae

Available at this website:


#5 Article Assessment:  Harlow 2011 (A2L)



February 21                           NO CLASS (READING WEEK)



February 28               Mourning and Memory

Reading: Hope:  1.2, 1.3-6, 3.48, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.5. 5.7, 5.8, 5.15, 5.16, 5.25, 5.27

Golden, M. 1988.  “Did the ancients care when their children died?” Greece and Rome 35:  152-163.  JSTOR


Harvey:  #106, 108, #109

Plutarch, Consolation to his Wife

Available at this website:*.html


Also available in this book, which is in Mills library:

Sarah Pomeroy. 1999. Plutarch’s advice to the bride and groom, and A Consolation to his wife. Oxford.


#6 Article Assessment:  Carroll 2014 (A2L)



March 7                      Mourning and memory II:  sarcophagi [myth & meaning]; ideas of an Afterlife

Reading:         Hope pp. 211-12, 6.1, 6.10, 6.11, 6.13, 6.15, 6.25, 6.29, 6.32, 6.49



March 14 – April 4:  Student Presentations (4 weeks)







This is mere suggestion of what is a very large bibliography.  R = Reserve desk, Mills.


*  *  *  *  *


Bodel, John. 1999. "Death on Display:  Looking at Roman Funerals." in The Art of the Ancient Spectacle, edited by B. Bergmann and C. Kondoleon. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 259-281.  A2L


--------. 2000. “Dealing with the dead: undertakers, executioners, and potter’s fields in ancient Rome.” in Hope and Marshall 2000:  128-151.  A2L


Borg, Barbara. 2013. Crisis and Ambition:  tombs and burial customs in 3rd c. CE Rome. Oxford. R


Carroll, Maureen. 2006. Spirits of the Dead:  Roman Funerary Commemoration in Western Europe. Oxford.


--------, 2014. “Mother and infant in Roman funerary commemoration.”, in M. Carroll, E.J. Graham, eds., Infant Health and Death in Roman Italy and Beyond. JRA supplementary series no. 96:  158-178. Portsmouth, R.I.  A2L


Davies, P. 2000. Death and the emperor: Roman Imperial funerary monuments, from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius. Cambridge. R


Flower, Harriet. 1996.  Ancestor masks and aristocratic power in Roman culture. Oxford . R


George, M. 2000. “Family and Familia on Roman Biographical Sarcophagi”, Römische Mitteilungen 107:  191-207.


-------- 2005. “Family Imagery and Family Values in Roman Italy”, in M. George, ed., The Roman Family in the Empire: Rome, Italy and Beyond. Oxford. 37-66.


Gessert, G. 2004. “Myth as Consolatio: Medea on Roman Sarcophagi”, Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 51, No. 2, 217-249  JSTOR


Golden, M. 1988.  “Did the ancients care when their children died?” Greece and Rome 35:  152-163.  JSTOR


Harlow, Mary. 2011. ‘Death and the Maiden:  Reprising the burials of Roman girls and young women”, in M. Carroll, J.P. Wild, eds., Dressing the Dead in Classical Antiquity. Stroud.  148-157.  A2L


Hope, V.M. and E. Marshall eds. 2000. Death and Disease in the Ancient City. London.


-------- 2009. Roman Death:  Dying and the Dead in Ancient Rome. London. R


Huskinson, J.1996.  Roman Children’s Sarcophagi. Oxford.  R


Koortbojian, M. 1996. “In commemorationem mortuorum: text and image along the ‘streets of tombs” in J. Elsner, ed. Art and Text in Roman Culture. Cambridge. 210-233. A2L


Mander, Jason. 2013. Portraits of Children on Roman Funerary Monuments. Cambridge. R


Petersen, L. Hackworth. 2006. The Freedman in Roman Art and Art History. Cambridge. R


Shaw, B. 1996. “Seasons of Death: aspects of mortality at Imperial Rome” Journal of Roman Studies 86, 100-138.


Wistrand, E. 1976. The so-called Laudatio Turiae. Göteborg.