From a few huts on seven hills in the eight century (or so they say), Rome would grow into an empire that, at its greatest expanse, comprised all of western Europe, the north of Africa, the Middle East, and the territory west and south of the Black Sea; more impressive than its expanse, it would last, its eastern half, until 1453.

Its roads, many still in use, formed a network along which goods and ideas travelled; its awe-inspiring buildings, like the celestial Pantheon or the magnificent Pont Du Gard, set standards not to be reached again for over a millennium; its art, like the murals in Nero’s Domus Aurea, and literature, like Vergil’s Aeneid and Tacitus’ Annals, entice and inspire to this very day, and its law code provides the foundation for Civil Law.

In this course we will study aspects of this historical phenomenon: read many of its most famous texts, reflect on how the Romans thought of themselves and others, trace the history of one of its texts, considered most dangerous by some, follow its rise and fall as an empire, and remark throughout on how different it is from western societies today, even though the latter are profoundly indebted to it.