Gladiators and Roman Spectacle: Rome, Pompeii, Cumae and Beyond

July 23 – August 3, 2017

Director: by Steven L. Tuck, Miami University

In many ways the Roman world was organized around the concept of the spectacular. Public spectacle and grand spectacle entertainments are critical to understanding ancient Rome. These spectacles include the lavish feasts, funerals of elite Romans, and triumphal processions as well as the spectacle entertainments that occurred in the amphitheaters, circuses, and theaters of the Roman world. These reinforced Roman identity, created a sense of belonging and served as an outlet for imperial generosity. Even Roman houses exploited the desire for spectacle to create stages for Roman elites to perform for audiences.

This twelve day study tour explores the fascinating concept of spectacle in the Roman world. It includes the topics of gladiatorial combat, animal hunts, prisoner executions and other spectacles, the spaces where they occurred, their origins and uses in the Roman world. Days will include lectures, reading of ancient sources on site (and in translation), firsthand investigations of the spaces and objects of spectacle, and some free time to explore on your own. After explorations in Rome we move to our headquarters for this tour at the Villa Vergiliana, the overseas center for the Vergilian Society located in the heart of Campania, where gladiatorial combat and amphitheaters originated. The tour begins and ends in Rome.

Goals: The goal of this tour is to study a society where all major activities: religious, political, personal, were viewed as spectacle. Participants will gain an understanding of the nature and needs inherent in this display and the underlying social and political factors that create a society of spectators. Individual events will be studied to deconstruct the layers of meaning each contains. All exploration will take place in the spaces where these spectacles occurred. Roman spectacle is naturally a vast topic so our exploration of it will be guided by some common themes:

  1. The integration of politics and spectacle entertainment in the Roman world
  2. The development of gladiatorial combat and the contributions of Greek, Etruscan and Italic cultures
  3. Spectacle entertainment and its use in the transmission of Roman ideology and cultural identity
  4. Roman prisoner execution, Christian martyrdom and Greek mythology
  5. Spectacle as an organizing principle in Roman urban and domestic space


NB –Monuments listed are subject to change based on closings for restoration and other factors outside our control. Every attempt will be made to see that we visit as many of the sites listed as possible.

July 23 - Spectacle in Rome: Triumph, Colosseum, Circus Maximus

9:00 a.m. assemble in the Courtyard of the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome (19 Via Algardi); visit Triumphal procession route, Circus Maximus and Colosseum.
We start by tracing the Triumphal procession route in Rome with stops at the Circus Maximus and Colosseum, 2 of the most important sites for gladiators and spectacle in Rome
Key Topics & Terms: Gladiators, charioteers, ludi, munera, triumph, imperator, venationes, spectacle, cultural values and political needs
Activities: discussions on entertainers and spectators at each building from the perspective of that group.

July 24 - Tiberius and the Spectacle of Sperlonga

Breakfast 8:30, depart 9:00 Religious and Palatial Spectacle: departure for Villa Vergiliana; stops at visit Terracina (“Jupiter Anxur” Temple) & Sperlonga (Villa & Grotto of Tiberius, Museum) & Minturnae; Dinner at Villa Vergiliana (19:30)

July 25 - Paestum, Greek Religious Spectacle and the Origins of Gladiatorial Combat

Breakfast 7:30, depart 8:00, arrive 10:30 Paestum, see site and museum. Depart 16:00 for Villa Vergiliana. Dinner at Villa Vergiliana (19:30)

July 26 - National Archaeological Museum, Naples including Secret Cabinet and Villa of the Papyri collection; Villas at Stabiae : Villa Arianna & Villa San Marco

Breakfast 8:00, depart 8:30, National Archaeological Museum, Naples including Secret Cabinet and Villa of the Papyri collection, depart for and picnic lunch at Stabiae, Dinner at Villa Vergiliana (19:30)

July 27 - Capri: Imperial Island and Spectacular Retreat

Breakfast 7:30, depart 8:00 for Molo Beverello for aliscafa to Capri,
Overnight trip to the Island of Capri, the private preserve of Roman emperors. Visit to the Villa of the emperor Tiberius. Time for other villa visits, shopping, hiking and beaches

July 28 - Depart Capri and Return to Villa Vergiliana

visit Villa Iovis, Dinner at Villa Vergiliana (19:30)

July 29 - Pompeii: Gladiators and spectacle in the life of a small town.

Breakfast 8:00, depart 8:30, for Pompeii I: Public Buildings: tombs, forum, theater, amphitheater, baths, temples, depart 17:00 for Villa, Dinner at Villa Vergiliana (19:30)

July 30 - Pompeii II: Spectacle in Private Life

Breakfast 8:00, depart 8:30, for Pompeii II: Private Life: houses, gardens and villas in and around Pompeii, depart 15:00 for Villa at Oplontis, Dinner at Villa Vergiliana (19:30)

July 31 - Bathing and Arena Spectacle: Animal Hunts and Prisoner Executions

Breakfast 8:00 am, depart 8:30 am, Museo at Castello di Baia (9:00 – 10:50 am), Scavi di Baia (11:00 – 12:30) Lunch at Villa Vergiliana, 13:00;  Lake Avernus and “Temple of Apollo” Pozzuoli: Amphitheater, Solfatara

August 1 - Daily Life in the Shadow of Vesuvius

Breakfast 8:00, depart 8:30, for and picnic lunch at Herculaneum, ascent of Vesuvius; Dinner at Villa Vergiliana (19:30)

August 2 - Fatal Charades, Naval Spectacle and a Visit to the Underworld

Breakfast 8:00, depart 8:30 for Santa Maria Capua Vetere, amphitheater & gladiator museum, Lunch at Villa Vergiliana, 13:00, 14:00 Cumae: acropolis,
Cave of the Sibyl, Roman Forum, Crypta Romana, Dinner at Villa (19:30)

August 3 - Depart for Rome after breakfast

Return flights to USA

Price: $2,795