Mosaic showing wine production
Mosaic depicting the grape harvest and winemaking at the Mausoleum of Constantina, Rome, 4th century CE (photo E. Dodd).

15 credit and 20 credit module options available
Autumn term (2 October–11 December 2024)
Wednesdays at 11:00–13:00
Venue: Room 234, Senate House, University of London
Dr Emlyn Dodd, Institute of Classical Studies

In much of the Greek and Roman Mediterranean, wine was the beverage of choice across social strata, a key source of carbohydrates, and was used in medicine, religion and cooking. Olive oil was used for fuel in cooking, lighting and heating, personal hygiene as soap, craft and agriculture and within the kitchen. Grain was central to foodways, economies, and politics. These commodities therefore provide a lens through which we can engage with diversity in source material, apply a variety of research methods, and explore the lived experience of people in the ancient Graeco-Roman Mediterranean – from elite banquets to the workers that operated production facilities and staffed warehouses, to the townspeople buying food and drink at the local taberna

This module examines the production, movement and manifold uses of these commodities from the Iron Age and Classical Greek and Roman eras through Late Antiquity. Students will learn how wine, oil and grain shaped (and continue to shape) the physical, cultural and economic landscapes of the Mediterranean by combining archaeological and artistic evidence with historical sources and an assortment of modern scientific data. 

The module will be divided into thematic components, with seminars surveying various forms of evidence for wine, olive oil and grain in Graeco-Roman antiquity providing a foundation for more detailed student-led case study exploration. These might include the archaeological and historical study of warehouses in Rome and Ostia; intramural vineyards, groves and tabernae at Pompeii and Herculaneum; dense clusters of production sites in villages of the Levant and North Africa; representations of these commodities, their uses and production in art and religious contexts; Pompeiian graffiti of daily shopping lists and purchases made; descriptions by ancient sources on the production and use of these commodities; and modern experimental archaeology that seeks to recreate tastes and flavours of ancient food and drink. Opportunities will be provided for engagement with relevant material culture at nearby museums in London with rich collections related to the themes of the module (e.g., British Museum) as well as archaeological material held at the ICS itself. 

This module welcomes students from a wide range of skillsets and disciplinary backgrounds, including those from ancient history, archaeology, classics, and other literary-focused areas. For example, it will benefit ancient history and classics students wishing to extend their understanding of archaeological material and approaches, as well as those already more specialised in archaeology itself. The source material with which students will engage ranges from ancient text to material culture and a variety of approaches are used in learning and teaching. In short – all are welcome, and indeed supported, to bring their own unique analytical and disciplinary strengths! 

15 credits: 1 Artefact Study (1000 words) + 1 ‘Unessay’ research piece of flexible format and on topic agreed with the lecturer (4000 words or equivalent). 

20 credits: 1 Artefact Study (1000 words) + 1 ‘Unessay’ research piece of flexible format and on topic agreed with the lecturer (5000 words or equivalent).