HUMS 444, The City of Rome

Meeting Time: 
T 3:30pm-5:20pm

Course Description:

Rome was Troy’s destiny and Aeneas’s new home. Under the Caesars, Rome was the Caput Mundi, and became the seat of the most extraordinary imperial power the world has ever known. In Rome, Peter became the Rock of the Church, and the city remains the indisputable center of western Christendom. The Renaissance took its inspiration from ancient Rome, while the Reformation rejected papal authority and the opulence of Rome. Romanticism was born among Rome’s ruins. The French and American Revolutions embraced Rome’s political ideals, while Nazism and Fascism usurped its imperial legacy.

Since its founding, Rome has been at the center of a rich exchange with other civilizations in the Mediterranean and beyond. Rome remains a mecca for pilgrims and a shrine for artists, the point of intersection for the great forces of European civilization, a battleground in the unending war of Church and state, and a crossroads for all cultures.

Rome is thus a living template for the fecund dialogue of the humanities: the multiple layers of history and the intersection of arts and politics are ever-present in its urban landscape and cultural imagination. Nothing is simply ancient history here.

This course will study the city of Rome from its legendary origins to its role in post-war Europe. Significant moments of Roman and world history will be considered through literature, intellectual history, political science, theology, and the arts. We will learn to analyze texts and images related to all these disciplines as we travel to Rome in our imaginations.

Students who take this course may enroll in the Summer in Rome Study Abroad Program


Led by:

Professor Virginia Jewiss received her PhD in Italian literature from Yale University and taught at Dartmouth College and Trinity College’s Rome campus before returning to Yale, where she is currently Lecturer in the Humanities and Director of the Yale Humanities program in Rome. She has translated the work of numerous Italian authors and film directors, including Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah, Melania Mazzucco’s Vita, and screenplays for Paolo Sorrentino and Gabriele Salvatores.


This course has been offered every spring since 2014. Testimonials come from previous courses taught by Professor Jewiss.

  • “Professor Jewiss is so knowledgeable and intelligent, that it made the class excellent. The interdisciplinary approach - looking at images, primary sources, etc - was an enagaging way to learn that Yale should embrace more of.” 
  • If you have any background or interests in the Classics, take this course! It will expand your outlook on the city of Rome and on the humanities in general. As someone who had taken Latin for years but never directly studied Roman society or how later historical periods viewed ancient Rome, this course was an enlightening experience.
  • You leave this course seeing the world around you in a new way: Rome as a city, as a culture, and as an idea has especially influenced America among others. And the insight that Professor Jewiss brings to the course is absolutely invaluable, you cannot find a better expert in this field. You will not be the same person once having completed this course. I tell everyone I meet to take this course because not only was it the best course I have taken at Yale, but it is also completely life-changing. 
  • I would definitely recommend this class, as the subject matter is intensely interesting, there’s a lot of reading but it’s worth it as Professor Jewiss really makes the texts come alive, and is able to really demonstrate the importance of the texts.