• University of Reading

Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City

Explore the architecture and history of Rome, walking around a 3D digital model of the ancient city, with this free online course.

65,640 enrolled on this course

Educators are currently active on this course

A 3D digital model of the ancient city of Rome

Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City

65,640 enrolled on this course

  • 5 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Explore ancient Rome through a unique, historically accurate 3D model.

Take a guided tour around ancient Rome with expert Professor Matthew Nicholls, using his detailed and award-winning 3D digital model of the city. Explore Rome’s architecture and how it was used - how did Romans worship their gods and meet their political masters? How was drinking water supplied to the city’s million inhabitants? Moving seamlessly between footage of contemporary Rome and the digital model (including interactive elements), you’ll explore these questions and much more.

Use this insight to inform your own encounters with the eternal city and the study of ancient history more generally.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Welcome to the city of Rome. This beautiful city has been inhabited by humans for three millennia. And on this course, we’re going to be looking at Rome at its pomp, at its height about 2,000 years ago, when the emperors here ruled a vast swathe of territory from Hadrian’s Wall to the Nile Delta.

Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds You might well think of Rome as a city of monuments, the Colosseum, the Fora, the arches, the columns, these grand statements of power and wealth, the busy arterial roads, all those roads leading to Rome and from Rome. But while we’re doing that, we’re going to be looking at it as a working city, a living city, trying to tease out the evidence for those non-grand monuments, the aqueducts, the sewers, the street fountains, the apartment blocks, the warehouses, all the stuff that sustained the life of the city, that made possible that lovely veneer of grand monuments on the top.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds We’re going to be looking at a huge, 3D digital model of the ancient city that I have built over the last few years at the University of Reading for teaching my students. And by flying around this model or walking through it, we can get a glimpse or a sense of how the city may have appeared all those years ago.

What topics will you cover?

Week one: Ancient Rome location and infrastructure

  • Geographical and historical overview
  • Introduction to the digital model
  • Roman building materials and techniques
  • The importance of aqueducts and sewers
  • Using coins to illustrate ancient architecture

Week two: Political architecture in Ancient Rome

  • The Imperial Fora
  • The function and development of the Forum
  • Types of monumental architecture
  • Using poetry as evidence to investigate the past

Week three: Religious architecture in Ancient Rome

  • Overview of Roman religion
  • The architecture of the Capitoline Hill
  • Developments in Imperial temple architecture
  • Worshipping the gods

Week four: Life and death in Ancient Rome

  • Overview of Roman housing
  • Food supply in the ancient city
  • How the Romans liked to be remembered
  • Using inscriptions as evidence to investigate the past

Week five: Bread and circuses (entertainment architecture) in Ancient Rome

  • The importance of entertainment for Rome’s rulers
  • The architecture and function of theatres and circuses
  • Roman baths and bathing
  • Using evidence to understand the Colosseum

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

If you'd like to take part while our educators are leading the course, they'll be joining the discussions, in the comments, between these dates:

  • 27 Mar 2023 - 4 Jun 2023

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore different categories of building within the city, and the functions they housed
  • Investigate a range of evidence including archaeological remains, coins, literary texts, and inscriptions to learn how we can understand and interpret the ancient past
  • Discuss the way the rulers of Rome used architecture to adorn the city and keep it functioning
  • Experience digital modelling as a way of presenting the ancient past, exploring models on screen and in videos and discussing what they can show us

Who is the course for?

This course is open to anyone with an interest in discovering more about ancient Rome. You might be: planning a visit to the Italian capital; an avid watcher of documentaries on Roman history; or considering studying archaeology, classics or history at university.

What do people say about this course?

"Diving in those marvellous virtual tours was something new for me and also very informative. Thank you very much."

"A very interesting, engaging course. Thank you, Matthew! I hope to find many of these sites when I am in Rome for the first time in October. As for the "eternal" question of which emporer had the biggest impact, my initial thought was Augustus and I'm even more sure of my answer having completed the course. He not only built many great structures but set the standard that others followed in building and growing this great city."

Who will you learn with?

Dr Matthew Nicholls is a Roman historian at the University of Reading, specialising in the 3D reconstruction of ancient spaces. He also directs the University's Open Online Course programme.

Who developed the course?

University of Reading

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$27.99

For the first two months. Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$129/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access

Free

Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 2 Jul 2023

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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