Arch of Titus: Rome and the Menorah

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Overview

The Arch of Titus: Rome and the Menorah explores one of the most significant Roman monuments to survive from antiquity, from the perspectives of Roman, Jewish and later Christian history and art. The Arch of Titus commemorates the destruction of Jerusalem by the emperor Titus in 70 CE, an event of pivotal importance for the history of the Roman Empire, of Judaism, of Christianity and of modern nationalism.

Together with your guide, Professor Steven Fine, you will examine ancient texts and artifacts, gaining skills as a historian as you explore the continuing significance of the Arch of Titus from antiquity to the very present. Course members will accompany Professor Fine on virtual "fieldtrips" to museums and historical sites in Los Angeles and New York where you will "meet" curators, scholars and artists. You will attend an academic colloquium and even "participate" in office hours. Students will participate in the latest advancement in the study of the Arch - the restoration of its original colors. You will learn how color was used in Roman antiquity and apply that knowledge to complete your own 'color restoration' of the Arch of Titus menorah relief.

Syllabus

Why the Arch of Titus Matters
-This module introduces the Arch of Titus and the larger themes of the course. Students will begin to view the Arch from the perspectives of Roman and Jewish history, of the victors and the vanquished, and the continuing history of this artifact. They will be sensitized to the presence of imagery related to the Arch in the larger culture, and be able to identity some of that imagery.

The Arch of Titus as a Work of Art
-This module explores the Arch of Titus as an artifact. Students will learn to look closely at this and other historical monuments in order to draw out the meanings of its iconography. They will see the Arch and especially its carved relief panels through selected refracting lenses.

The Arch of Titus in History
-Roman and Talmudic sources on Titus's triumphal parade in 71 CE will be the focus of this module. Students will read these ancient texts critically and assess the historical value for understanding the Arch and its later reception.

The Arch of Titus from Antiquity to the Modern Era
-Students will explore Jewish and Christian perspectives of the Arch and be able to explain how these perceptions affected their experience and interpretation of this artifact. Conversations with scholars and museum "visits" demonstrate a broad range of contemporary perspectives on the Arch and the continued significance of its iconography.

The Arch of Titus in the Modern World
-We will explore the ways that moderns have viewed and used the Arch, through the close reading of primary visual and literary sources. "Fieldtrips" and conversations contextualize the search for Arch imagery in our world, and demonstrate ways to recognize this iconography. Students will write a narrative of the Arch in modern times based upon primary literary sources.

The Arch of Titus: Restoring its Color
-Recent advances in the study of the original color, polychromy, of ancient Roman art will be presented. Students will learn the reasons for this rethinking of ancient art, and apply this learning to their own restorations of the polychrome of the Arch of Titus menorah panel.

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