In modern science myths, legends, and religious traditions are generally understood as stories about supernatural phenomena that serve to legitimize a particular world view or commonly held values. In such a perception, myths are ideological constructs without material basis. Although the reality of myths was sometimes doubted even in antiquity, the broad consensus that myths lack an empirical basis only developed relatively recently. In the 18th century, for example, mythical topography was still a respectable scientific discipline. Having been banned from the academic theatre for some time, the archaeology of mythology currently appears to be undergoing some sort of come-back. Good examples are to be found in Rome, where the palace of Romulus is said to have been discovered recently, and the topography is, of course, richly endowed with places that are associated with the life and sufferings of the early Christian martyrs, their tombs, and/or the places of their veneration. Such sites and ‘discoveries’ garner immense public interest, but are often also subject to fierce criticisms from the scientific community (arguing that these myths and traditions by definition have no underlying truth and therefore no material dimension).
This course is not about the degree of truthfulness of such discoveries, but instead addresses the significance of lieux de mémoire of myth and religion in the modern world and their difficult relationship with modern scientific paradigms. During the first week of the course the archaeology of Roman origin myths is discussed, focusing especially on places connected to Aeneas and Romulus. Following introductory classes at the Royal Netherlands Institute Rome, the course visits several mythical places such as the tomb of Aeneas, the city of Lavinium, and the hut of Romulus on the Palatine. The second week of the course is dedicated to early Christian legends, and focusses on places connected to St. Peter and St. Paul and the emergence of the ‘Archeologia Sacra’, the archaeological discipline dealing with these sites. Excursions include: the tombs of these two Apostles, the Mamertine prison, the chains of Saint Peter in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, and the church Domine quo vadis.
BA/Honours, MA-, RMA- students from the KNIR partner universities (UvA, VU, UL, UU, RU en RUG) and to students from Loyola University in Chicago.Form of Education
On-site classes, library assighnments, excursions
– dr. A. Evers (Loyola University Chicago)
– dr. J. Pelgrom (KNIR)
– drs. M. van Deventer (RU)
Participating students will receive free tuition, accommodation in Rome and excursions (including most entry fees for museums and archaeological sites).
The study load is the equivalent of 6 ECTS (168 hours). Each student should arrange with his/her home coordinator whether the course can be a part of the existing curriculum. After successful completion of the course the KNIR provides a certificate mentioning study load and evaluation.
The study load is based on:
- Before arriving in Rome: independent study of course material and preparatory assignment: 1 ECTS (28 hours)
- Classes and excursions in Rome and surrounding (14 days): active participation, presentation and draft essay: 4 ECTS (112 hours)
- After Rome(deadline to be established): essay: 1 ECTS (28 hours)
Application and admission
The master class is a selective course with a maximum of 14 participants. The selection of participants is based on grades, the positioning of the course in the student’s curriculum, and a letter of motivation.Students can apply via the link below; include in your application:
- a letter of motivation
- a cv
- a recent list of grades officially supplied by your university