Tom Henry delivers Think Kent lecture

Tom Henry [1], Professor of History of Art in the School of Arts [2] and Director of the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies [3], has delivered an online lecture for the Think Kent [4] series entitled ‘Men in Black: How to Interpret Raphael’s Self-Portrait with a Friend in the Louvre’, which is now available on YouTube [5].

The Think Kent lectures are a series of TED talk-style lectures produced with the intention of raising awareness of the research and teaching expertise of Kent academics and the international impact of their work.

The lecture follows on from Tom’s curation of an exhibition held at both the Louvre [6] in Paris and the Museo del Prado [7] in Madrid, entitled ‘Raphaël à Rome: les dernières années‘, focusing on the final years of the renaissance painter and architect.

The lecture discussed one painting, Raphael’s Self-Portrait with a Friend (c.1519-20), completed shortly before the artist’s death in 1520. Tom argues that to interpret the picture, it is necessary to understand the range of the painter’s activities in his last few years.

In particular, the identity of the second figure in the painting is unknown; however, Tom argues that he is the Italian painter and architect Giulio Romano, a pupil of Raphael, and he develops this argument with a discussion of the role of cloak-giving in artistic adoption and inheritance in the Renaissance period.

The talk may be viewed below or on YouTube via the link:

The Colosseum: Reclaiming Rome from Nero

Students on our Ancient History and Archaeology masters degrees in Rome have written blog posts as part of their assessments due as part of their studies. One student has shared her blog with us, read on to find out more about the Colosseum and its environs:

“As one of the most recognised buildings in Italy, the Colosseum is a well known symbol of the city of Rome, however not many people know the history of this great monument. Nestled in the valley between the Palatine, Esquiline, and Caelian hills1 at the head of the modern Via dei Fori Imperiali (fig 1),2 the Colosseum was used for public spectacles. Built by Vespasian, Titus and Domitian in the 1st century AD, it was an attempt to return the land taken by Nero to the people. This blog will discuss the history and construction of the Colosseum and the origin of its name.

In AD 64, during the reign of Nero, a fire swept through Rome, destroying much of the city.3 Nero took some of the land that had been razed and built the Domus Aurea, his Golden House,4 an expansive luxury complex that would become his imperial palace, which Suetonious describes in detail.5 The place was so large that Martial records that a single house now stood in all the city.”6 After his suicide in AD 68, the city of Rome went through a period of civil war, the Year of the Four Emperors, until Vespasian secured his rule in AD 69.7 A few years later, in AD 70, Vespasian and his son Titus suppressed the Jewish revolt in Jerusaleum which had begun in AD 66, and returned to Rome in AD 71 to celebrate a joint triumph over the Jews,8 which is commemorated on the Arch of Titus.


Seeing the state of Rome, a damaged city after the civil war10 and being dominated by the Domus Aurea, Vespasian sought to return the city of Rome from Nero to the people. This move was well within the Flavian approach, basing their rule on “returing to ‘popular’ and ‘Republican’ values.”11 They did this by draining and building the Flavian Amphitheatre12 on the site of the private pool that had been part of the Domus Aurea complex.13 A recently discovered inscription is thought to state that the Emperor Vespasian ordered a new amphitheatre to be built from the booty [of the Jewish War],14 further enforcing their attempt to give back to the people by reinvesting the spoils of war into their needs. There is some debate over this inscription: all that survives are the dowel holes that secured the bronze letters in place. Hopkins and Beard express their scepticism on this as a suspiciously appropriate solution to ‘joining the dots’.15 It does seem to be a convenient solution, however with construction beginning in AD 7016 and following the years of the civil wars, surely the largest source of income for Vespasian to fund the Colosseum would have been what he could loot from Jeruasleum.

By AD 79, the Colosseum had reached its second level and was dedicated for the first time before Vespasian’s death that year. Titus continued the project and completed the aphitheatre up to the fourth level (fig 2) and rededicated the monument in AD 80 with lavish inaugural games.17 The dedication of the Colosseum is both recorded on coins of the time (fig 3),18 and in ancient accounts. Dio gives details of these events lasting for 100 days, which included beast hunts, group and single combat, the flooding of the arena for “sea battles”, and horse races. There were also distributions of largesse to the people.19 Titus also opened the baths of Titus to the public, which he had remodeled from the private baths of Nero.20 After this, Domitian is thought to have finished the exterior and installed the subterrainan area under the arena21 (fig 4), which would have been used to house animals and equipment used in the events.


The name of the Colosseum also has its own history. While it has been known by many names, like Amphitheatum Flavium22 and the hunting theatre,23 the one which we call it today may owe its origins to Nero. Near to the Colosseum stood a colossal bronze statue of Nero. Pliny records that it was 110 Roman feet tall,24 around 32m, and is thought to have stood in the atrium of the Domus Aurea.25 However, after Nero’s death, because “of the public detestation of Nero’s crimes, this statue was consecrated to the Sunby Vespasian.26 It had been moved closer to the Colosseum by Hadrian with the help of 24 elephants so that he could build his temple to Venus and Rome.27 On a medalian of Gordian III, the Colossus is depicted next to the Colosseum (fig 5)28 showing that it was still standing in the late empire and that it had become a marker of this area as much as the Colosseum and the Meta Sudans, a monumental fountain near the Colosseum, which is also depicted on the medallion. It is thought that at some point between the 8th and 11th centuries,29 the name Colosseum was first asscribed to the aphitheatre because of its proximity to the Colossus rather than its own colossal size.30

The work carried out by the Flavian emperors in the construction of the Colosseum took the private imperial luxuray that was the Domus Aurea and transformed it into a place of pleasure for the people.31 Their efforts to rework and develop the area attempted to remove the mark that Nero had left on the city of Rome but their efforts only go so far. To this day, the Colosseum is so called because of its proximity to the Colossus of Nero, while ascribed after the fall of the Empire, it is a strong reminder of Neros extravagance and the power of memory in history.

1 Coarelli 2007:164.

2 Fig 1: Coarelli 2007:158, fig.43.

3 National Geographic 2014.

4 Coarelli 2000:9.

5 Suet.Nero.31.

6 Mart.Spec.2.

7 Hopkins & Beard 2005:26.

8 Hopkins & Beard 2005:26-7.

9 Platner 1929:45-47.

10 Hopkins & Beard 2005:28.

11 Coarelli 2000:10.

12 Britannica 2018.

13 Mart.Spec.2. Coarelli 2007:164.

14 Aicher 2004:181.

15 Hopkins & Beard 2005:33-4.

16 Hopkins & Beard 2005:36.

17 Coarelli 2007:164.

19 Dio.Rom Hist.66.25. See also Suet.Tit.7.

20 Coarelli 2000:10-11.

21 Coarelli 2007:164.

22 Benario 1981:256.

23 Hopkins & Beard 2005:21.

24 Pliny.NH.34.18.

25 Coarelli 2007:170.

26 Pliny.NH.34.18. Suet.Vesp.18.

27 Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma 1997:8. (SAR)

28 Fig 5: BMCRM 13, p.48.

29 8th: Coarelli 2007:170. 11th: SAR 1997:8.

30 Hopkins & Beard 2005:34.

31 Hopkins & Beard 2005:31-2.

From Paris to Rome

Students from the University of Kent Paris School of Arts and Culture visited our University of Kent Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies recently and were guided by Academic Director Tom Henry around the Villa Farnesina; find out what they got up to on their blog post here:

Last few weeks of the Spring term for our Rome cohort

The below extract has been sent in by Dr Christopher Burden-Strevens, Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Kent and convenor of our Rome MA in Ancient History and Roman History and Archaeology. He talks about the last few weeks of the Spring term for our students in Rome, how they have celebrated, sites that they have visited and briefs us on their assessed final itineraries.


Students Adam & Manuel giving talks to dignitaries, academics, and diplomats on the fabulous Mortlake tapestries of Julius Caesar and Saul at the Ambassador’s villa

And alas we are back in Canterbury. The time has gone by so quickly. Earlier April was a hive of activity for our students. As the Easter holidays and some well-earned relaxation drew on, the Spring term for our Kent in Rome students drew to a close with a special reception at the British Ambassador’s residence, the Villa Wolkonsky. As we enjoyed our prosecco and canapés, two of our students gave a presentation on the beautiful Mortlake tapestries, pictured just here, to Her Excellency and to invited guests. This was a truly special event and a fantastic farewell to Rome. There is no better way to say a fond goodbye than over a glass of wine as you watch the sun set over Nero’s acqueduct, which runs right through the ambassador’s garden!

Of course for those of us not presenting it was a chance to get dressed up and have some fun. Here I am getting together with our Rome students as a whole group for the last time this academic year and celebrating their success. The group have grown into such a fantastic community: on our visits to Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, and the ancient sea-port at Ostia, and the Villa D’Este it has become so clear how much the group enjoy working together. It’s great to see the that the working relationships they developed while in Canterbury in the Autumn Term have grown into strong friendships too.

Those relationships have been especially important as students work together in pairs on their final itinerary. The itinerary is a two-hour exam, where students choose any ancient site(s) of their choice on which to give a live tour. There were some absolutely exceptional performances, one of which was even of doctoral standard. One group took their examiners (myself and Prof. Elena Isayev, Exeter) down into the ruins of an early Christian complex of worship-houses, 1,700 years old, which now lays buried underneath the Basilica of Saint Martin in the Lateran. Since these ruins are closed to the public and jealously guarded by the clergy and caretakers, this was an exceptional privilege; they are, so to speak, almost lost to history. You won’t find this on any city-guide or tour of Rome.

In fact, our students have spent a lot of time under ground! Another group of our students organised a tour of the Tomb of the Scipios, a deep passage circuit carved into the rock, where lay buried all the major members of the Scipio family. The Scipios are known to history as the conquerers of Hannibal, the Carthaginian invader who from 218–216 BC crossed the Alps with his elephants to decimate the Roman Republic in the Second Punic War. We took a brief break from the formal parts of the exam to pose for a selfie at the Tomb of Scipio Barbatus, whose sarcophagus dates to the 290s BCE, showing the early influence of Greek architectural styles on the Middle Republic. This was a magical experience; I have given so many lectures on this tomb complex. But it’s by getting there and touching it for themselves that Brittany and Dean, pictured here, brought it to life in their fantastic tour.

For our students the last four months have fostered such a greater knowledge and appreciation of their subject, and of Rome itself. As they fly home for the holidays, and to work on their dissertation projects, it’s certainly not goodbye! It’s ‘arrivederci’—‘until we meet again’.


Ambassadors Residence annual event

The annual event celebrating the University of Kent’s Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies took place at the British Ambassador’s residence in the Villa Wolkonsky on 4 April.

The evening opened with the hosting of the European Innovation in Academia Awards by Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, David Nightingale. The awards recognise individuals who have made a difference in higher education in Europe or North America and celebrate academic creativity and innovation.



This was followed by a lecture from Dr Thomas P Campbell, former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2008-2017 who spoke about Raphael’s Tapestry Designs for Pope Leo X and their legacy at the Court of Charles I.

Academic Director of the Rome centre, Professor Tom Henry and several of our Rome centre MA students later continued to discuss the Mortlake tapestries based on Raphael’s Cartoons (three of which hang on the walls of the Villa Wolkonsky).

Jill Morris CMG, British Ambassador to Italy celebrated the performance of our students and the University of Kent on her Twitter feed. [51] We are looking forward to celebrating at the residence again next year.



Kent Masters Rome cohort in Ancient History and Archaeology visit Tivoli and beyond

“Just back from a tremendous (but exhausting!) week with our Rome MA Ancient History/Archaeology students for this year. On Thursday we arranged a minivan to take us all out of the city of Rome–which the students are expert in now!–and off to Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, a spectacular pleasure palace from the 2nd century AD. Since we were in Tivoli, though, it hardly made sense to miss the Villa D’Este: a grand Renaissance palace built by a cardinal and relative of the dukes of Ferrara in the 16th century. The gardens in particular were exquisite: the students were all awed at the fountains, and the spectacular view! After a day’s rest, on the Saturday we made the short and easy train journey to Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient sea-port on the banks of the Tiber. We arrived around 10 and by 4:30 most of us were shattered. Fortunately a few soldiered on to see the Christian ruins and the synagogue by the Porta Marina; the rest of us headed to the café for a well-deserved drink in the sunshine. Here are a couple of snaps of us enjoying the blissful panorama from the Villa D’Este and admiring one of the largest and best-preserved mosaics in the ancient city of Ostia. We will definitely be going back to both next year!”

 (sent in by Dr Christopher Burden-Strevens  – Ancient History lecturer on our Rome MA programmes


Kent in Rome event – April 2018 at the British Ambassadors Residence

The University of Kent annual event celebrating our Rome Centre for Classical and Renaissance studies will take place this year on the 4 April at the British Ambassadors residence in the Villa Wolkonsky.

The schedule for the evening includes the European Innovation in Academia Awards and a lecture by Dr. Thomas Campbell. This will be our second European Innovation in Academia Awards. The Awards recognise individuals who have made a difference in higher education in Europe or North America and celebrate academic creativity and innovation.

Our guest lecturer, Dr Thomas P. Campbell, was Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2008-2017. His academic specialism is the study of Renaissance tapestries and he will lecture on ‘Raphael’s Tapestry Designs for Pope Leo X and their legacy at the Court of Charles I’, taking the Mortlake tapestries based on Raphael’s Cartoons (three of which hang on the walls of the Villa Wolkonsky) as his starting point.

Dr. Campbell studied at Oxford University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, before embarking on a career that has been dedicated to the preservation, study and promotion of cultural heritage. Having become interested in European tapestries while working on the art and propaganda of the European courts, he became a curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, he was appointed Director and CEO of The Met in 2008. Serving for nine years as the ninth Director of the Met, Dr. Campbell pursued a ground-breaking agenda that combined scholarship with accessibility, and reimagined how a museum can engage with diverse, global audiences.  His focus was on simultaneously reinforcing the museum’s excellence in faculty, collections, galleries, exhibitions, publications and international engagement while ensuring its scholarship remains accessible, engaging and thought-provoking to a contemporary audience. He has recently stepped down from this position and is currently at the Getty Research Institute and at Waddesdon Manor in the UK as the Getty/Rothschild fellow 2017/18.


First couple of months for our Ancient Historians and Archaeologists

Our ancient history and archaeology students have been having just as busy and fulfilling a time as the art historians. Much of January for our students was spent settling in to their new accommodation and their new routine: most have been able to live with the friends they made while studying at Kent back in the Autumn Term, and it’s fantastic to see such strong personal relationships developing into effective working relationships too.

This has been so important and helpful for them over the last month. We begin each week with a lecture from Dr Higgins, an expert in material culture. Students then head out to see the sites first-hand. February began with the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine (of course), followed by the building programme of the emperor Trajan (marketplaces, temples, columns…).

Then there’s the Pantheon, mausolea of Augustus and Hadrian, the epic baths of the emperor Diocletian…the list goes on. Since students work together to prepare talks discussing their favourite aspects of the sites, the close bonds they’ve formed are really bearing fruit this month. As February draws to a close, we are gearing up for two trips beyond the ancient city to consider its surroundings in the imperial period. Shortly we will be taking a trip to Ostia, Rome’s principal sea-port and a major centre of trade in the 1st century AD and beyond. We’re also preparing for a jaunt to the ruins of Herculaneum and Oplontis, two ancient Roman towns in the Campania region. One of the (few) fortunate things about the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD is that the quantities of volcanic ash and pumice preserved these fantastic sites for us see in a comparatively solid state of preservation today.

This doesn’t mean that it’s all work, of course: when in Rome! Kent students are evidently making the most of the Italian they learned in the Autumn term and rightly putting it into practice as they enjoy everything that the Eternal City has to offer.

Just one of the delightful ristorante in Trastevere, an area with an abundance of family run restaurants and fresh daily produce
Sausage and Mushroom ravioli at Alle Fratte di Trastevere

A month into our studies in Rome

We’re now four weeks into our term in Rome and everyone seems nicely settled into their studies, and living the dolce vita. As I write the bells are peeling just as the sun sets on another day of blue skies and sun (we have also had diluvial rain but this seems to bounce off our students as well as off the monuments of the city).

Everyone’s pattern here has been slightly different, so summing up the first four weeks is not easy, but here are some highlights from the Art History side of things.

Last week students were on the restoration scaffolds at the Vatican  where the restorers explained fresco technique and discussed particularly interesting and challenging issues that they are encountering as they work in the Sala di Costantino (started by Raphael and completed by Giulio Romano). We have also been up to several of the excellent lectures offered at the British School at Rome. Among our visits we have been in churches, villas, palazzi, museums, exhibitions, archives, libraries and lectures to say nothing of the cafes and piazzas. We had a film crew with us for a few days so watch this space for a short film of some of our activities.

Looking ahead we have a trip to Orvieto, Perugia and Spello this week; and Florence the following week where again we are going to be in restoration studios and the drawings collection of the Uffizi as well as in the normal run of museums and churches. We’re also looking forward to guest lecturers later in the term, and to our annual event (this year at the Villa Wolkonsky). And with each day more spring-like than the last, our students seem to be making the most of a wonderful experience.


Arrival in Rome

Students on our split site Canterbury and Rome MA programmes in History of Art, Ancient History and Archaeology and Roman History have now arrived in Rome to continue their one year MA studies in the Eternal City. Students arrived in Rome on the weekend of the 13th January to settle into their new homes and begin to navigate the city armed with all the necessities from Kent to help them settle in – status letters,  getting started guides and so on, before starting their orientation week with University of Kent staff and professors.

Many started their first day with the typical Italian breakfast of Cafée e Cornetto – from a café opposite the university – just 2 euro!

Our arrivals week started at the study centre of the American university of Rome which is where our students will be taught and make use of the study facilities on offer. Students attended a welcome briefing with Academic Director, Professor Tom Henry and Academic Administrator Sophie Punt who spoke to them more about their modules in Rome, study visits, events happening whilst they are there as well as student support, security, IT amongst other things to ensure they could settle in.

Students in the AUR garden

During this week the first seminars for the core modules took place so students met their professors and started to immerse themselves in the city whilst learning in-situ about the subject matter. Firstly students were taken on a guided tour visiting Churches containing work by Raphael in Rome with Art Historian and Academic Director of the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies; Tom Henry. We visited 5 churches in total including Santa Maria della Pace and Santa Maria del Popolo. History of Art students were able to comment and explain to our Ancient Historians and Archaeologists why a certain piece was painted in a particular way and the influences on show. Students were guided around the different churches and the winding streets of Rome pointing our various places of interest and realising that navigating the city was not as hard as they first thought.

With Professor Tom Henry explaining the artwork by Raphael

The next day students were guided around the Capitoline Museums by one of their Ancient History lecturers Christopher Burden-Strevens before meandering around the Campidoglio and down to the Roman Forum. The Capitoline Museum houses the original bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback, statue of Constantine and the bust of Commodus as Hercules among many other treasures. Students were encouraged to choose one piece of interest whilst exploring the museum to discuss in the seminar that afternoon. A tough task to undertake as there are so many treasures hidden in the Capitoline museums.

Student wearing her Kent hoody walking towards the Campidoglio ready for the next seminar in situ

That evening students were invited to attend a lecture at the British School of Rome by Professor Elena Isayev ‘Between hospitality and asylum – a historical perspective on displaced agency’. There are often events and conferences that our students are free to attend around Rome and we encourage them to make the most of them including those at the British School of Rome as well as those at the American Academy of Rome.

The courtyard of AAR leading onto the various rooms used for exhibitions, the daily tea and the research resource rooms.

The next Morning students were taken on a tour of the American Academy in Rome, just around the corner from the University this Research and Arts institution houses study spaces and an extensive library that we arrange our students to have access to whilst in Rome. Students discovered how to use the library and saw the gardens and learnt about the rich history of this centre.

Students finished off the week by going out for dinner together and for drinks with the Academic Director to talk about their plans for whilst they are in Rome, discuss their schedules and the visits they wanted to take part in. Past students have been to Pompeii, Florence and Ostia – where will this years students go? With travel in Italy being considerably cheaper than in the UK students are prepared to make the most of their time with us! We look forward to sharing their journey with them.