Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: A Day in Herculaneum

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

Like Pompeii, the small town of Herculaneum was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in August AD 79. The town, with its shops, temples and houses was sealed under 20 metres of volcanic sludge until archaeologists brought about half of the town to light. In the 1980s the skeletal remains of some 300 people were discovered on the beach and in the boat chambers where they had huddled. Join us for a day of exploration as we examine how archaeologists using different methods have shed light on how the people of this small town lived, worked and died. We will examine houses and public buildings, the evidence for commercial and social life. With the aid of a dossier of written sources: inscriptions, graffiti and painted notices that have survived the destruction we will learn about life in the town.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • interpret the literary and archaeological evidence for the destruction of the town in CE 79
  • evaluate the contributions of different archaeologists and their methods
  • demonstrate knowledge of the key architectural features of houses and villas at or near Herculaneum, and an appreciation of the streetscape
  • demonstrate an awareness of the range of written sources that have survived on the site of Herculaneum
  • evaluate the usefulness of statuary and inscriptions as sources for political and social life in the town
  • assess the management of the archaeological site in the late 20th century.


This course covers the following topics:

  • 18th Century tunnelling – treasure hunters and antiquarians
  • Destruction in CE 79 – current theories
  • Nature of the preservation
  • 19th and 20th centuries – Fiorelli and Maiuri – their work on the site
  • Skeletal material – Bisel’s initial work and Luigi Capasso’s monumental study
  • Religion – civic and domestic
  • Housing – houses and villas
  • Problems of conservation – the Packard Foundation the British School’s Herculaneum Conservation

Intended audience

This course may be of interest to anyone wanting to:

  • explore Roman history
  • learn more about Roman archaeology
  • explore the culture and history of Herculaneum
  • visit the ruins of Herculaneum and therefore gain practical information about the town and its sites.



Delivery style

The course combines two formats: lecture style delivery, and class discussion.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • I found the tutor to be very engaging, with a thorough knowledge of the subject. I could have listened to that talk forever, but sadly the time went very quickly. The passion and hands on-experience of ancient history was truly marvelous. A living Delphic Oracle...

  • Hugely enjoyable and clearly a very knowledgeable and lovely presenter. A great day!

  • I enjoyed every minute of it. Fabulous tutor and great opportunity to see and use Sydney Uni.

  • The course was perfect for adding to my knowledge of the excavation and preservation of Herculaneum. The presenter was generous with his resources and clearly an expert on the subject.

  • A most interesting and informative presentation covering the economic, political and social aspects of archaeology. Pacing of topics was excellent, breaks were well timed, questions were welcomed and appropriate and given respect suggesting professionalism of an experienced and interesting presenter! Having taught Herculaneum with limited resources for some ten years it was reassuring that what was being taught was accurate! Thoroughly recommend!

  • Courses have been very informative. Tutors really know their topic and handouts are provided. I have been inspired to do further research.

  • The tutor for this course was so incredibly knowledgable and answered all questions and provided many ways in which to conduct further research.

  • Great course, the tutor had an amazing knowledge and was able to add personal anecdotes which really made the content relevant.

History Course: A Day in Herculaneum

<p>{block name:“Course Tagline - History”}</p><p>{block name:“Block - COVID 19 updates”}</p><p>Like Pompeii, the small town of Herculaneum was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in August AD 79.


What others say.

  • The presenter was an excellent source of information on this topic.
  • Small class, very personal tuition which means you got a great deal more from the lecturer. It was a wonderful day spent with people who were really interested in the subject and wanted to learn. The lecturer was wonderful.
  • The tutor for this course was so incredibly knowledgable and answered all questions and provided many ways in which to conduct further research.
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