Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: A Day in Herculaneum

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

The world as we know it today has been shaped by events of the past. Learn about history the smart way with History courses at the University of Sydney.

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.


Upon successful completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  1. Interpret the literary and archaeological evidence for the destruction of the town in CE 79.
  2. Evaluate the contribution of different archaeologists and their methods.
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of the key architectural features of houses and villas at or near Herculaneum and an appreciation of the streetscape.
  4. Demonstrate an awareness of the range of written sources that have survived on the site of Herculaneum.
  5. Evaluate the usefulness of statuary and inscriptions as sources for political and social life in the town.
  6. Critically assess the management of the archaeological site in the late 20th century.


This history course covers the following topics:

  • Eighteenth century tunnelling – treasure hunters and antiquarians
  • Destruction in CE 79 – current theories
  • Nature of the preservation
  • Nineteenth and twentieth century – 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 short course is suitable for personal interest adult learners, students and active retirees who:

  • Have a general interest in archaeology.
  • Have a specific interest in the culture and history of Herculaneum.

Delivery Style

This course will be delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussion is encouraged.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • 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.

$130 Limited inc GST
History Course: A Day in Herculaneum

<p>{block name:“Course Tagline - History”}</p><p>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


What others say.

  • 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 presenter was an excellent source of information on this topic.