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University of Reading

Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City

University of Reading via FutureLearn


Explore ancient Rome through a unique, historically accurate 3D model.

Take a guided tour around ancient Rome with expert Professor Matthew Nicholls, using his detailed and award-winning 3D digital model of the city. Explore Rome’s architecture and how it was used - how did Romans worship their gods and meet their political masters? How was drinking water supplied to the city’s million inhabitants? Moving seamlessly between footage of contemporary Rome and the digital model (including interactive elements), you’ll explore these questions and much more.

Use this insight to inform your own encounters with the eternal city and the study of ancient history more generally.

This course has been ranked as one of the best online courses of all time by online course aggregator class central.

This course is open to anyone with an interest in discovering more about ancient Rome. You might be: planning a visit to the Italian capital; an avid watcher of documentaries on Roman history; or considering studying archaeology, classics or history at university.


  • Location and infrastructure
    • Welcome to Rome: A virtual tour of the ancient city
    • Part I: Building the ancient city
    • Encountering the evidence
    • Part II: Walls, roads and building materials
    • Part III: Aqueducts and sewers
    • Review and reflect
  • Political architecture
    • Welcome to Week 2
    • Part IV: The Forum
    • Part V: Monuments and the imperial fora
    • Texts in the city
    • Review and reflect
  • Religious architecture
    • Part VI: Roman religion and republican temples
    • Encountering the evidence: music and coins
    • Part VII: imperial temples
    • Worshipping the gods
    • Review and reflect
  • Life and death in ancient rome
    • Part VIII: Life
    • Encountering the evidence: the baker's tomb and Roman food
    • Part IX: Death
    • Review and reflect
  • Bread and circuses
    • Part X: Bread and Circuses
    • Part XI: Theatres
    • Part XII: Baths
    • Part XIII: Colosseum
    • Encountering the evidence: the Colosseum and entertainment venues at Rome
    • Review and reflect

Taught by

Matthew Nicholls


5.0 rating, based on 39 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at FutureLearn based on 648 ratings

Start your review of Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City

  • Anonymous
    I have completely loved this course on Ancient Rome and will miss it. Prof Matthew Nicholls and department have been so generous by making it available to us. It was easy to spend a lot longer than the allotted time each week. The course was a surp…
  • Anonymous
    This is a wonderful course that uses 3 D models, original texts, and coins to bring Ancient Rome to life. I highly recommend it for people interested in how people worked, lived, and used the city for entertainment, worship, and politics. Thank you so much for creating this course!
  • Danielle De Vergezac
    This is a facinating course. I highly recommend it to those who are interested in Roman history but also to those who are planning to visit Rome in a near future. It is an excellent introduction to a futher discovery.
  • Linda Baynes
    This stunning course was presented with dedication and passion. It had a fascinating choice of content and the videos of (real) Rome brought it to life.

    It also incorporated a 3D model of the ancient city - amazing! - which you could wander through at will. This brought the (virtual) city to life.

    If all teachers and lecturers shared the skills of this presenter, we would be a better educated people.

    A big round of applause for all those who helped with the course!
  • Anonymous
    A very well presented course, I have seen many Roman sites in the UK, Europe , Turkey Tunisia, Libya, Jordan and this course gave me a more coherent view of these different places. I had not realised Rome had many homeless people, and the apartment…
  • Anonymous
    Wonderful course superbly put together with a stupendous tool in the 3D model created and kept by Matthew. I so enjoyed this course the very first one in fact that struck me on FL and it took this long to come around again. I am delighted I stayed a…
  • Anonymous
    If it was possible to award more stars for this course, I definitely would. The amount of work I imagine must have been involved in producing it is phenomenal. The lectures are recorded and presented in Rome by Professor Matthew Nicholls who genero…
  • Anonymous
    A fascinating course by a compelling guide and instructor, Dr. Matthew Nicholls. While I had difficulty using the SketchFab tool in exploring Dr. Nicholls's 3D models of ancient Rome, the videos, lectures, articles, tours of the city, interviews with scholars from The University of Reading, and opportunities to interact with my fellow students, made Rome come alive for me. I highly recommend this course.
  • Anonymous
    Like other learners I never managed to properly access your model but I think my system was too old. The bits I did manage to access were great. The range of activities - videos, the model, 3-D aspects, links, downloads and the non-mandatory quizz…
  • Anonymous
    This course really gave insight to the daily lives of ancient Romans. The videos, articles and
    3-D models provided a clear understanding of the function, size and placement of various buildings in ancient Rome. The articles were easy to read and the supplemental links easy to follow.
    The mentor for this course was Jack Hanson. He replied to questions and responded to feedback in a timely manner. His input helped clarify misunderstandings.
    The other learners were generous in their comments and added to the course with descriptions of their experiences and links to helpful articles and videos.
    All around an engaging course!
  • Anonymous
    This wonderful course was amazingly informative. Due not to only to the detailed research, the explanations offered by Dr. Matthew and his team but the audio, video and modeling elements made this an incredibly valuable learning resource. Years…
  • Anonymous
    One of the best classes I've taken!

    The content is not only informative and interesting, it is also easy to follow and understand.

  • Anonymous
    This history course will take you to a place in your mind that is out of this world! It begins at the time of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar in the Roman Republic at about 20BC and ends in the Roman Empire in about AD400. You will not be learnin…
  • Anonymous
    This was a well-done class on ancient Rome that I would recommend. As with all Future Learn classes, it would have been more appealing if the articles and transcript had been edited by someone in the English department since there were many mistakes. However, the information is good. I was glad this course included videos with the virtual model because my computer had a hard time navigating it on my own. However, there's a wealth of knowledge here that I appreciate.
  • Anonymous
    Thank you Dr Matthew Nicholls and to your team for a course which led me to many new (for me) discoveries. The content was well-judged in its level of detail and the 3D models were very interesting. I nearly didn't finish in the time allowed, but only because my fellow students put up so many links which I enjoyed following up. I am determined to return to Rome to reflect on my new knowledge in its true context.
  • Anonymous
    I came across this course by chance, but decided to take the plunge to learn more about the real world that characters in my fiction reading inhabited. Books like the Simon Scarrow series. The Vespasian series. Wallace Breem. And others. There was far more depth than I expected and some pleasant surprises. The sounds, tastes, dynamics and form of Rome are now a wonderful backdrop to the fiction!
  • Anonymous
    This was a great and informative course and very well presented by Matthew and the Futurelearn Team. Very interesting and I would recommend it even if you have never been to Rome, I'm sure you will definitely want to visit all these wonderful sights and their amazing history.
  • Anonymous
    It was a wonderful course. Matthew gave us a vivid insight into the lives of ancient Romans from the great emperors down to the lowest slave. All this was illustrated with detailed computerised visualisations of the city as it would have been at the height of the Roman Empire. His knowledge of Rome took us on many visits to the modern city at the same time relating it to the ancient city upon which it has been built. The course was detailed with displays of ancient coins minted at the time of the Emperors, and even poetry and music of that time were explored. I learned a lot about ancient Rome during the five weeks and I was sorry when it ended.
  • Anonymous
    I really enjoyed this course, in spite of the sad fact - I never managed to properly access your model!
    I am glad I just soldiered on and enjoyed the information and the videos - the next best thing to going to Rome.
    Thank you
    Vivienne Cove
  • Anonymous
    I found this course tremendously informative and enjoyable. Mathew has a very engaging way and the pace is good - helped by the mix of video footage and the use of the virtual models. Thoroughly recommend it.

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