29654 - Religions of the Classic World (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

After completing the course, students are familiar with the main theoretical, methodological and technical tools of the historical-religious disciplines of the social sciences, which address the study of the history of religions of the ancient world with mastery of interdisciplinary methods and contents. They are able to evaluate religious phenomena and dynamics in local and global sociocultural contexts, to identify connections, developments, persistence and transformations of religious phenomena and appreciate interaction between groups in complex societies. They have an understanding of the relevance of cultural-historical studies for historical enquiry and can identify the specific contribution that the historical sciences can make in addressing issues and problems of interest to the community, such as the critical promotion of the value of religious differences and religious pluralism. Also through direct involvement in seminar-type activities on some monographic topics (personal reading and analysis of ancient texts and modern studies), they have knowledge of the sources and problems linked to the study of religions of the classical world and the general characteristics of polytheism. They know how to use the language and tools specific to the discipline. They are able to update their knowledge and elaborate autonomous analytical perspectives, applying the methodologies of investigation to specific problems and documents and taking into account the scientific and international debate related to the discipline.

Course contents

Religions as communication systems.

Semiotics and semantics of the veil in the Ancient Medediterranean religious systems: comparative overview of a clothing attribute

History of a religious object with strong cultural implications, evident in modern and contemporary societies, attributable to an older constitutive rhetoric of the clothing attribute conceived and perceived as a semiotic device with a strong semantic impact.

The course of this year is the first step of a study on the more general theme of religions understood as communication systems, conditioned by the most recent investigations based on discursive studies and by the theoretical answers developed in the context of performance theory.

The course aims, as a dual purpose, to (1) provide a historically and culturally contextualized analysis of the meaning (s) and ideological and religious, socio-economic and political-institutional implications inherent in the use of a strongly garment characterized by the semantic point of view; (2) consider the communication strategies and cultural dynamics underlying the discourse of unveiling (of oneself or of others), where the act of veiling and unveiling takes on a symbolic paradigmatic meaning, that is, representative at a social level, of a way of ask and act disciplined and disciplinary. It follows the reflection on the public and private, ritualistic and ritualized, political and propagandistic use of an object-garment potentially capable of defining the identity of the wearer, sanctioning its membership status, and passing on social memory, legitimizing an ethos culturally codified and collectively shared.

Therefore, the course will consider the historical-religious declination of the veil in ancient Mediterranean societies, focusing on the cultural and ritual aspects of the object in the Greek and Roman systems, following the historical developments of a discourse that in the late ancient period it will become pregnant with the Christian dogma aimed at regulating women's customs against the background of a pagan society now in transformation. The final part of the course is dedicated to deepening in a comparative way the prescriptive and normative value of the veil in Islamic society, also by means of audiovisual resources.


First lesson: March 21, 2023; last lesson: May 04, 2023


Main Texts (Mandatory)

  • MARIANNA FERRARA, ALESSANDRO SAGGIORO, GIUSEPPINA PAOLA VISCARDI (a cura di), Le verità del velo, Società Editrice Fiorentina – SEF, Firenze 2017 

*text in pdf format is available in "Virtuale"


Classical text (Recommended/Optional)

  • TERTULLIANO QUINTO S., De virginibus velandis. La condizione femminile nelle prime comunità cristiane (Collana: Cultura cristiana antica. Testi), Borla, Roma 1984

*text available in B. Dip. Filologia Classica e Italianistica Coll. LATINI Tert. III 0009


Non-attending students will add:

  • MARIA GIUSEPPINA MUZZARELLI, A capo coperto. Storie di donne e di veli, Il Mulino, Bologna 2018

*text available in B. Dip. Storia Culture Civiltà - DiSCi - Medievistica Coll. DUPLI 1088 a; B. Discipline Umanistiche Coll. A. 0500 13201; B. Universitaria Coll. T 3217 /723631; B. 'Sala Borsa' Coll. S 391.4 MUZZMG

Teaching methods

The course is divided into a series of frontal lessons on classification and analysis of the indicated topic supported by Power Point presentations and in different moments of reading, translation, individual interpretation by the students of texts and documents (literary and iconographic) reported in class, followed by a collective discussion in the classroom.

Lessons are held exclusively in presence and are not registered.

Assessment methods

Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending.

The course includes a final oral examination in which students must demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the reported bibliography, reasoning skills and critical analysis of the material studied, aptitude for processing and / or identification of conceptual links and intertextual links, language skills. 

The following assessment levels will be taken into consideration when assigning the vote:

  • a judgment of excellence (30 cum laude) will be formulated if the student demonstrates that he possesses solid, critically acquired and solidly reasoned knowledge, wealth of discursive articulation and expressive properties;
  • the judgment will be excellent (30) if the student proves to possess complete and adequate knowledge, well articulated and expressed correctly;
  • the judgment will be good (29-27) if the student proves to possess more than satisfactory knowledge, expressed correctly;
  • the judgment will be discreet (26-24) if the student proves to possess the basic knowledge in the essential lines, but not completely exhaustive and / or not articulated with due correctness;
  • the judgment will be sufficient (23-21) where the student proves to possess general knowledge but acquired in a superficial way, expressed in a not always appropriate way and articulated in a confused way;
  • the judgment will be just enough (20-18) where the acquired knowledge is expressed and articulated in a confused, inorganic and / or incomplete way;
  • the judgment will be below the sufficiency (<18) where the knowledge should be absent or extremely incomplete and the student should show lack of orientation in the discipline.

Teaching tools

The Power Point presentations and PDF files of the texts listed in the Readings/Bibliography Section will be made available to students among the Didactic Materials and uploaded to "Virtuale"

Office hours

See the website of Giuseppina Paola Viscardi


Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities Partnerships for the goals

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.