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Semester 1

The Transformation of the Roman World, ca. 300-800: Towards Byzantium and the Early Medieval West (ANHI08015)


Ancient History





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Visiting students must have previously taken at least one course in Classics or History and achieved grade B or above. We only accept University-level courses.

Course Summary

This course looks at the political, cultural and religious translation undergone by the Roman empire - and with it classical civilisation - in Late Antiquity (ca. 300-ca. 800). How did the monolithic late Roman state give way to Germanic kingdoms in western Europe, and develop into the Greek-speaking Byzantine empire of the eastern Mediterranean? And how did the monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam, establish themselves and impact politics and everyday life across the Mediterranean and Near East?

Course Description

The period now known as Late Antiquity, from ca. 300-800, was traditionally disdained as one of decadence, and ignored for falling between the ancient and medieval worlds. But in the last forty years, Late Antiquity has become viewed as a period in its own right and as one of the most exciting and dynamic areas of historical study. Late Antiquity sees new powerbrokers - barbarian generals, court eunuchs, bishops and holy men and women - and profound changes: above all, the transformation of the Roman empire in the west to Germanic kingdoms and in the east to the Greek-speaking Byzantine state, and the spread and political establishment of Christianity and, later, Islam. The course is divided into roughly three areas: it opens by studying the late Roman empire of the fourth and fifth centuries, with themes including social relations in a sharply hierarchical and unequal society, the growth of Christianity, and the external and internal tensions which eventually led to the end of the western empire. Thereafter the course alternates between west and east, looking at the development of the post-Roman west down to the age of Charlemagne and at the vicissitudes of the Byzantine empire through the age of Justinian, the great war against Persia, the Arab invasions, and Iconoclasm. The central themes of the course are understanding the political transformations of the period in relationship to profound social, cultural, and religious change, and preparing students for the many more specialised courses on the period available at honours level.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 60%, Coursework 40%, Practical Exam 0%

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