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Semester 1

Ancient Superpowers: The Armies and Military Monuments of Rome and Persia (ANHI10055)

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Classical Art/Classical Archaeology





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Visiting students must have previously taken at least 3 courses in Classics related subject matter (at least 2 of which should be in Classical Art/Archaeology) at grade B or above for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the academic pre-requisites does NOT guarantee admission. **Please note that 3rd year Ancient History courses are very popular and have strict visiting student quotas, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.** These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.

Course Summary

This course aims to familiarise students with the armies and military infrastructure of the Roman and Persian Empires from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD. Recent discoveries of a remarkably sophisticated military apparatus on an astonishing scale in the late antique Persian World, in comparison with the much widely known military monuments of Rome, will provide participants with a better understanding of ancient geopolitics and the use of hard power in antiquity.

Course Description

This course will explore the military forces and infrastructure of some of the ancient world's largest, most powerful and long-lived empires, those of Rome and Persia. It will cover the period from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD. The Roman Empire was the dominant power in the Mediterranean and controlled up to the 5th century the majority of Europe's population, as well as Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and Northern Africa. Split from the late 4th century into Western and Eastern Roman successor states, its surviving eastern half remained a dominant player on the world stage up to the first half of the 7th century. As far as Persia is concerned, the course will focus on Late Antiquity, as there is much more concrete evidence for Sasanian than for Parthian military installations. Centred on modern Iran, the Sasanian Empire (3rd-7th centuries) stretched to Mesopotamia in the west, to the western parts of the Indian Subcontinent in the east and into the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia in the south and north. Until a few years ago, little had been known about its military infrastructure. Recent research has revealed frontier walls and defended compounds of greater dimensions than those found in the late Roman world. It now appears that the Sasanian Empire had an army, which in terms of the scale and sophistication of its military architecture, its capabilities, achievements and, probably, its numerical strength, matched or more than matched those of the most powerful states in antiquity. The course will present the evidence for the organisation of the Roman and Sasanian armies, the monuments they have left behind, and for their deployment in war. It will explore the question how they were able to expand or maintain such vast territorial empires over centuries. In contrast to the Eurocentric perspective of most courses on ancient warfare, this course will seek to demonstrate how the bipolar world of Late Antiquity was shaped by competing superpowers.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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