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Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

clst 277 the world of late antiquity

Spring 2012

Late Antiquity… The term suggests, quite obviously, that once upon a time something along the lines of an Early Antiquity, or Earlier Antiquity, or even Earliest Antiquity. So: there should also be a Later Antiquity, or Latest Antiquity – even a Late Late Antiquity, which again implies that there must have been a Later Late Antiquity, and a Latest Late Antiquity; or, in fact, a Late Later Antiquity and a Late Latest Antiquity; or, indeed, a Later Later Antiquity and a Latest Later, just as a Late Latest, a Later Latest and a Latest Latest Antiquity… The point is: we are dealing with labels! Someone decided to stick a name to something – Antiquity in this case. And then he or she decided that it was LATE as well, which of course immediately raises the question: late for what?

Labels are wrong… Often! In this course we will be looking at the many facets of a period of roughly 300 or 400 years. The world of Late Antiquity is pretty much the world of the Roman Empire, but also beyond its frontiers. Romans changing, barbarians moving… It’s quite a busy world. And yet – some of the main questions related to Late Antiquity have been, and continue to be: do we see a world in turmoil? Does the Roman Empire decline, and eventually fall? Are we dealing with abrupt changes, or gradual transitions? What is the significance of Christianity? And what do barbarians do best? Who are they? Where do they come from? Where do they go?


Course Abstract

The key objective of this course is to survey the history of the world of Late Antiquity, from the third century AD until the supposed fall of Rome in 476 AD… and beyond. We’re taking this into the so-called early-Mediaeval period, or rather: late Late Antiquity (but don’t tell the Mediaevalists that!); into Byzantium, or rather: Constantinople (but don’t tell the Byzantinists! Nor the Istanbullies!); or rather: Rome II (but don’t tell those wretched Greeks! They think it’s a Greek city… Stupid!). Not an easy task, as one of the main problems concerning the studies of Rome, Greece, the Ancient World in general, and the world of Late Antiquity in particular is always one of evidence. We rely on biased and often fragmented literary sources, sometimes written centuries after the actual events they are actually describing. Archaeology and epigraphy supplement the literary evidence, but also provide information that stands completely on its own. All the evidence has to be weighed with extreme care and consideration.

Throughout this course, a series of lectures and seminars, we shall attack some of the major issues in the study of late antique Roman society and culture. History is never a single-minded and uniform matter. The various contributions of numerous scholars, next to our principal text of Peter Brown, are all intended to stimulate our own minds to ask further questions, and to start thinking into only few of all the possible directions towards possible answers – or rather: hypotheses. Primary sources, as well as secondary literature from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, reveal the drama of Roman history, society, politics, and culture. These texts, both ancient and modern, contribute to our awareness of the cultural tradition in which we ourselves also stand.


Procedures and Policies

The World of Late Antiquity meets twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 15:45 until 17:00. It is expected of students to contribute in a significant way to this course. They are responsible for completing all of the assigned readings, according to the schedule attached to this syllabus.

This course has no prerequisites and assumes no prior knowledge of ancient Roman history, or indeed of the Latin language. It is intended that students acquire a basic knowledge and understanding of the historical background and facts of ancient Rome, as well as that of the working of historical mechanisms.

Attendance and Assessment

Attendance is mandatory. The success of each session depends to a considerable extent on the students’ presence, as well as on their preparation and participation.

Final grade assessments will be based on the combination of two exams, one mid-term and one final, and one large essay (10-15 pages) concerning a topic of free choice and based on primary sources and secondary literature. A small percentage of the students’ grade will be derived from attendance and participation. Students opting for an Honors Contract will be given extra assignments.

It is strongly recommended to take notes, both when reading and listening. These notes are an indispensable part of studying and learning, often the best means to anchor your thoughts with true understanding, transform opinion into knowledge, and establish comprehension rooted in memory. Writing is learning – with half as much effort.


Exam and essay assignments

The 2 (TWO) exams will be tests of your acquired knowledge and understanding of the Peter Brown’s book, as well as the topics dealt with in the additional secondary literature. The book provides a general outline of the developments of Roman history, society and culture in Late Antiquity. The facts and the various backgrounds of events, both in time and throughout the Roman world, are the framework of any basic historical understanding and mode of thinking.

As far as the essay is concerned, it is strongly recommended to start thinking of a suitable topic, including (some of) the appropriate material, right at the beginning of the course. In any case will you be summoned for a consult the week before mid-term, in order to establish an outline of the final essay. Essays count between 10-15 pages.

Information MUST under all circumstances be cited. Plagiarism of any sort will result in a grade of “F” for the assignment, or, depending on the level, perhaps even for the entire course.


Essay Grading

Written work, and to a certain extent also the final exam, meriting the grade of “A” (excellent) must:

Written work and examinations awarded the grade of “B” (good) adequately fulfil a majority of these criteria, with areas of improvement indicated by grading remarks and comments.

The grade of “C” (average) is given when written work and examinations fail to meet most criteria, therefore indicating to the student that an appointment should be made with the professor, before the next essay assignment, to discuss methods for improvement.

Finally, the grade of “D” is assigned to written work and examinations that are simply unacceptable, according to the criteria outlined above, in which case an appointment must be made with the professor and arrangements determined for re-submitting the assignments in an acceptable form.


Grading Percentages:

            Mid-term Examination             30%

            Final Examination                    30%

            Final Essay                              30%

            Presence / Participation            10%

Students who wish to request a review of the final course grade must provide original versions of all their graded course assignments.


·           S. Mitchell, A History of the Later Roman Empire, AD 284-641 (Blackwell Publishing; Oxford, 2007).

·           Reader.


Course Program

Week 1:           The “Long” Third Century… Which really begins in the second…


Week 2:           The New Empire: Diocletian


Week 3:           The New Empire: Constantine


Week 4:           Church and State


Week 5:           The Reign of Julian


Week 6:           The Late Roman State


Week 7:           Late Roman Economy and Society


Week 8:           Military Affairs, Barbarians, and the Late Roman Army


Week 9:           Culture in the Late Fourth Century


Week 10:         Constantinople and the East


Week 11:         Urban change and the End of Antiquity?


Week 12:         Justinian… the Empire strikes back


Week 13:         Epilogue: Byzantium


John Felice Rome Center · Sullivan Center for Student Services· 6339 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago, IL 60660
Mailing Address: 1032 W. Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL 60660
800.344.ROMA · rome@luc.edu

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