Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

ClSt 277 World of Late Antiquity

Loyola University Chicago                  John Felice Rome Center


ClSt 277: The World of Late Antiquity


Tuesdays/Thursdays 3:40-4:55 PM


Instructor: Alberto Prieto, PhD (University of Texas at Austin)



Introduction and Course Description

            This course surveys the transformation of the Roman world between the 3rd and 7th centuries AD, when the Classical heritage of Europe and the Mediterranean basin, carefully constructed over centuries by the Romans on Greek foundations, fragmented and evolved into the governmental, religious, socio-economic, and cultural framework characteristic of the Medieval world. This period has traditionally been undervalued and even ignored in historical studies and university curricula, considered either a debased epilogue of decline following on the lofty heights of Classical antiquity or a long and desultory prelude to the ignorance and stagnation of the Dark Ages. In reality, Late Antiquity was a complex, fascinating, and vibrant age, with a large and varied cast of characters, a rich and sophisticated culture, a huge theater of activity, and an endless series of exciting twists and turns on a par with the most significant periods of European history. The course considers all major aspects of the human experience in this broad period—internal administration, foreign policy, religion, economy, military activity, education, social and daily life, and art and architecture—as they played out across the Roman world, from Spain to Mesopotamia, from Britain to North Africa. All major sources, including literary texts, inscriptions, and material/archaeological evidence, will be considered and analyzed as evidence in the construction of what we call “history.”


            The course will begin with the epochal changes occurring in the Roman Empire after the collapse of the Severan dynasty in the early 3rd century AD, which set the stage for the dramatic initial stage of transformation to come at the end of the same century and into the next. The imperial administration and the army are radically reorganized, Christianity is first viciously persecuted and then legitimized, and Rome loses its status as the capital of the Empire. During the 4th century enormous hordes of aggressive migratory “barbarians” come knocking at the gates while the people in charge struggle to define the “true” Christianity and its role vs. the traditional polytheistic religion and other religions, leaving Rome vulnerable to the inevitable siege and sack in 410—the “sack heard ‘round the world,” the first in 800 years and the first of several to come. But Rome and the Empire endure.


            During the course of the 5th century, however, an important corner is turned. Italy is conquered by the “barbarians” and lost to the Empire, along with much of the western Roman world, and the “last” Roman emperor is deposed. By the 6th century the western Mediterranean and the by now symbolic city of Rome are a battleground between the “barbarians” and the Byzantine Empire based in Constantinople, intent on restoring the glory of the old Roman Empire. As the Byzantines are distracted by increasing pressures from the east, the western Mediterranean is subjected to new “barbarian” invasions. Meanwhile, in the decimated and deteriorating city of Rome, the papacy and the Christian church fill the power vacuum created by the constantly fluid situation, setting the stage for the church’s evolution into a center of power and influence in the Middle Ages.




HIST 101 or HIST 102 for students admitted to Loyola University for Fall 2013 or later.  No requirement for students admitted to Loyola prior to Fall 2013 or those with a declared major or minor in History.


Required Textbooks and Materials

Stephen Mitchell, A History of the Later Roman Empire, AD 284-641. Wiley-Blackwell 2006.

Supplementary readings and resources, distributed electronically in PDF format or available online.


Examinations and Major Assignments

The mid-term examination, which will be administered in Week 7 (Thursday, March 6), will test the student’s understanding of the major historical events, figures, and trends between the 3rd and early 5th century. The final examination, which will be administered in the final week of the semester (date TBD),is an opportunity for the student to demonstrate his/her cumulative and synthesized knowledge of the history of Late Antiquity, based comprehensively on notes taken during class lectures and discussions, assignments, and the course readings.

The mid-term exam will consist of

  1. a series of terms (historical persons, places, concepts) to be identified briefly (2-4 sentences) in relation to their significance for the history of Late Antiquity;
  2. one short (2+ pages) essay addressing a minor theme in the history of Late Antiquity; and
  3. one long (4+ pages) essay addressing a major theme in the history of Late Antiquity.


The final exam will consist of

  1. a series of terms (historical persons, places, concepts) to be identified briefly (2-4 sentences) in relation to their significance for the history of Late Antiquity;
  2. two short (2+ page) essays addressing minor themes in the history of Late Antiquity; and
  3. one long (4+ pages) essay addressing a major theme in the history of Late Antiquity.


The exact scope of the each exam will be presented and discussed in the preceding week.


The major assignments are:

Two brief research projects relating the overall significance and pertinent details of places or structures in the context of Late Antique history, (1) in Rome and (2) in the greater Roman world. For each place/structure the student will (1) compose a brief (2+ double-spaced typed pages) written summary including graphical illustrations, to be submitted to the instructor, and (2) make a brief (10-minute) presentation to the class with a succinct (max. 2-page) handout for distribution.

The topics will be assigned in Week 1, and all presentations will be held between Weeks 2 and 7 to accompany lecture topics. The instructor will provide guidance on research sources. The presentations will be evaluated on (1) the quality and depth of the research and (2) the clarity of the oral delivery.


How to do well in this course

  • Take good notes in class. Detailed questions that require more time than can be addressed in class should be posed to the instructor at the beginning or end of class.
  • Do the readings BEFORE the class in which they will be discussed and bring the texts to class. Some reading selections are longer than others, since it is impossible to divide them up equally in a course of this nature. The student should look over the week’s assignments well in advance to budget study time appropriately.
  • Jot down notes, observations, and comments about each article and bring them to class.
  • Take all assignments seriously.
  • See the instructor with any concerns about content, expectations, or performance.
  • Come to class with specific questions and comments in mind.
  • Participate. Contribute to the class and discussion in an informed way.


            The importance of the reading assignments and class attendance cannot be over-emphasized. In-class lectures explore specific themes, events, institutions and individuals; the readings provide a broader context for them within the general narrative of Late Antique history. The instructor reserves the right to require written summaries of the readings, to be evaluated as part of the course grade, should it become apparent that a significant number of the students are not keeping up with them.



The final grade will be calculated as follows:


Attendance and participation


Two short papers and in-class presentations


Mid-term exam


Final exam





The course grade scale is 95-100 = A, 92-94 = A-, 88-91 = B+, 84-87 = B, 80-83 = B-, 77-79 = C+, 73-76 = C, 70-72 = C-, 65-69 = D+, 60-64 = D, 59 and below = F.


Letter grades and plus/minus indicators (suffixes) are used by instructors to indicate a student's quality of achievement in a given academic course.  The letter grades A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, F, WF are assigned the following credit points for purposes of grade point average (GPA) calculations: A = 4.0, A- = 3.67, B+ = 3.33, B = 3.00, B- = 2.67, C+ = 2.33, C = 2.00, C- = 1.67, D+ = 1.33, D = 1.00, F = 0, WF = 0.


            The attendance policy for this class follows the official Rome Center rules: “In order for a student to be excused from class, he/she must present to the professor of each of his/her classes a written note of excuse.  The only authorized notes are those from a doctor, the Director, the Vice Director, the Assistant Director, or the Associate Dean of Students.” Personal travel is NEVER a valid excuse for missing classes or late submission of assignments.


Attendance is MANDATORY. Any absence from class for reasons other than compelling and documented ones (for example, medical or family emergency—see immediately above) will earn a 2-point (20%) deduction from the attendance/participation component of the final grade. It is the student’s own responsibility to seek information on class discussions, lectures, and announcements made during his/her absence.


There is no possibility for make-up or substitution of any assigned work. Submission of any assignment after the due-date will earn a 1-point (5%) deduction from the assignment’s portion of the final grade for every day of tardiness.


         Students who miss the mid-term or final examination at the assigned time will NOT be permitted to sit for a make-up examination without approval of the Director/Dean, Vice Director/Associate Dean, or Assistant Director/Registrar. Permission is given rarely and only for grave reasons; personal travel is NEVER a grave reason. Make-up exams will only be given for documented absences. Absence due to a serious illness must be reported to the Assistant Director/Registrar prior to the examination and later substantiated by a written statement from the physician in attendance. In cases where proper permission has not been granted, a grade of "WF" will be assigned. In instances where proper authorization has been granted, the student may take a make-up exam by following the make-up procedure outlined above.


Course Goals and Primary Learning Objectives

         This course is designed to give students a critical and historical appreciation of the significant political, cultural, and social accomplishments, events, institutions, figures, trends, questions, and concerns of Late Antiquity.


         As a result of this course, the student will be able to:

  • identify and define the major figures, accomplishments, events, institutions, trends, questions, and concerns representing the history, culture, and social, economic, and political, and religious organization of the Roman world between the late 3rd and early 7th centuries AD;
  • identify, describe, and analyze the role(s) that each of these accomplishments, events, institutions, figures, trends, questions, and concerns had in, and their effect(s) on, the history and development of the Roman world during this period, both singly/individually and corporately, in both general and specific terms.


Assignment and Examination Schedule



Evaluation points / Points contributed to final grade


2 papers and in-class presentations

10 / 20


Mid-term examination

100 / 30


Final examination

100 / 40


Subject to Change Statement

This syllabus and schedule are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances. It is the student’s responsibility to check for announcements made during his/her absence.


Course Policies & Safety Issues

  • As the material presented in the course is cumulative in nature, attendance in class is mandatory. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of every class.
  • Students will be given reading assignments for each class meeting. Students are expected to be able to discuss the contents of the readings in class.
  • Constructive participation in class discussions is essential. Students should make observations and ask questions.
  • All work in class will be based on lectures, readings, assignments, and discussions. As history is by nature largely subjective and often touches sensitive subjects (race, gender, politics, religion, class, sexuality), there is a lot of room for debate, disagreement, and definition. Be curious and forthright, and always respectful.
  • Stay alert for occasional deviations from the schedule.

·        During class cell phones should be switched off or set to silent mode.

·        Lectures may be recorded for study purposes, but only with the instructor’s prior and express permission.

·        Students are expected to work independently on all of their assignments.


Disruptive Classroom Behavior

The classroom is a special environment in which students and faculty come together to promote learning and growth. It is essential to this learning environment that respect for the rights of others seeking to learn, respect for the professionalism of the instructor, and the general goals of academic freedom are maintained. Differences of viewpoint or concerns should be expressed in terms which are supportive of the learning process, creating an environment in which students and faculty may learn to reason with clarity and compassion, to share of themselves without losing their identities, and to develop and understanding of the community in which they live. Student conduct which disrupts the learning process shall not be tolerated and may lead to disciplinary action and/or removal from class. Disruptive behavior includes, but is not limited to:

  • cross-talking or talking out of turn
  • reading non-related materials on paper or digital media
  • communicating with external parties in any format (phone, text message, VoIP, e-mail, etc.)
  • working on any other coursework during class
  • habitual late arrival or early departure
  • sleeping
  • eating


Cheating and Plagiarism

Cheating is the actual or attempted practice of fraudulent or deceptive acts for the purpose of improving one's grade or obtaining course credit; such acts also include assisting another student to do so. Typically, such acts occur in relation to examinations, when one student attempts to copy information or content from another. However, it is the intent of this definition that the term “cheating” not be limited to examination situations only, but that it include any and all actions by a student that are intended to gain an unearned academic advantage by fraudulent or deceptive means. These means may include, but are not limited to:

  • Copying any of the individual intellectual content in the written assignment.
  • Sharing the majority of the individual intellectual content in the written assignment, even if using alternate forms of expression.


Plagiarism is a specific form of cheating which consists of the misuse of the published and/or unpublished works of others by misrepresenting the material (i.e., their intellectual property) so used as one’s own work. Plagiarism may involve traditional print media and/or modern digital media (ebooks, websites). Plagiarism of a source is different from citation of it, which is an acceptable form of intellectual reference using quotation marks or paraphrasing supported by footnotes or other explicit forms of proprietary recognition. Students must properly cite/identify all sources of intellectual content that is not their own, whether print or digital, and they are encouraged to contact the instructor for guidance.

Cheating and plagiarism will result in a 0 or F for a particular assignment or, depending on the severity of the offence, an F for the course.



Weekly course schedule


Week 1 (Jan. 20-23): Introduction and background


T 1/21: Course introduction; the Roman Empire through the 2nd century AD


Th 1/23: The Roman Empire through the early 3rd century AD


Mitchell Chs. 1-2 An Introduction to Late Roman History & The Nature of the Evidence


Week 2 (Jan. 27-30): Diocletian and the Tetrarchy


T 1/28: Diocletian


Mitchell 47-62


Th 1/30: The Tetrarchy


Mitchell 47-62


Week 3 (Feb. 3-6): Constantine and the Flavian dynasty


T 2/4: Constantine


Mitchell 62-73

A. D. Lee, “Traditional Religions,” in N. Lenski, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine (Cambridge 2005), 159-179.

J. Curran, “Constantine and the Ancient Cults of Rome: The Legal Evidence.” Greece & Rome 2nd Ser. 43.1 (1996), 68-80.

G. Fowden, “The Last Days of Constantine: Oppositional Versions and Their Influence.” The Journal of Roman Studies 84 (1994), 146-170.


Th 2/6: Constantine’s successors


Mitchell 62-73

R. MacMullen, “Late Roman Slavery.” Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 36.3 (1987), 359-382.

H. S. Sivan, “Town, Country and Province in Late Roman Gaul: The Example of CIL XIII 128.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 79 (1989), 103-113.


Week 4 (Feb. 10-13): Religion in Late Antiquity


T 2/11: Religion and Thought in the Late Roman world


Mitchell 73-100

S. Price, “Religious Mobility in the Roman Empire.” The Journal of Roman Studies 102 (2012), 1-19.

D. Ulansey, Mithraism. “The Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras”

R. Beck, “The Mysteries of Mithras: A New Account of Their Genesis.” The Journal of Roman Studies 88 (1998), 115-128.


Th 2/13: Christianity


Mitchell 256-300

R. Beck, “Ritual, Myth, Doctrine, and Initiation in the Mysteries of Mithras: New Evidence from a Cult Vessel.” The Journal of Roman Studies 90 (2000), 145-180.

L.V. Rutgers, “Archaeological Evidence for the Interaction of Jews and Non-Jews in Late Antiquity.” American Journal of Archaeology 96.1 (1992), 101-118.

G. Fowden, “The Pagan Holy Man in Late Antique Society.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 102 (1982), 33-59.


Week 5 (Feb. 17-20): Barbarian invasions and internal divisions in the 4th & 5th centuries


T 2/18: The late 4th century


Mitchell 191-224

S. MacCormack, “Sin, Citizenship, and the Salvation of Souls: The Impact of Christian Priorities on Late-Roman and Post-Roman Society.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 39.4 (1997), 644-673.

A. Arjava, “Paternal Power in Late Antiquity.” The Journal of Roman Studies 88 (1998), 147-165.


Th 2/20: The early 5th century


Mitchell 191-224

S. Hong, J.-P. Candelone, C. C. Patterson, and C. F. Boutron, “Greenland Ice Evidence of Hemispheric Lead Pollution Two Millennia Ago by Greek and Roman Civilizations.“ Science N.S. 265 No. 5180 (1994), 1841-1843.

P. Heather, “The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in Western Europe.” The English Historical Review 110 No. 435 (1995), 4-41.


Week 6 (Feb. 24-27): The Western Roman Empire


T 2/25:


Mitchell 155-190

N. Christie, “Lost Glories? Rome at the End of Empire,” in H. Dodge and J. Coulston, eds., Ancient Rome. The Archaeology of the Eternal City (Oxford 2000), 306-331.

R. Krautheimer, Rome: Profile of a City, 312-1308 (Princeton 2000), Ch. 2: “The Christianization of Rome and the Romanization of Christianity,” 33-58.

N. McLynn, “Crying Wolf: The Pope and the Lupercalia.” The Journal of Roman Studies 98 (2008), 161-175.


Th 2/27:


Mitchell 155-190

D. J. Mattingly and G. Aldrete, “The Feeding of Imperial Rome: The Mechanics of the Food Supply System,” in H. Dodge and J. Coulston, eds., Ancient Rome. The Archaeology of the Eternal City (Oxford 2000), 142-165.

H. Dodge, “╩╗Greater than the Pyramids’: The Water Supply of Ancient Rome,” in H. Dodge and J. Coulston, eds., Ancient Rome. The Archaeology of the Eternal City (Oxford 2000), 166-209.

R. Coates-Stephens, “The Walls and Aqueducts of Rome in the Early Middle Ages, A.D. 500-1000.” The Journal of Roman Studies 88 (1998), 166-178.


Week 7 (March 3-6): The Eastern Roman Empire


T 3/4:


Mitchell 329-370

J. Bardill, “The Palace of Lausus and Nearby Monuments in Constantinople: A Topographical Study.” American Journal of Archaeology 101.1 (1997), 67-95.

S. Guberti Bassett, “The Antiquities in the Hippodrome of Constantinople.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 45 (1991), 87-96.

G. Kelly, “The New Rome and the Old: Ammianus Marcellinus' Silences on Constantinople.” The Classical Quarterly New Series 53.2 (2003), 588-607.


Th 3/6: Mid-term examination


Week 8 (March 17-20): Cities and Culture


T 3/18: Daily life


Mitchell 225-255

R. R. R. Smith, “Late Antique Portraits in a Public Context: Honorific Statuary at Aphrodisias in Caria, A.D. 300-600.” The Journal of Roman Studies 89 (1999), 155-189.

S. T. Loseby, “Marseille: A Late Antique Success Story?” The Journal of Roman Studies 82 (1992), 165-185.


Th 3/20: Art and architecture


Mitchell 225-255

M. Whittow, “Ruling the Late Roman and Early Byzantine City: A Continuous History.” Past & Present 129 (1990), 3-29.

I. Jacobs, “Production to Destruction? Pagan and Mythological Statuary in Asia Minor.” American Journal of Archaeology 114.2 (2010), 267-303.


Week 9 (March 24-27): Provinces, frontiers, and rural life


T 3/25:


Mitchell 301-328

S. E. Sidebotham, H. Barnard and G. Pyke, “Five Enigmatic Late Roman Settlements in the Eastern Desert.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 88 (2002), 187-225.

D. Frye, “Aristocratic Responses to Late Roman Urban Change: The Examples of Ausonius and Sidonius in Gaul.” The Classical World 96.2 (2003), 185-196.

K. Harper, “The Greek Census Inscriptions of Late Antiquity.” The Journal of Roman Studies 98 (2008), 83-119.


Th 3/27:


Mitchell 301-328

H. Verreyke and F. Vermeulen, “Tracing Late Roman Rural Occupation in Adriatic Central Italy.” American Journal of Archaeology, 113.1 (2009), 103-120

N. Terrenato, The Essential Countryside: The Roman World, in S. Alcock and R. Osborne, eds., Classical Archaeology (London, Blackwell, 2007), 139-161.


Week 10 (March 31-April 3): Theoderic the Great


T 4/1:


B. Salway, “The Nature and Genesis of the Peutinger Map.” Imago Mundi 57.2 (2005), 119-135.

E. Albu, “Imperial Geography and the Medieval Peutinger Map.” Imago Mundi 57.2 (2005), 136-148.

J. Elsner, “The Itinerarium Burdigalense: Politics and Salvation in the Geography of Constantine's Empire.” The Journal of Roman Studies 90 (2000), 181-195.


Th 4/3:


T. Daryaee, “The Persian Gulf Trade in Late Antiquity.” Journal of World History 14.1 (2003), 1-16.

M. G. Morony, “Economic Boundaries? Late Antiquity and Early Islam.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 47.2 (2004), 166-194.


Week 11 (April 7-10): Justinian and the Greco-Gothic Wars


T 4/8: The reign of Justinian


Mitchell 402-424

F. Millar, “Rome, Constantinople and the near Eastern Church under Justinian: Two Synods of C.E. 536.” The Journal of Roman Studies 98 (2008), 62-82.

P. S. Barnwell, “Emperors, Jurists and Kings: Law and Custom in the Late Roman and Early Medieval West.” Past & Present 168 (2000), 6-29.


Th 4/10: The Greco-Gothic Wars


Mitchell 402-424


Week 12 (April 14-17): Barbarian invasions and internal divisions in the 6th century


T 4/15: The Byzantine exarchy


Mitchell Ch. 11

R. Mathisen, “Provinciales, Gentiles, and Marriages between Romans and Barbarians in the Late Roman Empire.” The Journal of Roman Studies 99 (2009), 140-155.

W. Goffart, “Rome, Constantinople, and the Barbarians.” The American Historical Review 86.2 (1981), 275-306.


Th 4/17: The Lombards


Mitchell Ch. 11

C. Ando, “The Palladium and the Pentateuch: Towards a Sacred Topography of the Later Roman Empire.” Phoenix 55.3/4 (2001), 369-410.

D. E. Groh, “Jews and Christians in Late Roman Palestine: Towards a New Chronology.” The Biblical Archaeologist 51.2 (1988), 80-96.


Week 13 (April 22-24): The end of Late Antiquity


T 4/22: The late 6th century


Mitchell Ch. 12

J. Hillner, “Domus, Family, and Inheritance: The Senatorial Family House in Late Antique Rome.” The Journal of Roman Studies 93 (2003), 129-145.

A. Retzleff, “Near Eastern Theatres in Late Antiquity.” Phoenix 57.1/2 (2003), 115-138.


Th 4/24: The early 7th century


Mitchell Ch. 12

R. Lizzi, “Ambrose's Contemporaries and the Christianization of Northern Italy.” The Journal of Roman Studies 80 (1990), 156-173.

T. D. Barnes, “Statistics and the Conversion of the Roman Aristocracy.” The Journal of Roman Studies 85 (1995), 135-147.