Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Age of Justinian: Wars, riots and Christian Orthodoxy in the Roman East, 518-602.
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2-hour seminars 20 hours seminars 2 hour tutorial support including individual essay return 178 hours independent study and essay preparation


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay 1  1 x 2,500 to 3,000 word essay   50%
Semester Assessment Essay 2  1 x 2,500 to 3,000 word essay  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay 1  1 x 2,500 to 3,000 word essay  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay 2  1 x 2,500 to 3,000 word essay  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate a critical understanding of relevant themes and approaches in the history and historiography of the 6th c. East Roman empire and its neighbours.

Show the ability to use primary textual and material and visual evidence and secondary works to develop sophisticated and well-structured arguments.

Be able to think critically about the wider significance of the Age of Justinian in terms of Medieval European history.

Brochure Text

The Age of Justinian was the crossroads between the Ancient Roman and early medieval Byzantine, Slavic and Islamic worlds in the eastern Mediterranean. The survival of a flourishing Eastern Roman empire centred on Constantinople, ruled for nearly 40 years by the emperor Justinian, has, nevertheless, been neglected by comparison with the demise of the Western Roman empire in the 5th c. This module will introduce students to a rich tapestry of textual, material and visual sources, especially contemporary histories, which cast light on the endurance of Roman political power in the 6th c.-East. Students will explore a series of bloody conquests and wars, as well as the fusion of Classical and Christian cultures in political and artistic achievements. They will ask whether these developments beyond and within the empire’s frontiers were ultimately sustainable or whether they provoked the final collapse of the ancient world in the 7th c.


Weekly 2-hour seminars
1. Introduction to the Eastern Roman Empire, 284-641.
2. Procopius’s works: approaches and methodologies.
3. Roman-Persian wars and diplomacy.
4. The re-conquest of the West: Gothic and Vandal wars.
5. Barbarian invasions and imperial responses in the Balkans.
6. Imperial ideology, social reforms and court intrigues.
7. An Orthodox Christian Empire? Theology and church politics.
8. Administrative reform and the decline of the Classical city.
9. Boom and bust. Economy, society and the impact of the plague.
10. Circus factions, rioting and aristocratic discontent.


1. To introduce an eastern/Byzantine subject area within the MA in Medieval Britain and Europe.
2. To introduce students to topics that they may want to pursue further in their MA dissertations or doctoral research.
3. To provide students with a good understanding of Late Roman and Early Medieval history in the 6th c.-eastern Mediterranean.
4. To make students aware of the wider historical and historiographical significance of this period.
5. To develop students’ ability to interpret critically primary textual sources using literary analysis and, where possible, comparative material and visual evidence.

Brief description

This module will explore the international relations and political, cultural and socio-economic history of the Eastern Roman empire in the sixth century. It will seek to explain the causes and outcomes of a range of major wars and political changes: the Roman-Persian struggle for power in the East, the East Roman re-conquest of Italy and Africa, and Avar and Slav invasions of the Balkans. In particular, students will be encouraged to ask how far these conflicts were influenced by Justinian’s imperial political ideology and domestic reforms, social and political reactions to his regime, major economic change and the world’s first bubonic plague. Students will analyse a range of contemporary historical works, especially Procopius’ histories, and how archaeological and visual evidence can cast new light on this textual evidence.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Through the analysis of numismatic evidence and its implications for our understanding of currency circulation and state and private economic activity.
Communication Seminar discussions and essay writing will enable students to develop oral and written skills. Only essay writing will be assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Through essay feedback sessions and discussion of ideas presented during seminars.
Information Technology Through the retrieval of primary and secondary works from online resources and AberLearn Blackboard and through the writing, formatting and printing of essays.
Personal Development and Career planning By developing source analysis and inter-disciplinary, oral and written skills, the course will prepare students for further postgraduate research and potential careers in academia or history-related fields.
Problem solving By using primary and secondary works to reach conclusions regarding the relationships between political, social and economic developments in different parts of the East Roman empire and its frontier regions.
Research skills Through acquiring the ability to identity and combine appropriate primary textual and material and visual evidence to back up arguments in written work.
Subject Specific Skills Inter-disciplinary analysis of written, material and textual evidence. The course will also make students aware of the origins of medieval and modern Christian Orthodox Eastern Europe and the Balkans and the Islamic Middle East.
Team work Through seminar activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 7