Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Byzantine Empire: from Heraclius to Basil the Bulgar Slayer, A.D. 641-1025
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 5 x 1 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  30%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   1 x 2 hour exam  70%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  30%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   1 x 2 hour exam  70%

Learning Outcomes

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

Demonstrate a strong understanding of relevant themes and approaches in the history and historiography of the early medieval Byzantine empire.

Demonstrate an understanding of both the internal features and external relations of the Byzantine empire and how these interacted.

Show the ability to use and reflect critically on a range of relevant primary sources and secondary works in written work and seminar contributions.

Show the ability to work independently.

Brochure Text

The Byzantine world of scheming emperors, empresses and eunuchs, mad monks, ferocious generals and Greek fire is one of fascinating paradoxes. Heir to Classical Greek and ancient Roman civilisations, Christian in religion but eastern in outlook, its mysterious nature may explain why it tends to be ignored in early medieval history courses. And yet it played a significant role in shaping the post-Roman medieval world, serving as a crucial bulwark against the expansion of Islam into Europe, influencing forms of kingship and political ideology in the West and spreading Christianity and the Cyrillic alphabet throughout Slavic speaking eastern Europe. Monasteries, churches, mosaics and paintings form part of the rich cultural legacy it has bequeathed to Slavic and Greek Orthodox Christian countries today. This module will introduce students to the history of the Early to Middle Byzantine empire, examining textual and material evidence for its wars and political relations with the northern, Islamic, and western Christian worlds, bureaucratic and military infrastructure, political ideology, economy and Orthodox Christian religious culture.


1. The decline and fall of the East Roman empire and a modern historiography of Byzantium.
2. Islam rises and Byzantium survives, A.D. 641-718.
3. The Isaurian dynasty, iconoclasm and the empress Irene, A.D. 717-802.
4. Khan Krum, the second iconoclastic age and Michael III ‘the Drunkard’, A.D. 802-67.
5. The Rise of the Macedonian emperors, A.D. 867-913.
6. Emperor Constantine VII ‘the Purple-born’ and the soldier-emperors A.D. 913-76.
7. Byzantine renovatio: the conquests of Basil ‘the Bulgar Slayer’, A.D. 976-1025.
8. Emperors, empresses and imperial ideology.
9. Administering the empire.
10. The Byzantine army: fortifications, themes and Greek fire.
11. Settlement patterns and the economy.
12. Christianity (i) Church and State.
13. Christianity (ii) Byzantine monasticism.
14. Social life and cultural legacies.
15. The Byzantine commonwealth.
16. Byzantium and Islam.
17. Byzantium and the West.
18. Conclusion.

1. Christian chronicles and iconoclasm.
2. The Macedonian dynasty through the eyes of Leo the Deacon and Michael Psellus.
3. The works of Constantine VII and Byzantine political ideology.
4. Orthodox Christianity: texts, art and archaeology.
5. Society and economy: texts, inscriptions, seals and coins.

Brief description

By 641, the East Roman empire had been crippled by the devastating final great war of antiquity with the Sasanian Persian empire and its eastern provinces were being swallowed up by the armies of Islam. The growing might of the Arabian armies resulted in their annihilation of the Sasanian Persian empire and it seemed inevitable that the remnant of the East Roman empire would be next. But over the following centuries, this Christian, Greek-speaking state, centred on Asia Minor and the southern Balkans, survived and evolved into what is now known as the Byzantine empire. This module will introduce students to the early medieval history and the textual, material and artistic evidence on which modern Byzantinists rely. Students will be encouraged to question how the Byzantine state survived in spite of its territorial and economic inferiority to the Umayyad and Abbasid Islamic caliphates, how its relationship with western European groups such as the Carolingian Franks developed and how it exerted cultural and political influence throughout eastern continental Europe.


To introduce a Byzantine subject area within the Medieval and Early Modern degree scheme.

To introduce students to topics which they may want to explore in more detail in future modules.

To provide students with a good understanding of Byzantine history from the 7th to 11th c.

To make students aware of the political and cultural relationship between the Byzantine empire and the rest of medieval Europe.

To develop students’ familiarity with the relevant primary evidence and historiographical debates.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number NA
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 Byzantine Empire and beyond its frontiers.
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.
Team work Through seminar activities


This module is at CQFW Level 4