Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
The World of Late Antiquity: barbarians, bishops and the transformation of Rome, A.D. 284-641
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 18 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 3 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay 1 - 1 x 2,500 word essay  50%
Semester Assessment Essay 2 - 1 x 2,500 word essay  50%
Supplementary Assessment (Resit) Essay 1 - 1 x 2,500 word essay  50%
Supplementary Assessment (Resit) Essay 2 - 1 x 2,500 word essay  50%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Demonstrate a strong understanding of relevant themes and approaches in the history and historiography of Late Antiquity.

2. Demonstrate an understanding of internal/domestic developments within the Roman empire and their interaction with wider political changes.

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

4. Show the ability to work independently.

Brochure Text

Traditionally, ancient history ended and early medieval history began with the fall of the West Roman empire in A.D. 476. Divided between Classics and History departments, the trends and changes crossing the 476 divide were ignored by modern scholars, as were continuities in the eastern Mediterranean and Near East. However, since Peter Brown’s seminal The World of Late Antiquity, Late Antiquity has been considered a period worthy of study in its own right, and publications on its history, art history and archaeology have proliferated. This was not just an era of decline and fall, but of religious, intellectual, literary and artistic syncretism, as pagan religious beliefs, rituals and practices mingled with those of Christianity, the new religion of Rome, and of other religions such as Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Cultural interaction and transition also characterised Roman relations with Germanic, Hun, Bedouin and Persian groups, from the Atlantic coast to the Mesopotamian desert. This module will introduce students to this crucial period of European and Near Eastern history, from the division of the Roman empire during the rule of four emperors in the late 3rd c. to the rise of Islam and Byzantium in the 7th c.

Brief description

Following the political, military and religious crises of the 3rd c., the Roman empire was teetering on the brink of extinction. It survived through political division, administrative reform, the adoption of Christianity, and the integration of non-Roman groups from beyond its frontiers. These developments resulted in an incredible period of religious and cultural change and integration. This module will chart the transition from Rome to the Middle Ages in western and eastern Europe, North Africa and the Near East across the period now known as Late Antiquity. While focusing principally on the West and East Roman empires, students will also examine developments within western European and North African Germanic successor kingdoms, the East Roman empire, and the Sasanian Persian empire in the Near East. They will draw upon contemporary textual sources, visual and material evidence to explore key issues such as the rise of Roman Christendom, the great barbarian migrations, the fall of the West Roman empire and the survival and prosperity of the East Roman empire.


To introduce a late antique 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, dissertations and MA courses.

To provide students with a good understanding of the history of Late Antiquity from the late 4th to mid 7th c.

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


1. The origins of Late Antiquity in modern historiography.
2. Tetrarchic emperors and Constantine the Great, A.D. 284-337.
3. The empire divides: the successors of Constantine and the last pagan emperor, A.D. 337-378.
4. Theodosius the Great and imperial civil wars, A.D. 379-95.
5. Barbarian invasions and the fall of the West Roman empire, A.D. 376-476.
6. Attila the Hun and the survival of the East, A.D. 408-518.
7. The Age of Justinian, A.D. 518-602.
8. Avaro-Slav invasions, the Lombard migration and Persian wars, A.D. 565-602.
9. Heraclius’ Holy War and the Rise of Islam, A.D. 610-41.
10. Emperor, court and Late Roman political ideology.
11. Prefects, governors and imperial centralisation.
12. The decline of the Classical city.
13. War and warfare in Late Antiquity.
14. The rise of Roman Christendom.
15. Monasticism, holy men and religious syncretism.
16. Sasanian Persia: the other superpower of Late Antiquity.
17. From raiders to kings: barbarian migrations and early medieval state formation.
18. Conclusion.

1. Late Roman political ideology: Political treatises, legislative decrees and imperial panegyrics.
2. The Late Roman economy: textual evidence, settlement patterns and artefacts.
3. The Church, holy men and philosophers: hagiographies, letters and orations.
4. Social life and cultural activities: housing, statues and burial sites.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number n/a
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 late antique world.
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 6