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Study information

The World of Late Antiquity

Module titleThe World of Late Antiquity
Module codeCLA3108
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Richard Flower (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The puzzle of what brought the Roman empire to its eventual end is the most hotly debated question in the history of history. In this module, you will be given the opportunity to add your own answer to the many that have been proposed over the centuries, as we explore how the unified, pagan Roman world of the first and second centuries A.D. came to fall apart and be replaced by the many different Christian kingdoms of the early Middle Ages. There is, however much more to the study of late antiquity than the (admittedly fascinating) enigma of the end of empire: more written material survives from this period than from any other within the ancient world, and we will be using it not only to illuminate political history, but also as a window into a variety of literary, cultural, religious and social aspects of the period from c. A.D. 284 to 565. In doing so, you will be invited to explore the development of new power structures and forms of cultural expression that took place during this period, as well as considering the major interpretive questions concerning continuity versus change and competing grand narratives for the end of the ancient world.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The course will provide you with an understanding of the history of the later Roman empire from a variety of different approaches, concentrating on two central historical themes during this period: the rise of Christianity as a significant religious and cultural movement in the ancient world; and the emergence of barbarian groups, in particular the Goths, who played a role in the collapse of the western Roman Empire and its transformation into early medieval kingdoms. The seminars are designed to help you develop a real depth of understanding about this period by reading and discussing both ancient material and modern scholarship, as well as by giving presentations to the group on your own interpretations of late-antique history.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Knowledge and critical understanding of the main sources for the period, including the ability to interpret differing approaches to the writing of history, especially as part of the development of Christianity, and the creation of new systems of cultural values that engaged with, transformed and, on occasions, conflicted with traditional, Greco-Roman society

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 2. You will develop your skills at reading, and reading between the lines of, sophisticated texts. You should be able to analyse the ways in which the representation of historical reality is conditioned by the various standpoints of the writers of texts and of the audiences/readership for which they were intended. You should grasp the impact of a radical change in ideology on social and political behaviour
  • 3. Analysing the ways in which the representation of historical reality is conditioned by the various standpoints of the writers of texts and of the audiences/readership for which they were intended
  • 4. Grasping the impact of radical (re)definitions of ideologies on social and political discourse and behaviour

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Developing analytical reading skills of different (and sometimes overlapping) types of text and identifying and pursuing the implications of their most significant characteristics
  • 6. Producing concise, accurately documented and cogently argued discussions of complex issues in written form
  • 7. Presenting complex ideas lucidly in oral discussion
  • 8. Criticising and evaluating conflicting modern theories relating to the subject matter being studied

Syllabus plan

The module will include some seminars which are defined around key events/periods within its chronological span (e.g. the Tetrarchy, the conversion of Constantine, the reign of Julian, ‘barbarian invasions’, the sack of Rome, the end of the western empire, the Justinianic reconquest). These seminars will be placed in the schedule at appropriate places, in order to give a chronological spine to the course. The other seminars will be thematic, incorporating a range of topics (such as the transition from ‘Principate’ to ‘Dominate’, changes to late Roman government, interactions between paganism and Christianity, transformations of urban landscapes, heresy and schism, economic change/decline, ‘barbarians’ and ethnicity, new literary genres, social shifts, the impact of ‘Christianisation’, competing historiographical grand narratives, the birth of medieval/Byzantine Europe).

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study256Private study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Two presentations2015-20 minutes1-8Mark, written and verbal feedback
Essay303000 words1-8Mark, written and verbal feedback
Examination503 hours1-8Mark, written and verbal feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-8Referral/Deferral period
PresentationsTranscript of the presentation that would have been given with accompanying hand-out and/or visual aid1-8

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Averil Cameron, The Later Roman Empire, 1993.
  • Averil Cameron, The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity, AD 395-700, 2nd edn, 2012.
  • S. F. Johnson, The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity, 2012.
  • S. Mitchell, A History of the Later Roman Empire, AD 284-641, 2nd edn, 2014.
  • P. Rousseau (ed.), A Companion to Late Antiquity, 2009. 
  • H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire, 1964. 
  • G. Halsall, Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568, 2007. 
  • Volumes XII, XIII and XIV of the Cambridge Ancient History, 2005, 1998, 2000.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date