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Late Roman and Byzantine City MA


The spread of Classical urban form throughout the Roman empire has been considered one of the great achievements of Roman imperialism and equated with cultural change throughout the provinces. Conversely, the subsequent changes in those cities in the late Roman and Byzantine periods have been seen as signifying the decline of the ancient world. This course examines those processes of change. Starting with the development Classical urban form of the second century AD, it examines the implications of the spread of Classical urbanism throughout the empire. It then looks at the cultural changes of the late third and fourth centuries, notably the Christianisation of the Roman empire, and the implications of those changes for the city. We will then examine the ‘decline’ of the ancient city and theories surrounding the ‘rise’  of medieval city. In investigating the history of the city, students will be expected to take account of modern theories of urbanism both of the more traditional ‘economic-theory’ type and the more modern discussions of the interrelationship of spatial and social structures. Though not an explicitly interdisciplinary course, we will draw on ideas current in modern geographical theory. In addition, modern theories of acculturation will be important for understanding the possible implications of changes in urban form in the late Roman and Byzantine periods. This course crosses traditional boundaries in ancient history and will look at architectural history, and archaeology, textual and documentary material and has a broad chronological and topographical spread, moving from the Rome of the second century emperors to the cities of early Medieval Europe and from Britain to Syria. Coherence will, however, be maintained through the study of the single (if complex and varied) type of historical institution, the city.


1. Theories of the ancient city

2. Representing Rome: The imperial city-scape of the second and third centuries

3. The Roman City in Egypt: Rituals and Power

4. The Roman City in Egypt: Economy

5. Cities in Crisis: The Failure of Roman Britain

6. Case Studies: Cities from the Third and Fourth Centuries

7. Cities in Crisis: Gaul and Spain and the Defence of Civilization

8. Rome: Constantine to Jerome

9. Converting Alexandria

10.  Ambrose and the Christian City in Italy

11. City and Administration in the East: Antioch

12. City and Administration in the East: Aphrodisias

13.  Constantinople: Violence and the Crowd at the New Rome

14. Living with the Barbarians: Kings and Cities in the West

15. Case Studies: Cities in the Fifth and Sixth century

16. The Old Rome: Papal and Gothic Rome

17. The End of Roman North Africa

18. The End of the Roman East?

19. Pirenne

20. The Rebirth of Urbanism in the West

Assessment: 3 essays @ c. 3,000 -4,000 words


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