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Late Antique and Byzantine Studies

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Late Antique and Byzantine Studies

MA
  • Option 1 year full time or 2 years part time
  • Year of entry 2021
  • Campus Egham

The course

The MA in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies enables students to specialise in an exciting and multi-faceted field of study that covers the history and culture of the Mediterranean world during the long millennium from the foundation of Constantinople in 324 to the fall of the Byzantine empire in 1453. Taking this MA at Royal Holloway is ideal if you are interested in progressing to doctoral research in Byzantine studies, particularly in reading and editing Byzantine texts from manuscripts. It can also lead to careers in education, journalism, international relations, politics, diplomacy, finance, and museum, libraries and cultural sectors.

You will be taught by experts from the College’s Hellenic Institute, a research centre for the diachronic and interdisciplinary study of Hellenism. The Hellenic Institute brings together areas of teaching and research in which Royal Holloway has long excelled: the study of the language, literature and history of Ancient Greece and Byzantine Studies. The Institute promotes the study of Greek language, literature and history, from the archaic and classical age, through the Hellenistic and Roman times, Byzantium and the Post-Byzantine period, to the establishment of the Modern Greek State and the modern world. 

There is an extraordinarily wide choice of courses available, drawing on the resources of the whole of the University of London including a range of modules in research skills (ancient languages, palaeography, epigraphy, papyrology) and those that will develop your critical and conceptual understanding of the field through a variety of disciplines (history, literature, philosophy, material culture).

For studentships, bursaries and prizes relating to this course, please visit the Hellenic Institute page.

Core Modules

You will take one from the following:

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the basic grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of Attic Greek. You will become proficient in reading unseen simple passages of Greek without assistance and gain confidence in handling Ancient Greek texts in their original form.

  • In this module you will further develop your understanding of the Ancient Greek language to the point where you are able to read substantial texts. You will carry out grammatical exercises, including some translation from English into Greek, as well as preparing to translate passages from Greek to English. As your confidence increases, you will increasingly focus on the translation and interpretation of texts.

  • The module is in two parts. The first term is exploratory: you will read selected texts from the whole medieval period - from late antiquity to the high Middle Ages - in a variety of genres (theology, poetry, history, law, etc.) In the second term you will learn how to edit a medieval Latin text.

  • This module attracts students from many disciplines, including Classics, Ancient History, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Theology and English. You do not need to have any previous experience of learning Latin, although it may be useful to have some knowledge of a modern language. In addition, a basic knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology will be useful in your preparation for the tests and exam.

  • This module continues the study of the Latin language for those students who have completed Beginner’s Latin or an equivalent course (e.g., GCSE Latin). The course will cover grammatical constructions and aims to prepare you to confidently translate and understand literary Latin texts in both prose and verse. You will practise Latin grammar through translation exercises both from Latin into English and from English into Latin, and will undertake a close reading of selected portions of an unadapted literary text, the second book of Virgil’s Aeneid.

You will take one from the following:

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how to interpret Latin inscriptions of all types, ranging from electronic resources to traditional printed corpora. You will look at the production of epigraphic material from the point of view of those commissioning it, the individual craftsman, and the development and the decline of ‘epigraphic habit’. You will analyse texts in the broader context of the artefacts, monuments or buildings to which they were attached, and learn how to measure and record inscriptions. You will also examine how to read and interpret epigraphic texts and prepare them for publication. You will consider a wide variety of inscriptions, including official, public, private and graffiti, from Rome, Italy and the provinces, and make use of epigraphic material held in various collections in central London.

  • In this module you will be introduced to the study of Greek papyri, documentary as well as literary. The texts are studied from facsimiles and are chosen to illustrate the development of Greek bookhands and cursive scripts. You will also learn to examine formal aspects of the transmission of Greek literature on papyrus, and familiarise yourself with the range of documentary types available as sources for the history of Graeco-Roman Egypt.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how to transcribe and study texts from facsimiles (reproductions) of Greek manuscripts dated or datable between the 9th and 12th centuries. Throughout the year you will be introduced to a variety of texts, ranging from biblical, theological and hagiographical to classical, literary and scientific. You will learn how to decipher abbreviations, ligatures and cryptogrammes, how to identify different styles and scribal hands, how to trace and date Greek manuscripts, placing them in the Byzantine cultural milieu in which, and for which, they were produced.

    Coursework focusses on transcribing texts and producing commentaries on the layout and the script. During the second term you will be invited to our annual visit Lambeth Palace Library to examine original Greek manuscripts and to attend the University of London Postgraduate Working Seminar on Editing Byzantine Texts, where you will learn through practice to edit, translate and annotate a Greek text from manuscripts.

  • The aim of this module is to train you to read, date and describe Latin manuscripts from AD 500 - 1500 and to understand manuscript culture and the circumstances in which texts were transmitted from the Middle Ages to modern times. It consists of a survey of the history of Latin handwriting from antiquity to the Renaissance. You will also be taught how to describe a manuscript book and will be introduced to codicology.

  • This module provides an introduction to the varied physical remains left behind by Late Antiquity, primarily in the eastern Mediterranean (4th to 7th century). The selection of material and issues examined range from the urban and rural landscapes, fortifications, palaces, houses, monasteries and churches, to monumental decoration and small scale objects. This wide range of topics will be investigated thematically from a primarily functional and practical point of view, in order to trace and highlight the significant changes that occurred in this period, signalling different stages in the transformation of the Roman heritage. Each subject will be approached on the basis of case studies that exemplify the nature and problems of the evidence.

  • The module aims to provide students with a thorough grounding in the sources and scholarship relating to the study of the government, religion, and society of the Roman empire during late antiquity, a period which saw a series of radical transformations in the shape and identity of the Roman state: the establishment of a Greek-speaking Christian empire centred on Constantinople, theological dispute and schism, barbarian invasion and settlement, initiatives of reconquest in Africa, Italy, and Spain, triumph over Persia, and defeat by emerging Islam.

You will also take:

  • You will carry out an extended piece of research. You will be appointed a member of academic staff who will act as your supervisor, providing you with support and guidance. You will produce a written report of between 10,500 and 12,000 words in length.

Optional Modules

There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

  • This module provides an introduction to the varied physical remains left behind by Late Antiquity, primarily in the eastern Mediterranean (4th to 7th century). The selection of material and issues examined range from the urban and rural landscapes, fortifications, palaces, houses, monasteries and churches, to monumental decoration and small scale objects. This wide range of topics will be investigated thematically from a primarily functional and practical point of view, in order to trace and highlight the significant changes that occurred in this period, signalling different stages in the transformation of the Roman heritage. Each subject will be approached on the basis of case studies that exemplify the nature and problems of the evidence.

  • The module aims to provide students with a thorough grounding in the sources and scholarship relating to the study of the government, religion, and society of the Roman empire during late antiquity, a period which saw a series of radical transformations in the shape and identity of the Roman state: the establishment of a Greek-speaking Christian empire centred on Constantinople, theological dispute and schism, barbarian invasion and settlement, initiatives of reconquest in Africa, Italy, and Spain, triumph over Persia, and defeat by emerging Islam.

  • In this half-unit module you will develop an understanding of the response of the rulers of the Byzantine Empire to the First Crusade and to the establishment of the Latin East. You will look at the background of the empire as it was in the middle of the eleventh century, its relations with the Latin West and the accession and reign of Alexios I Komnenos from 1081 to 1118. You will examine the lead-up to and events of the crusade considering a range of Byzantine and Western source materials in translation in order to determine how the Byzantines viewed the crusaders, including what they considered their aims to be, what policies they adopted towards them, and what mistakes were made in dealing with this unprecedented phenomenon.

  • This module traces the sequence of events that culminated in the sack of Constantinople by the army of the Fourth Crusade in April 1204, placing them in the context of relations between the Byzantines and previous crusades. Translations of accounts left by contemporaries and eyewitnesses (both Byzantine and Western) will be studied in detail as we try to discover why an expedition that set out with the intention of recovering Jerusalem from Islam ended up capturing and pillaging the greatest city in the Christian world.

  • This module will introduce you to the history of magic in late antiquity (from the third to fifth centuries CE) through the close and contextualized study of a number of magical texts, with a particular focus on the Greek Magical Papyri, and some comparative consideration of magical texts in Demotic, Coptic, Syriac and Latin. You will read a range of these texts (in translation), from curses and erotic magic to spells of healing and exorcism, and learn to analyse them in their social, political and cultural contexts. You will explore the literary, material and visual qualities of magical texts and objects, as well as considering their ritual functions. This module will develop your ability to analyse and critique the varied contemporary interpretations of magical texts and practices, and to formulate and substantiate your own research questions related to late antique magical practices and magical texts.

Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework, written examinations and a dissertation.

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