Institute of Archaeology

The Transformation of the Roman Mediterranean

This module traces the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages through consideration of key issues such as Romanitas, the barbarian kingdoms, the rise of Byzantium, the origins of Islam, art and aesthetics, urbanism, the countryside, the economy, and the impact of Christianity. It will take a comparative Mediterranean approach, seeking to identify the factors that influenced the different trajectories of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East in this period. It is designed to complement other courses in the MA in Mediterranean Archaeology, but it can also stand on its own to provide advanced training on the classical and medieval Mediterranean for both archaeologists and historians.

Topics to be covered include:

1. Late antiquity: origins, definitions and agendas

  1. The Roman Mediterranean: Imperial imaginaries, local experiences
  2. Things fall apart: Barbarians, ethnicity and post-Roman state formation in the West
  3. The empire strikes back: Roman imperialism in the sixth century
  4. Old materials, new aesthetics? Spolia, re-use and recycling
  5. The transformation of the classical city: a comparative perspective
  6. From villa to village: production and consumption in the late antique countryside
  7. Shifting networks: mobility, trade and exchange
  8. Empires of faith: conversion, ritual and community
  9. The Muslim conquests and the new world order 

Aims and Objectives of the course

  • To provide an advanced, inter-disciplinary training in the archaeology and history of the Roman, late antique and early medieval Mediterranean.
  • To introduce students to the most important current research questions and the main interpretative paradigms that have dominated the field.
  • To develop critical faculties both in debate and in written evaluation of current research (problems, method and theory, quality of evidence).
  • To engage students with the different forms of evidence (objects, monuments, texts) and to critically discuss their interpretative potential for the study region.
  • To prepare students to undertake original research on Roman, late antique and early medieval topics. 

On successful completion of this course a student should:

· Have an overview of major developments and interpretative issues in late antique scholarship on the Mediterranean, as well as a general understanding of how late antique scholarship fits into the wider context of scholarship on the classical and medieval Mediterranean.  

· Display a good knowledge and understanding of the main interpretative paradigms in scholarship of the late antique Mediterranean, as well as their strengthes and weaknesses.

· Recognise a broad range of the material culture from the period, and understand its social, cultural or other significance as well as its interpretive potential.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the course students should be able to:

  • critically analyse and present complex arguments and theories about aspects of the subject orally and in writing
  • show a critical awareness of the contribution made by different academic disciplines and types of data to our understanding of late antiquity and the early middle ages
  • compare and analyse data and material across regional and chronological boundaries and apply acquired knowledge to individual sites and bodies of material
  • conduct original research on Roman, late antique or medieval topics.

Teaching Methods

The course is taught through two-hour weekly seminars with occasional presentations or lectures from the teaching staff. Seminars have weekly recommended readings which students will be expected to read in order to fully follow and contribute to the discussion. There will be an optional museum visit to study late antique material in the British Museum.  

Course information

  • Code: ARCLG345
  • Credits: 15
  • Coordinator: Corisande Fenwick
  • Prerequisite: This course does not have a prerequisite.
  • Handbook: open»

For registered students


  • Running in 2017-18

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