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MA Late Antique & Byzantine Courses

This page is being frequently updated. Please check back for the latest information.


Introduction to Byzantium

Dr Dionysios Stathakopoulos (King's)

Description: The purpose of this seminar is to introduce students to the methods and techniques as well as some of the theoretical issues involved in Byzantine Studies. Attendance is compulsory for all MA LABS students, although there is no assessed work; the seminar is intended to prepare students for their dissertation.
Place KCL (Tues. 11:00-2:00)

Living in Byzantium: Material culture and built environment (c. AD300-1500)

Dr Tassos Papacostas (King's)

Description: The course provides an introduction to the varied physical remains of all types left behind by Byzantine civilization: architecture, painting, the so-called minor arts, and manufactured objects. The selection of material and issues to be examined range from the urban and rural landscapes, fortifications, palaces, houses, monasteries and churches, to mosaics, frescoes, sculpture, enamels, ivories, reliquaries, lead seals and pottery as well as traded goods. This wide range of topics will be investigated chronologically as well as thematically.
Assessment will be by two 4,000-word essays (25% each) and a 2-hour end of course examination (50%).

Place: Classics D3, 3:00-5:00

Cyprus from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance: A Byzantine island through the ages

Dr Tassos Papacostas (King's)

Description: The module offers the opportunity to acquire a deep knowledge of the evolution, artistic production and monumental heritage of a part of the medieval world that exemplifies developments beyond Constantinople and has generated a lot of recent and incisive scholarship.
The subject matter is approached (i) as a case study of a Byzantine province, looking at its fate in the 'dark age' and medieval period, and (ii) as a prime example of western expansion into the eastern Mediterranean in the wake of the Crusades and later in the context of Venice’s commercial empire. The island’s history illustrates several important themes in the evolution of the Mediterranean and consequently its artistic and monumental heritage encapsulate and exemplify the principal wider trends (the centrality of Byzantine culture, the introduction of Gothic architecture, the genesis of Crusader art, the impact of the Renaissance). Thus one of the overarching themes is the wider context (Byzantine and/or Crusader, Levantine and/or Mediterranean) which will loom large over the investigation of each topic.

Assessment will be by two 4,000-word essays (25% each) and a 2-hour end of course examination (50%).

Place: Classics D3, Tuesdays 2:00-4:00

One God, One Sea: Byzantium and Islam, 600-800 (half unit)

Dr Dionysios Stathakopoulos (King's)

Description: This module covers the transitional period which preceded and followed the Arabic conquest of large parts of the Byzantine empire in the seventh century. Initially, Byzantium struggled to contain the Arabic expansion in the East and the Slavic settlement in its European provinces. Numerous administrative reforms testify to this effort, and perhaps equally, one of the most emblematic theological debates to be associated with the Eastern empire, that of Iconoclasm. In this module we will look closely at how the Byzantines faced these threats to their stability and follow the historical course up to the onset of gradual economic, political and cultural revival in the late eighth century.

Assessment will be one 4,000-word essay.

Place: Classics TBC, Tuesdays 2:00-4:00

Byzantium and the West, AD 800-100 (half unit)

Dr Dionysios Stathakopoulos (Kings)

Description: This module aims to provide a broad comparative study of the economic, political, cultural and religious relations between the Byzantine East and European West in the 9th and10th centuries. From the coronation of Charlemagne to the death of Otto III in 1002 the relationship between the Byzantine empire and its western counterpart, the Carolingian and later Ottonian empires, is a particularly rewarding topic. This module will explore a variety of aspects of this relationship: from the role of silk and slaves, to the knowledge of Greek in the West and Latin in the East and from international marriage alliances to the quasi-ubiquitous theme of reform and revival.
The main focus, however, is on the conflicting claims of two empires, each seeking to legitimate its descent from Rome through traditional ceremonies, costumes and regalia. In this module, we will give particular attention to establishment of rival empires under Charlemagne, the strained relationship between the sees of Rome and Constantinople as well as to the growth of Ottonian power in the West, from Otto I's victory on the Lech (955), his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor (962), and the marriage of his son, Otto II, to the Byzantine princess Theophano (972). By comparing these two medieval societies, a key period of European history will be illuminated.

Assessment will be one 4,000-word essay.

Place: Classics TBC, Tuesdays 2:00-4:00


Elementary Greek Palaeography

Dr Annaclara Cataldi Palau (RHUL)

This is an introductory course in Greek Palaeography addressed to students with either little or no knowledge of Greek, who attend mainly the intercollegiate University of London MA programme in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, and MA Classics, and RHUL MA History: Hellenic Studies, or pursue MPhil/PhD studies in the field of Classical and Byzantine studies. The course concentrates on the study of the Greek minuscule script in the Byzantine period (9th-15th c.). It aims to bring students up to a level where they would be able to transcribe texts from facsimiles of Greek manuscripts, distinguish different styles, comment on the layout and the script, date these manuscripts, and place them in the cultural milieu in which they were produced. The material is adapted each time to the level of the class. In general the course covers simpler minuscule literary hands, nomina sacra, ligatures, abbreviations and symbols.

This one-unit course involves 40-60 hours of teaching and course work (over two terms) mainly transcribing texts from facsimiles of dated manuscripts and commenting on the layout of the text and on the script in class. Weekly transcriptions of, and commentary on, facsimiles of manuscripts are produced by the students, which are returned with corrections and comments. In addition, students produce written assignments (2,500 words each) of progressive difficulty, in the end of the first and second terms, respectively, which are discussed individually.

Assessment will be by one three-hour unseen written examination.

Place: first and second terms, Mondays 4-6pm at The Warburg Institute, Ground Floor, Seminar Room, Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AB

*HS5219 Byzantium and the First Crusade (half unit)

Dr Jonathan Harris (RHUL)

You will trace the response of the rulers of the Byzantine Empire to the First Crusade and the establishment of the Latin East in the years 1095 to 1143. You will focus on the background of Byzantine relations with the West and on events before and after the battle of Mantzikert in 1071. You will also examine a range of Byzantine and Western source materials in translation.

Place: Royal Holloway, Tuesdays 2:00-4:00

*HS5220 Byzantium and the Fourth Crusade (half unit)

Dr Jonathan Harris (RHUL)
You will trace 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.

Place: Tuesdays 2-4 at RHUL, 337 McCrea


Medieval Manuscripts and Documents

Prof. David D'Avray & Dr Marigold Norbye (UCL)

Note: It is extremely unlikely that there will be any room on this course for any non-MA Medieval Studies students.

Description: This course is taught in the History Department, though palaeography courses elsewhere in the university will be available to students and the examination will be designed to give credit to students who have profited from them. The first aim of the course is to teach students how to read manuscript books and documents. It also provides introductory training in the description and dating of manuscript books, in textual criticism, and in the methods and concepts of 'diplomatic'. Students capable of more advanced work in any of these areas will be given the opportunity to do it. They will be encouraged to use the collections of medieval manuscripts and documents in London, which has a concentration unrivalled in the English-speaking world. Students will normally have an opportunity to study directly and in detail a manuscript or manuscripts in the British Library. These manuscripts will be tailored to the personal research interests of individual students. The best pieces of work may be published in the /Electronic British Library Journal/. Technical training will be set in the context of the cultural history of writing in the medieval West.
Any student having no prior knowledge of Latin is required to attend the Latin for Beginners course. Students are required to complete written course work that does not constitute part of the course assessment.
Assessment: One 5,000-word essay (50%) and a 3-hour unseen examination paper (50%).
UCL room: Room G.09 (UCL History Department), and Senate House (David d’Avray, Fridays, 1:00-3:00, and Marigold Norbye, Tuesdays 2:00-4:00)

Identity and Power in the Middle Ages AD 500-1300

Dr Antonio Sennis (UCL)

Description: Who are we? Where do we come from? For which reasons and by which means do we define our common identity? And who are they and where do they come from? Ar we better than them? Have we got an original character that demonstrates we are better? Can we evoke the past in order to certify the present? These questions are at the same time so old and so dramatically up to date. The course will draw on various types of written sources (narratives, charters, poetry, epigraphy) and material evidence (coins, monuments, luxury objects) in order to explain how the shaping of an ethnic identity contributed to the construction of political, social and economic entities in medieval Europe.
The main issues explored during the course are: how the different barbarian peoples were considered and described by Roman writers; how the various barbarian elites recounted their peoples’ origins, the myths they used and how much they owed to those Roman narratives; what ethnic identity had to do with the relationship between rulers and population; how it contributed to the construction of political bodies; if religion was ever used as a tool to claim ethnic identity or to express political opposition; the extent to which we are able to understand the relationship between ethnic identity, kingship, court historiography and progress of territorial power in medieval Europe; how we can use this evidence to see how European societies changed the further they went from Roman times.
Some knowledge of Latin (which may be gained through courses offered as part of the MA in Medieval Studies) would help. A knowledge of at least one of the following modern European languages (Italian, French, Spanish or German) would help students to broaden the range of available reading material.
Assessment: Two essays totalling 8,000 words (MDVLGH03)
UCL room: TBC

The Medieval Papacy

Prof. David d’Avray (UCL)

Description: As the Victorian Protestant historian Macaulay wrote in his purple prose, 'That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains.' It is true that only the papacy, among medieval governments, had a continuous history throughout the whole period, affected every part of Europe, and remains a major factor in world history. This course aims to uncover some of the long-term structures that developed in late antiquity, acquired enormous strength in the central medieval period, underwent tremendous strain in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, and survived to play a global role. The methodology combines longue durée analysis in the Annales tradition with frameworks of interpretation borrowed from Social Anthropology. Students without Latin are admitted to the course on the understanding that they are taking intensive Beginners Latin and will be capable of working with texts in the original by the end of the second term.
Assessment: one 4,000 word essay (50%) and a three hour examination (50%)
UCL room:  History Department, Room 413 (Tues. 4:00-6:00 pm)

Places of Learning in the Medieval Latin West 

Dr Johanne Cornelia Linde (UCL)

Description: The two-term course will cover the period from the sixth and seventh century, when Irish and English monasteries brought forth such influential personalities as St Columbanus and the Venerable Bede, via the court of Charlemagne, the Toledo school of translators, and the rise of the universities, to the Council of Vienne in 1312, which set up chairs of Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic and Greek at select universities. The course discusses modes of teaching and changing curricula; the influence of politics and religious institutions on education; and the effect of economic and social developments. It also examines medieval manuscripts produced for and used in schools and universities.
The Autumn Term course (MDVLGH06A) covers the period from Irish and English monasticism in the sixth and seventh century to the development of scholasticism. Sessions will cover the role of Latin; the so-called renaissance of the Carolingian period; the cultural impact of contacts with Jewish and Muslim scholars on Latin scholars; the translations produced in especially Toledo and Sicily.
The Spring Term course (MDVLGH06B) examines the rise of the universities in Europe and finishes with a discussion of the Council of Vienne (1311-1312). Among other topics, we will discuss the origins and organisation of medieval universities and look in more detail at the law school of Bologna, Paris and the school of medicine at Salerno.
Assessment: two essays of 4,000 words each.
UCL room: tbc.

M380 Greek Palaeography

for details see MA Classics

M381 Latin Palaeography:

for details see MA Classics

7AACM731/CL5115/HISTGA03 Latin Epigraphy:

for details see MA Classics

7AACM730/CL5703/HISTGA02 Greek Epigraphy:

for details see MA Classics

CLASGG03 Greek Papyrology:

for details see MA Classics