Skip to main content

Unit information: Late Antiquity in 2017/18

Unit name Late Antiquity
Unit code CLAS12381
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Sandwell
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The aim of this unit is to examine the complex and vibrant society which characterised the third to fourth centuries A.D.: the period commonly known as Late Antiquity. There are a number of ways in which the period may be described; tradition, prompted by Edward Gibbon, has insisted that these centuries saw the fall of Rome from glorious Empire into barbarism, but more recent historians have disputed this, pointing to a high degree of social, economic and political continuity between Roman Empire and the Byzantine world/Germanic successor kingdoms. This unit will explore questions of continuity, both to throw light on this debate and to illustrate the nature of Late Antique society. Emphasis will be placed on themes such as the growth and influence of Christianity and the supposed decline of the cities.

This unit aims to present students:

  • with a general knowledge of the period of Late Antiquity;
  • with a detailed knowledge of some key aspects of Late Antique history;
  • with a developed knowledge of the sources for this period and the issues involved in interpreting these sources.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students should:

  • Have a good knowledge of the varied sources available for studying Late Antiquity, and have further developed their understanding of the best way to make use of these sources.
  • Have developed a good knowledge of the political, social and religious developments in Late Antiquity, and an advanced understanding of how to analyse these.
  • Be able to use the knowledge acquired in lectures and through their own researches to construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on different aspects of the subject.
  • Have had an opportunity to further develop their skills in oral and written communication, in small groups and general discussion, and in an essay and a written exam.

Teaching details

Lectures and Seminars.

Assessment Details

  • 1 essay of c. 2,000 words (50%)
  • 1 90 minute exam consisting of 2 essays from a choice of 8 (50%).

Reading and References

  • G. Clark, Late Antiquity: a very short introduction (2011)
  • P. Garnsey & C. Humfress, The Evolution of the Late Antique World (2001)
  • N. Lenski, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine (2012)
  • S. Mitchell, A History of the Later Roman Empire (2006)