Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module CLAS43430: Rewriting Empire: Eusebius of Caesarea and the First Christian History

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS43430: Rewriting Empire: Eusebius of Caesarea and the First Christian History

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2018/19 Module Cap None.


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  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • In accordance with the general aims of the MA in Classics, to promote self-motivated and self-directed research in the field of early Christianity’s history and historiography under the Roman Empire, for students who have received appropriate grounding in their undergraduate studies.


  • This module studies the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea, the first narrative Christian history and our gateway to arguably the most influential three hundred years of western history – the rise of early Christianity under the Roman Empire, from its birth under the emperor Tiberius to its eventual “triumph” under Constantine. This module will put that seminal work back in the fourth century context of its author. It will then explore how its representation of early Christian life under Rome differs from the reality (as best revealed by independent evidence) and why. The module therefore not only introduces students to a highly significant but neglected text of classical antiquity - as well as the religious and cultural phenomenon which inherited the Roman Empire - but also provides a contained case study in which one can identify, analyse and try to explain the gaps between social and cultural phenomena and their representations in later, highly influential narrative histories.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Basic knowledge of the political, religious, and cultural developments of the three hundred year period treated by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History.
  • Thorough knowledge of Eusebius’ ten-book Ecclesiastical History, focusing on select key themes (family, asceticism, intellectuals, law, martyrdom, Rome and its Empire).
  • Familiarity with the assorted evidence for early Christian existence that exists independently of the Ecclesiastical History - literary, epigraphic, archaeological, artistic and numismatic – and the benefits and difficulties of using it alongside or against Eusebius’ narrative history.
  • Awareness of relevant classic and cutting-edge scholarship in early Christian studies, Greek and Roman historiography and Eusebian studies.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Skills in how to identify and assess diverse evidence, as well as how to use it alongside a traditionally dominant narrative history.
  • The ability to engage critically with modern scholarship and situate independent thinking in relation to this modern scholarly “landscape”.
  • Ability to make proper use at the appropriate level of reference tools and bibliography.
Key Skills:
  • Close analysis and evaluation of evidence using a range of methods and approaches.
  • The ability to assess, evaluate and compare a range of different scholarly arguments, methodologies and approaches.
  • The ability to work independently on projects, organize time, and make use of appropriate IT and physical resources.
  • The capacity to produce tight, well-evidenced and clearly expressed arguments in both oral and in written form.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be by fortnightly seminars organised around select topics from early Christian history prominent within Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History.
  • The seminars are fortnightly and two hours long rather than (e.g.) weekly one hour sessions to allow and encourage significant preparation and detailed discussion.
  • Students will be encouraged to attend undergraduate lectures in appropriate subjects where available.
  • Formative assessment will be by a short essay submitted at the end of Michaelmas term (2000 words) and a presentation on a topic of each student’s own choosing which ideally will become the basis for their summative essay.
  • Summative assessment will be by a 5000 word essay to be submitted at the end of the year on a topic of each student’s own choosing.
  • These assessments will help to promote a proficiency in producing clear, sophisticated and original interpretations of the relevant source materials, and demonstrate students’ understanding and evaluation of relevant modern scholarship. It will also enable students to work within the parameters of proper academic conventions, and in general contributes to research carried out at the appropriate level. It also enables students to practice the dissemination of their ideas in both oral and written forms.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 Fortnightly 2 hours 16
Preparation and reading 284
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

1 essay (2000 words) to be submitted at the end of Michaelmas term, and 1 presentation to be given during Epiphany term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University