Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module CLAS3671: The Later Roman Empire

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS3671: The Later Roman Empire

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap Location Durham


  • CLAS1301 Monuments and Memory in the Age of Augustus or CLAS2131 Crisis of the Roman Republic or CLAS2661 Emperors & Dynasties or CLAS2781 The Hellenistic World or CLAS2591 Roman Religion or CLAS2751 Early Rome or CLAS2681 History of the Hellenistic Age or CLAS2671 Athens, Sparta and the Greek World or CLAS2631 Roman Buildings and their Decoration.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce the major political, economic, social and cultural characteristics and developments of the later Roman empire.
  • To consider the degree of continuity and change between the later Roman empire and what preceded it.
  • To understand the importance of the rise of Christianity and the extent to which it “transformed” the Roman world.
  • To explore and analyse a range of relevant sources and the benefits and difficulties of using them together.


  • The period from both Diocletian’s administrative “revolution” in the later third century and Constantine’s religious “revolution” in the early fourth, up to Justinian in the mid-6th century, commonly referred to as “late antiquity”, has received increasing attention from scholars over the last half century. No longer simply seen as either a tragic decline from classical antiquity or a mere precursor to the mediaeval structures to come, there has been an increasing realisation that these centuries were a thriving hub of administrative, religious, cultural and literary developments that deserve the same attention and respect as those of the centuries that preceded them. This course will move through the period chronologically, paying particular attention to those emperors, events and places that demonstrate continuity and change from the earlier empire. The sheer extent of material and the size of the period means certain themes will be prioritised, in particular the role of the emperor, the ideology of empire, the changing role of the city of Rome and the evolving relationship between Christianity and paganism, and the extent of its impact on the social, cultural and intellectual life of the Roman world.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A basic knowledge of the major political, religious, cultural and social developments of the period from Diocletian to Justinian
  • An awareness of the extensive evidence - literary, material, artistic and numismatic -available for studying the later Roman Empire, and the benefits of and problems with using it in combination.
  • An understanding of key topics of study for this period, including for example the role of the emperor, the ideology of empire, the changing role of the city of Rome and the evolving relationship between Christianity and paganism and the extent of its impact on the social, cultural and intellectual life of the Roman world.
  • A critical knowledge of approaches and debates in both classic and current scholarship on this period.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to analyse and draw conclusions from a broad range of primary sources from the ancient world, including Greek and Latin writings (in translation) - both Christian and non-Christian - inscriptions, papyri, coins and archaeological and artistic material.
  • The capacity to evaluate the inherent values and problems with particular types of ancient sources and to use them judiciously to construct a careful and nuanced picture of the later Roman empire.
  • The ability to engage critically with modern literature on the later Roman empire and situate independent thinking in relation to this scholarly “landscape”.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to assess and compare a range of different arguments and approaches.
  • The ability to use diverse types of evidence to build up a cumulative picture.
  • 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

  • Lectures introduce students to the chronology of the later Roman empire as well as a its major events, sources, topics and debates.
  • Seminars will treat topics designed to complement the lecture series, allowing students to explore collectively their own ideas about the courses’ major themes. Each seminar will treat a contained case study through prepared portfolios of ancient evidence and select pieces of secondary scholarship (both classic pieces and cutting-edge scholarship).
  • Tutorials provide the opportunity to explore in more depth topics of students’ choice, and to receive detailed feedback on written work.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Tutorials 2 1 per term in Michaelmas and Epiphany terms 1 hour 2
Seminars 4 2 per term in Michaelmas and Epiphany terms 1 hour 4
Preparation and reading 174
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 2500 words 50%
Essay 2 2500 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

1 commentary exercise (c. 500 words); 1 essay (c. 2000 words).

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