Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module CLAS1791: Empire & Religion in the Age of Constantine

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS1791: Empire & Religion in the Age of Constantine

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce one of the most important and influential periods of Antiquity.
  • To investigate a period of pivotal historical and cultural change from a multidisciplinary perspective through a variety of original sources (including ancient texts in translation, archaeology and material culture, numismatic and epigraphic evidence, and visual arts).
  • To help students acquire skills and attributes that are fundamental for the study of the ancient world, including source criticism and the use of specialist scholarly terminology.
  • To help students understand key methodological issues in the study of ancient history and their potential applications in classical studies more broadly.
  • To give students the necessary subject-specific skills and foundation to pursue advance study of the Roman world at Levels 2, 3 and 4.


  • This module offers an introduction to the history, literature, and art of the Age of Constantine by concentrating on the pivotal historical transformations that occurred under Constantine and the Constantinian Dynasty (see the draft syllabus below).
  • The texts studied (all in translation) include works by Eusebius of Caesarea, Aurelius Victor, the Codex Theodosianus, Libanius, emperor Julian, and Ammianus Marcellinus, in addition to relevant instances of material culture and art (e.g. Constantine’s Colossus, the Arch of Constantine, urban planning in Constantinople, coin iconography, the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus).
  • The module draws inspiration from very popular courses in other Classics department in this country and abroad.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Acquire an understanding of the most important ancient textual, material, and figurative sources relevant to the Age of Constantine.
  • Acquire a broad knowledge of the diverse evidence available for the study of the Late Antique period, and of the benefits of, and problems with, combining textual, material, and figurative sources.
  • Acquire an understanding of a range of viewpoints on problems of interpretation and evaluation, with particular reference to both ancient and modern scholarship on the Age of Constantine, and on its broader historical significance.
  • Acquire a level of intellectual independence necessary to study the late antique period and to formulate clear arguments.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • A developing ability to analyse and draw conclusions from a range of primary sources from the ancient world which is not limited to textual sources.
  • A developing ability to interpret late antique imperial rhetoric and ideology on the basis of the surviving sources.
  • A developing capacity to evaluate the inherent values and problems associated with particular types of ancient sources and to use these sources judiciously to construct a careful and nuanced picture of antiquity.
  • A developing ability to engage critically with modern literature on the Age of Constantine.
Key Skills:
  • A developing ability to assess and compare a range of different arguments and approaches.
  • A developing ability to use diverse material and visual types of evidence to supplement textual evidence.
  • A developing capacity to produce tight, well-evidenced and clearly expressed arguments in scholarly language.

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

  • Lectures will provide an overview of the material and engage closely with relevant primary and secondary sources.
  • Suggested bibliography for each lecture will encourage students to develop their own areas of interest within the course as it progresses.
  • Seminars will guide students in a close reading of both textual and non-textual sources, in addition to the use of Durham collections (the Palace Green manuscript collection, and the Oriental Museum numismatic collection).
  • Assessment will take place through both written examinations and essays, enabling students to develop their own areas of interest within the course through a close engagement with both primary sources and broader questions.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 1 per week in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms 1 hour 20
Seminars 6 3 per term in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 2,500 words 100% Essay
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written Examination 2 hours 100% Exam

Formative Assessment:

one formative essay (1,500 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