The End of Antiquity

Module code: AH3702

The sixth century AD was a period of great upheaval and transformation, at the centre of which was the emperor Justinian (527-565 CE). His lengthy rule saw urban riots and palace intrigues, ambitious wars to reclaim lost territories (including Italy itself), the outbreak of plague, heresy and religious division. It also saw innovations and advances in art, architecture, law and literature, as well as elaborate forms of diplomatic ceremony and political theatre. Many aspects of this fascinating period were recorded by Procopius – viewed by many as the last great historian of antiquity – whose works artfully immortalised and at times scandalised Justinian, his wife Theodora, and the machinations of their court in Constantinople.

This module will introduce you to the major events and developments that occurred during Justinian’s reign, as well as the diverse range of sources that help us to understand this period. The course takes a thematic approach, but will provide you with the necessary context to navigate the period and to appreciate the various ways in which it was one of fundamental importance.

Topics covered include:

  • Constantinople in the 6th Century
  • The Works of Procopius
  • The Nika Riots
  • Social, Legal and Administrative Reform
  • Relations with Persia
  • The Reconquest of N. Africa and Italy
  • Byzantine Diplomacy
  • The Justinianic Plague
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