BA Latin and Italian

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The World of Late Antiquity: Europe and the Med from the Severan Dynasty to the Rise of Islam

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE30022
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit surveys the last centuries of the Roman Empire as a united political entity ranging from Britain to the Euphrates. We will consider the political, social, cultural, intellectual and religious factors contributing to the Empire’s fragmentation, focusing on the period from the reign of Septimius Severus (AD 193-211) to Heraclius (AD 611-641).


This course unit aims to provide an awareness of the main political, social, intellectual and cultural developments of the last centuries of the Roman Empire, along with introduction to a significant selection of the primary sources on which our understanding of these events depends, and a number of key debates among modern scholars.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • show detailed knowledge of the period;
  • examine and synthesise the evidence for late antiquity;
  • conduct sustained individual inquiry into different aspects of the course;
  • construct a cogent and persuasive idea of late antiquity.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will have and be able to show:

  • Advanced knowledge of the main political, social, cultural, and religious developments of the period from AD 193– 641;
  • Profound understanding of the main developments through which the unified Roman Empire fragmented into rival kingdoms;
  •  Ability to assess critically the key theories and scholarly controversies regarding the fall of the Roman Empire;
  • Familiarity with a range of, and ability to assess critically the different types of ancient source material, and understand the value and limitations of different kinds of ancient evidence.

Practical skills

  • Ability in close and critical reading of primary sources and secondary scholarship;
  • Ability to formulate and refine sophisticated interpretative questions;
  • Ability to write a clear and logical interpretative argument.

Transferable skills and personal qualities


By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • construct a sophisticated argument in written and oral form;
  • pose questions about complex issues;
  • assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence;
  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources;
  • conduct bibliographic searches;
  • present results in a professional manner with appropriate reference to sources and modern published scholarship;
  • use e-resources and gain knowledge of research methods and resources;
  • manage time and resources;
  • engage in critical discussion.
  • evaluate sources and arguments for bias

Employability skills

· Ability to interpret sources and arguments accurately; · Ability to evaluate sources and arguments for bias; · Ability to provide a clear, articulate, and critical written assessment of sources considered; · Ability to provide a clear and logical analysis of interpretative problems; · Ability to offer well-evidenced recommendations.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on summative assessment (see above); all summative coursework feedback is designed to contribute formatively towards improvement in subsequent assignments. Students are encouraged to seek formative feedback ahead of the coursework assignment of the unit by discussing work plans and approaches during seminars (where appropriate) and in consultation hours. They are also invited to submit a practice essay for formative assessment.
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment).

Recommended reading

The course books for this unit are:

  • Stephen Mitchell, A History of the Later Roman Empire, AD 284-641 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007)
  • Michael Maas (ed), Readings in Late Antiquity: A Source-Book (London: Routledge, 2000)

 Other, indicative reading:

  • Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity: From Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad (London: Thames & Hudson, 1971)
  • David S. Potter, The Roman Empire at Bay: AD 180-395 ( London: Routledge, 2004)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Peter Pormann Unit coordinator

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