CLST 11: The Later Roman Empire, from Severus to Theodosius: From Divine Emperors to God as Emperor.

Profs. Roger B. Ulrich and Roberta Stewart, Dept. of Classics, 318 Reed Hall tel. 6-3491
Office Hours: listed on the BlackBoard website

This interdisciplinary course examines the history and archaeology of the late Roman Empire from the reigns of Septimius Severus (193-211) through Theodosius (379-395). We begin by reviewing features of the Roman Empire at its height: a world of cities, efficient government characterized by imperial administration and competent leadership, and an intellectual and religious life participated in by a pan-Mediterranean, Roman elite. We then consider the internal and external challenges faced by the imperial state (military pressures at the frontiers, the growing Christian sect and its effect on traditional institutions, financial crises) and efforts to restore and maintain stability. Analysis will include consideration of important provincial centers in North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean (e.g., Lepcis Magna, Baalbek), especially those patronized directly by the reigning emperor, with an aim to understanding the gradual decentralization of Roman government. The juxtapositon of historical and archaeological sources allows students to develop an appreciation of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, as we consider the changed intellectual and experiential frameworks of classical and Christian world-views in the later Roman Empire. 

Course Goals:

  1. Students will develop a chronological framework of Roman history from 193- 395 CE , the major developments and historical actors of the period.
  2. Reading assignments in primary sources will familiarize students with available source material and their use.
  3. Readings in secondary literature illustrate the formulation of historical and archaeological argument and give practice in critical reading.

Required Texts

A. Cameron, The Later Roman Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
            1993). ISBN: 0-674-51194-8.
Ammianus Marcellinus, The Later Roman Empire: A.D. 354-378, tr. W. Hamilton.
            (Penguin Books, 1986). ISBN-13: 978-0140444063.



Week One: Setting the Stage. The achievement of the first two centuries of the Roman Empire.

M: Introduction.

W: Introduction to the Roman principate: The Antonines as the achievement of the Roman imperial system characterized by cities; prosperous elites; leadership of local elites; frontiers; efficient government.
Reserve Readings: M. Grant, “Antoninus Pius” in The Antonines (London 1994) 9-23; Aelius Aristides, “To Rome.”

F: Introduction to the Imperial cult, with focus on the Apotheosis of Antoninus Pius and Faustina.

Chalupa, “How Did Roman Emperors Become Gods?” Anodos. Studies of the Ancient World 6-7/2006-2007, 201-207; G. Woolf, “Divinity and Power in ancient Rome”; Recommended Reading: A. Gradel, Emperor Worship and Roman Religion (Oxford 2002) ch. 12.

Week Two: The Severans

M: Assassination and Civil War: Commodus, Pertinax, Julianus, Niger, Severus.
Reserve: A. Ward, A History of the Roman People, 365-379.
Textbook: Cameron, ch. 1.

W: Imaging War: Views of Conflict from Marcus Aurelius to Septimius Severus.
Reserve: M. Beckmann, The Column of Marcus Aurelius: The Genesis and Meaning of a Roman Imperial Monument. UNC Press. 2011. pp. 187-206.

Th X-Hour: Trip to the Hood Museum; examination of Late Roman coinage

F: Discussion: Leadership in the late second/early third century, ideology and practice.
Cassius Dio, Bks. 73-75

Week Three: Severan Society.
M: Christian martyrs:
Reserve: “Martyrdom of Perpetua”

W: Self-representation in Severan Society: Searching for Identity through official portraiture.
Reserve: Kleiner, Roman Sculpture (New Haven), pp. 357-384.

Discussion: The sensational(ist) Elagabalus (218-222 CE), or how to read imperial biography as a historical source.
Reserve: SHA, Elagabalus. (Part I and Part II)

Week Four: The Provinces and Rome.
Local Politics far from Mother Roma: the fora of Lepcis Magna, Sabratha, Sufetula and Timgad.
Reserve: A. Wilson, “Severan North Africa” in Swain, et al., Severan Culture 2007. Cambridge: pp. 294-313.

W: The Cult of the Sun-God: Syria and Rome.
Reserve: F. Ragette, Baalbek (Park Ridge 1980) 18-39.
F: Imperial Coinage: Form and Function.
C. Rowan, “The Public Image of the Severan Women,” Papers British School at Rome 79 (2011) 241-273.

Week Five: Third Century Crisis?
M: Rebellion, Reconquest, and Aurelian (270-275): Zenobia
Reserve: A. Ward, 380-89; texbook: Cameron, ch. 2; SHA, Aurelian (Excerpts); Esp. C. 7; Remember to continue through “part 2” and “part 3”.

W: The Fortifications of Rome and Germany (Trier). Looking to the medieval idiom.

Reserve: H. W. Dey, The Aurelian Wall and the Refashioning of Imperial Rome, AD 271-855.  Cambridge 2011. 1-4; 17-32.

F: Decline or Redirection?  Private Patrons and Funerary Commissions: the Golden Age of the Roman Sarcophagus.

Reserve: J. Elsner, “Art and Death.” In Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph. Oxford 1998. 145-165.

Week Six: Diocletian
M: The Tetrarchy
Textbook: Cameron, ch. 3.
Reserve: Panegyrici Latini, no. 10 in C.E.V. Nixon and B. Rogers, In Praise of Later Roman Emperors (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994) 53-75.  The first panegyric (after Pliny, celebrating the birthday of Rome. Recommended reading: The second panegyric, celebrating Maximian’s b-day). Available online.

W: Tetrarchs in the Eastern Empire Tetrarchic period art and architecture in the West
Reserve: E. Mayer, “Architecture of Tetrarchy” Blackwell Companion to Roman Architecture (2013).

F: The Price Edict and the stabilization of monetary system.
Diocletian’s Price Edict.
Reserve: K. Harl, Coinage in the Roman Economy 300 B.C. to A.D. 700 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press) 125-157.

Week Seven: Constantine
M: Constantine’s conversion?
Texbook: Cameron, ch. 4.
ILS 705 (class handout)
Eusebius, Life of Constantine

W: Constantine, New Imagery, and the Last Triumphal Arch
Reserve: Holloway, “The Arches,” Constantine and Rome (New Haven 2004) 19-56; and (Reserve): excerpts from H.P. L’Orange’s classic: Art Forms and Civic Life.

F: The “Imperialization” of Christianity: First Great Churches of Rome.
Reserve: Krautheimer, “Rome and Constantine” and  “The Christianization of Rome” in Rome: Profile of a City 312-1308 (Princeton 1980) pp. 3-58.

Week Eight: Fourth Century Empire
M: Military emperors and porous frontiers: Julian (361-363) and Valens (364-378).
Textbook: Ammianus Marcellinus, 23 and 31.
Textbook: Cameron, ch. 9.
Reserve: A.D. Lee, “Roman Warfare with Sasanian Persia,” in B. Campbell and L.
Tritle, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Warfare in the Classical World (Oxford 2013) 708-725.

Reserve: Wiedemann, T.E.J., "Between men and beasts: Barbarians in Ammianus Marcellinus" in I.S. Moxon, J.D. Smart and A.J. Woodman (eds.), Past Perspectives. Studies in Greek and Roman historical writing,Cambridge 1986, 189-201.

W: Libanius and Municipal Life at Roman Antioch.
Textbook: Cameron, ch. 8.
Reserve: Libanius, Oration 16 (“To the Antiochenes: On the Emperor’s Anger”).
F: The topography of Constantinople
Textbook: Cameron, ch. 11.
Reserve: Krautheimer, Three Christian Capitals, Chapt. 2, "Constantinople" pp 41-67.

Week Nine: The End of Classical Religion

M: Policy on the ground:
Symmachus and Ambrose, on the altar of Victory
Libanius on the temples

W: Christian government and a changed world view: the Council of Constantinople in 381.
Exposition of the 150 Fathers”; “Letter of the Bishops”; “Canons
Textbook: Cameron ch. 12.

F: Historical Change?
Reserve: P. Brown, The World of Late Antiquity(W.W. Norton and Company, 1989) Part One.


Four Short Papers will be assigned during the term:

  1. The Hood Museum Coin Project
  2. History Essay
  3. Archaeological Essay
  4. Reading Response

Final Exam: Scheduled by the Registrar.

Instructions for the papers are included on the BlackBoard website.

Grading and Assessment:
            Class Participation: 5%
            First Historical Essay: 10%
            Archaeological Essay: 20%
            Reading Response Essay: 20%
            Hood Coin Paper Project: 20%

            Final Exam: 25%