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Level 5

5AACHI55 The Byzantine Empire, 600-1453

Credit value: 30
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Dionysios Stathakopoulos
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2-hour lecture (weekly)
AvailabilityPlease see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 2 x essay of 2,000 words (30%); 1 x 3-hour exam (60%); 1 x oral presentation (10%)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

This module offers an overview of Byzantine history, covering the period from the end of its late antique heyday under Justinian I until its fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. It will cover political and diplomatic history, but will also explore the social, economic and cultural settings of this little known, but very important state.

Central to this undertaking will be the exploration of Byzantium’s position within European and Middle Eastern history. Byzantine influence will be traced beyond the imperial borders through analysis of diplomacy, military strategy, imperial ideology and the production of de luxe art objects. In this way the Byzantine empire will be studied as a lynchpin between East and West, and between the Mediterranean and Northern worlds, as well as a historic period linking Antiquity with the Middle Ages and the early modern period.

Provisional teaching plan

Term 1

  • Week 1: Dealing with disaster, 600-775
  • Week 2: Revival, 775-920
  • Week 3: Expansion and radiance, 920-1081
  • Week 4: On earth as it is in heaven: the emperor and his court
  • Week 5: Church and State: Iconoclasm and the struggle over supreme authority
  • Week 6: Army and warfare
  • Week 7: Being the dominant neighbour: diplomacy, hegemony and mission
  • Week 8: Rich and poor in the countryside
  • Week 9: A third sophistic? Education and literature
  • Week 10: Byzantine Art around the first millennium – with a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum

Term 2

  • Week 1: A regional superpower,1081-1204
  • Week 2: The legacy of fragmentation,1204-1341
  • Week 3: Heading for the fall,1341-1453
  • Week 4: The outsiders’ gaze
  • Week 5: Church and State: heresy and piety
  • Week 6: Friends and foes: Crusaders, Merchants, Ottomans
  • Week 7: The importance of faith: the struggle over Church Union and Orthodoxy as identity
  • Week 8: Rich and poor in the cities
  • Week 9: A renaissance giving sparks to the Renaissance: the Byzantine contribution to the rediscovery of Antiquity
  • Week 10: Late Byzantine Art – with a visit to the British Museum

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • Dionysios Stathakopoulos, A Short History of the Byzantium Empire (London, 2014).
For additional bibliography please visit: shortbyzantinehistory.com
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