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HIST 0095 Romans and Barbarians, 370-750

The crumbling of a mighty empire which had proclaimed itself universal, and supreme even in spiritual matters, has provided a rewarding theme for historians and moralists for centuries; nonetheless, recent years have seen a great increase in scholarly interest in the sub- and post-Roman world. The sparse and intriguing written sources have been supplemented with insights from archaeology, material culture, and a range of other disciplines. As a result students can discover much more about the huge changes (and remarkable continuities) of this extraordinary period than was possible a generation ago; but because of the comparative paucity of the sources they can engage in the scholarly debate for themselves at a depth that is difficult in other eras.

Sample Topics

  • Migration and Invasion; Labels and Frontiers
  • Living in the Ruins? Western Successor States
  • The world of Justinian
  • ‘Sitting crowned upon the grave’: the Western Church
  • Economic change
  • The Inheritance of Rome: Culture and Literacy
  • Saints, monks and missionaries
  • The Challenge of Islam


Introductory Reading

  • Ward-Perkins, B. The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006
  • Heather, P.J.,  Empires and Barbarians. London: Macmillan, 2009
  • Wickham, C., Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe & the Mediterranean 400-800. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005
  • Smith, J.M.H., Europe After Rome: A New Cultural History 500-1000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005
  • Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy. (Many translations, including V.E. Watts’ Harmondsworth: Penguin, revised edn, 2003)
  • Procopius, The Secret History. GA Williamson trans., P. Sarris rev., London: Penguin, 2007
  • Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks. L.G.M. Thorpe trans. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974
  • Einhard, Life of Charlemagne. (Many translations, for example in Two Lives of Charlemagne. L.G.M. Thorpe trans., Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969)
CMRS allowed me to realize my passion and potential
I arrived in Oxford in September 2008 and, exactly one year later, found myself on the bus to Oxford for my second CMRS term. Another year later, I wa...
Megan Roper, Autumn Semesters 2008 & 2009, St Mary's College of Maryland