Constantinople and the late Antique City - CLAS6390

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This course will survey the evolution of the Mediterranean city from AD 300 to 650, the urban crisis that followed, and the direction which urban life took thereafter. City life in this period was, until recently, poorly understood, hindered by the prejudices of classical archaeologists, who removed late levels without record, and the selective interests of Christian archaeologists who concentrated on churches. Now new archaeological fieldwork has revealed much greater complexity, from urban collapse in the West to the flourishing cities of the sixth century East, which provided a foundation for much of Early Islamic urbanism.

Although north-west Europe is included, the Mediterranean is the predominantly the focus of this module where urban life was strongest, throughout the period. Lectures will explore both thematic and regional syntheses, with a major distinction drawn, not between a Greek East and a Latin West, but between a Mediterranean core and a northern periphery. An attempt will be made to link changes in the physical appearance of cities to wider events and processes: whether military, political, religious or economic in character. Seminars will explore aspects of the rich source material available, whether drawn from architectural remains, stratigraphic archaeology, epigraphy, or selected written sources of the period.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40
Total Private Study Hours: 260
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

• Essay 1 (1,600 words) – 20%
• Essay 2 (2,400 words) – 30%
• Essay 3 (3,000 words) – 40%
• 2 x Seminar Handout (500 words each) – 10%

Reassessment method:

• 100% Coursework (3,000 words)

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Christie N. and Loseby S.T. (1996) ed. Towns in Transition: Urban Evolution in Late. Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Aldershot: Scholar Press
Lavan L. (2001) ed. Recent Research in Late Antique Urbanism. Portsmouth: Rhode Island
Liebeschuetz J. H. W. G. (2001). The Decline and Fall of the Roman City. Oxford: OUP
Mango C. (1985). Byzantine Architecture. London: Faber
Rich J. (1992) ed. The City in Late Antiquity. London and New York: Routledge
Saradi H. G. (2006). The Byzantine City in the Sixth Century. Literary Images and Historical Reality. Athens: Society of Messenian Archaeological Studies

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Distinguish different forms of urbanism, both between different periods and between different regions and how these concepts overlap or are distinguished at a conceptual level;
2 Distinguish between different types of city within the same settlement network, and understand the relationship of cities to the surrounding countryside, fully appreciating advanced theories to explain such patterns;
3 Demonstrate systematic understanding of the problems of interpreting fragmentary and problematic sources for urban life in this period;
4 Systematically relate changes in settlement morphology, building types and occupation to contemporary societal processes.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate their systematic ability for critical thought, in methodological discussion over the nature and value of evidence, especially in relation to case studies;
2 Use argument and justified imagination in reconstructing of the past from a variety of sources, and to articulate their opinions;
3 Locate and synthesise a variety of published sources:
4 Systematically match different methods of enquiry to different research issues within the field.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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