A History of Byzantium: The Eastern Roman Empire and Its Lasting Legacy

Major Discipline(s):
Fall Semester

The course is an introduction to the history of the Byzantine Empire (284/324-1453).

The first unit explores the transformation of the Ancient World and the emergence of the Byzantine Empire as a major political, economic, and cultural power in Europe and the Near East, from Diocletian’s re-foundation of the Roman Empire (284-305) and Constantine’s re-foundation of the city of Byzantium/New Rome (324) until the end of the 12th century. Among the topics covered in this unit are the development of imperial ideology and the institutions of the state; warfare and diplomacy; social and economic life, and literary, artistic, and architectural achievements.

The second unit examines the period between the Latin and the Ottoman Conquests of Constantinople (1203/1204 and 1453) and the shaping of the historical memory of Byzantium from the Late Middle Ages to today, and ends with an introduction to the Medieval history and monuments of the Peloponnese and the school field trip to the region. A major theme of this second unit is Byzantium as perceived in Western arts (literature, theatre, cinema, opera, music, photography, painting and sculpture), in order to better understand the mechanisms of (re)construction of historical memory through the analysis of different interpretations of particular historical events.

The course pays particular attention to Athens and the Peloponnese in its use of examples and case histories covering many aspects of medieval history (the Crusades and the rise of Islam), art and architecture and along with a focus on the religious aspects. The course should be very useful for students majoring in these subjects as well as those in modern history & religious studies.