Byzantine Empire

HIST 4103/6203 • Fall 2021


The Empress Theodora - Mosaic from San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy, ca. 550 CE

Instructor: Dr. Charles E. Muntz
Time: MWF 10:45-11:35 am
Place: Champions Hall 424
Dr. Muntz's Office: 408 Old Main
Office Hours: Mon 12:30-2:30 and by appointment. I’m happy to meet by Zoom with advance arrangements.
Phone: (479) 575-5891

Of the Byzantine Empire the universal verdict of history is that it constitutes, without a single exception, the most thoroughly base and despicable form that civilisation has yet assumed…There has been no other enduring civilisation so absolutely destitute of all the forms and elements of greatness…Its vices were the vices of men who had ceased to be brave without learning to be virtuous…Slaves, and willing slaves, in both their actions and their thoughts, immersed in sensuality and in the most frivolous pleasures, the people only emerged from their listlessness when some theological subtlety, or some chivalry in the chariot races, stimulated them to frantic riots…The history of the Empire is a monotonous story of the intrigues of priests, eunuchs, and women, of poisonings, of conspiracies, of uniform ingratitude, of perpetual fratricides.
    W. E. H. Lecky, History of European Morals, 1869.

Covid Policies

This is a face-to-face class and regular attendance is important. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic I will be recording all lectures. If you feel sick or are exposed to someone and have to quarantine, DO NOT come to class. Email me right away and get tested for Covid-19. Call Pat Walker Health Center, 479-575-4451, to arrange this. Please see this page for the university’s policies and the reporting forms.

Once I know that you cannot come to class, I will give you access to the lecture recordings for the period you are sick or quarantined. I will also make accomodations for missed discussion days, exams, and paper deadlines, but again you must email me.

In the event that the instructor has to quarantine, class will be held remotely over Zoom (assuming I’m well enough) - I’ll distribute the meeting invites when necessary.

Face masks covering nose and mouth are required in class per university policy. 


Exams: There will be an in-class midterm on October 4 and a final exam on December 15, 10:15-12:15.  These will consist of essay questions and some short identifications. Study guides will be made available prior to the exams. Bring a blue book!

Paper 1: The first paper (1600-1800 words) will compare two ancient sources of the accession of Julian the Apostate, due September 8 by 5pm. 

Paper 2: The second paper (3200-3600 words) will be an analysis of three different accounts of the siege of Antioch during the first Crusade, due December 8 by 5pm.

Formatting guidelines

Grading policies

Class Discussion: Certain class periods are set aside for class discussions. Questions based on the primary sources to get things started can be found here, but feel free to raise other issues or questions on your own.  Grading policies for discussions can be found here.

Grading Breakdown:

Paper 1 - 15%
Paper 2 - 30%
Midterm - 15%
Final - 25%
Participation - 15%

Reading Materials

Required Texts (Available in the bookstore, or online):
Treadgold, Warren. A Concise History of Byzantium.  ISBN 0333718305
Hull, Denison B. Digenis Akritas: Two-Blood Border Lord.  ISBN 082140833X
Sewter, E. R. A. Anna Komnene: The Alexiad.  ISBN 0140455272
Kaldellis, Anthony. Prokopios: The Secret History and Related Texts.  ISBN 1603841806
Mango, Cyril. The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312-1453. ISBN 0802066275

Other readings will be made available via handouts or the course website.

Information on transliterating Greek texts


Academic Integrity: As a core part of its mission, the University of Arkansas provides students with the opportunity to further their educational goals through programs of study and research in an environment that promotes freedom of inquiry and academic responsibility. Accomplishing this mission is only possible when intellectual honesty and individual integrity prevail.

Each University of Arkansas student is required to be familiar with and abide by the University’s ‘Academic Integrity Policy’ which may be found at Students with questions about how these policies apply to a particular course or assignment should immediately contact their instructor.

Equal Access:  University of Arkansas Academic Policy Series 1520.10 requires that students with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations to ensure their equal access to course content. If you have a documented disability and require accommodations, please contact me privately at the beginning of the semester to make arrangements for necessary classroom adjustments. Please note, you must first verify your eligibility for these through the Center for Educational Access (contact 479-575-3104 or visit for more information on registration procedures).

Unauthorized Websites or Internet Resources: There are many websites claiming to offer study aids to students, but in using such websites, students could find themselves in violation of our University’s Academic Integrity and Code of Student Life policies. These websites include (but are not limited to) Quizlet, Bartleby, Course Hero, Chegg, and Clutch Prep. The U of A does not endorse the use of these products in an unethical manner. These websites may encourage students to upload course materials, such as test questions, individual assignments, and examples of graded material. Such materials are the intellectual property of instructors, the university, or publishers and may not be distributed without prior authorization. Furthermore, paying for academic work to be completed on your behalf and submitting it for academic credit is considered ‘contract cheating’ per the Academic Integrity Policy. Students found responsible for this type of violation face a grading penalty of ‘XF’ and a minimum one-semester academic suspension per the University of Arkansas Sanction Rubric. Please let me know if you are uncertain about the use of a website.

Unauthorized Recording by Student: Recording, or transmission of a recording, of all or any portion of a class is prohibited unless the recording is necessary for educational accommodation as expressly authorized and documented through the Center for Educational Access with proper advance notice to the instructor. Unauthorized recordings may violate federal law, state law, and university policies. Student-made recordings are subject to the same restrictions as instructor- made recordings. Failure to comply with this provision will result in a referral to the Office of Student Standards and Conduct for potential charges under the Code of Student Life. In situations where the recordings are used to gain an academic advantage, it may also be considered a violation of the University of Arkansas' academic integrity policy.

Recording of Class Lectures: By attending this class, student understands the course is being recorded and consents to being recorded for official university educational purposes. Be aware that incidental recording may also occur before and after official class times.

Unauthorized Use and Distribution of Class Notes: Third parties may attempt to connect with you to buy your notes and other course information from this class. I will consider distributing course materials to a third party without my authorization a violation of my intellectual property rights and/or copyright law as well as a violation of the University of Arkansas' academic integrity policy. Continued enrollment in this class signifies your intent to abide by the policy. Any violation will be reported to the Office of Academic Initiatives and Integrity.

Please be aware that such class materials that may have already been given to such third parties may contain errors, which could affect your performance or grade. If a third party should contact you regarding such an offer, I would appreciate your bringing this to my attention. We all play a part in creating a course climate of integrity.

Inclement Weather: Class will be held unless the University cancels them.

Miscellaneous:  Please turn off and put away all cell phones and any other non-course related items and finish any food you might be eating before coming into class.  Drinks are acceptable.  Please remain seated during class - if you need to use the lavatory, do so before or after class.

Daily Topics and Reading Assignments

Week 1
August 23 - Introduction

August 25 - The Empire of Diocletian
    Treadgold 1-18
    Start reading the Eusebius's Life of Constantine, Book 1

August 27 - The Coming of Constantine
    Treadgold 18-26
    Continue Life of Constantine, Book 1, and start Book 2.61-3.24

Week 2
August 30 - The Empire of Constantine
    Life of Constantine, 3.54-66, 4.40-75

September 1 - The Apostate
    Treadgold 26-31
    Ammianus Marcellinus Book 22

September 3 - The Triumph of Christianity 
    Treadgold 31-36
    Ambrose - Letter to Theodosius on the Massacre at Thessalonica

Week 3
September 6 - Labor Day

September 8 - Emperors & Barbarians in the Fifth Century / First Paper Due
    Treadgold 36-50

September 10 - The Rise of Justinian
    Treadgold 51-58
    Prokopios, The Secret History - Preface & Part 1, start Part 2
    The Nika Riots (pp.136-145 in Prokopios)

Week 4
September 13 - The Reconquest and the Plague
    Treadgold 58-68
    Prokopios, The Secret History - Finish Part 2, start Part 3
    Related Texts 7-11 in Prokopios (pp. 157-182)

September 15 - Early Byzantine Art
    Mango - The Ideal Church (pp. 24-32); Opposition to Religious Art (41-44); St. Sophia (72-102); Painting (113-119)

September 17 - Justinian and the Church
    Keep reading Prokopios, The Secret History
    Theodora helps Monophysite saints (pp. 145-150 in Prokopios)

Week 5
September 20 - Discussion: Justinian
    Finish Prokopios, The Secret History

September 22 - Heraclius
    Treadgold 68-74, 87-94
    Excerpts from the Chronicle of Theophanes

September 24 - An Introduction to Islam 
    Selections from the Koran - The Spoils, Repentance, The Victory

Week 6
September 27 - The Dynasty of Heraclius
    Treadgold 94-104
    The Tactica of Leo VI, Constitution 18 (Pay close attention to 103-132, but skim the rest)

September 29 - Discussion: Holy War in Byzantium and Islam
    Islamic Texts on Jihad

October 1 - The Influence of Byzantium and the Greeks on Islam

Week 7
October 4 - Midterm

October 6 - The Fight for Survival
    Treadgold 104-130
    Start Life of Nikephoros

October 8 - Discussion: Iconoclasm
    Finish Life of Nikephoros (make sure to pay close attention to p. 72-119)
    Mango - Justification of Religious Painting (p. 140-1); Iconoclasm (p. 150-177)

Week 8
October 11 - The Later Iconoclasts
    Treadgold 130-140
    Life of Cyril-Constantine

October 13 - The Macedonian Dynasty
    Excerpts from the Russian Primary Chronicle (pay close attention to p. 95-119, years 6591-6499)

October 15 - Discussion: Missions & Conversions
    Life of Methodius

Week 9
October 18 - Byzantium and Rus
    Excerpts from the Russian Primary Chronicle (same excerpt as from October 13)
    Mango - Byzantine Artsits at Kiev (p.221-224); Byzantine Artists in Russia (p. 255-258)

October 20 - The Great Conquests
    Treadgold, 140-144
    The Embassy of Liudprand of Cremona

October 22 - Ceremony
    Book of Ceremonies, II.15
    Liudprand of Cremona, Retribution VI

Week 10
October 25 - Fall Break

October 27 - The Bulgar-Slayer
    Treadgold 144-151
    Psellus, Chronographia Book 1 (Life of Basil)

October 29 - Middle Byzantine Art
    Start Digenis Akritas

Week 11
November 1 - Discussion: The Digenis Akritas
    Finish Digenis Akritas

November 3Age of Erratic Government
    Treadgold 165-171
    Start Anna Komnene

November 5 - Alexius I
    Treadgold 171-176
    Anna Komnene Prologue, Book 10.5-end of 10 (pg. 3-7, 273-296)

Week 12
November 8 - Discussion: Byzantium and the First Crusade
    Anna Komnene Book 11 (pg. 297-331)
    Selections from Gesta Francorum
    Selections from Raymond of Aguilers

November 10 - The Later Reign of Alexius
    Anna Komnene Book 15

November 12 - The Comnenian Dynasty and the Road to 1204
    Treadgold 176-189
    Start Chronicle of Niketas Choniates, excerpt

Week 13
November 15 - Schism
    Report of Cardinal Humbert
    Start Geoffrey of Villehardouin, excerpt Continue Niketas Choniates

November 17 - Discussion: The Fourth Crusade
    Letter of Hugh of St. Pol Finish Niketas Choniates
    Finish Geoffrey of Villehardouin

November 19 - The Empire in Exile
    Treadgold 197-202

Week 14
November 22 - Return of the Basileus 
    Treadgold 202-209

November 24 - Thanksgiving Break

November 26 - Thanksgiving Break

Week 15
November 29 - The Dying Empire 
    Treadgold 209-219 

December 1 - The Last Byzantine Renaissance
    Mango, Late Byzantine Period (p. 245-259)

December 3 - Byzantine Art and the West 

Week 16
December 6 -  The Fall of Constantinople
    Treadgold 234-243
    Barbaro - Diary of the Siege of Constantinople

December 8 - Epilogue / Paper 2 Due

Final Exam
Wednesday, December 15, 10:15-12:15