Late Antiquity & the Early Middle Ages

HIST 4043 • HIST 6543
Spring 2023

Mosaic of Christ in S. Vitale, Ravenna, Italy, mid-6th century

Instructor: Dr. Charles E. Muntz
Time: MWF 10:45-11:35 am
Place: SCEN 203
Dr. Muntz's Office: 408 Old Main
Office Hours: M 1:00-2:30 and by appointment
Phone: (479) 575-5891


This class examines the critical period of Late Antiquity. The Roman Empire was gradually transformed by the arrivals of new peoples and the conversion to Christianity, culminating in its dissolution in western Europe and rebirth in Constantinople. New kingdoms formed and took up the Roman legacy, while the other power of the period, the Persian Empire, challenged it before the rise of Islam swept Antiquity away forever.

Learning Outcomes (Undergraduates)

  • Students will be able to evaluate the ancient sources for the late Roman Empire and early Middle Ages
  • Students will understand the evolution of late Roman Empire and the development of the successor states in Western Europe
  • Students will understand the development Christianity in the late antique period
  • Students will be able to describe the connections and interactions between the European World and the Near East during the late antique period

Learning Outcomes (Graduates) - all of the above, plus

  • Engage with and evaluate modern scholarship on the Late Antique World
  • Assess historiographic trends on the Late Antique World

Attendance/Covid Policies

This is a face-to-face class, and students are expected attend as long as they are healthy. But the Covid-19 pandemic is ongoing, so if you feel sick you should not come to class. Get tested - take-home tests are readily available - and if it is positive let the instructor know ASAP. The Health Center page has information on how long to isolate.

If you have to miss class, for Covid or any other reason, you need to take responsibility for finding out what we went over that day - think of it as an opportunity to make friends with your classmates, so you can borrow and copy notes. And of course, if you have any questions about material you can ask me. Extensions for paper deadlines and alternatives to the graded class discussions will also be available as needed, but again you need to email me for instructions.


Exams: There will be an in-class midterm on March 8, and a final exam on Monday, May 8 from 10:15-12:15, consisting of essays. Study guides will be made available.

Short Paper: A 1600-1800 word paper comparing two ancient sources of the accession of Julian the Apostate, due February 27 by 5pm. Assignment here (note, I’ve given you a text of Ammianus with the individual sentences numbered for easier citation)

Long Paper (Undergraduates): A 3200-3600 word paper on the History of Gregory of Tours. Detailed instructions here. Due May 4 by 5pm.

Long Paper (Graduates): A 3500-4000 word research paper on a topic of the student's choice, chosen in consultation with the professor. Due May 4 by 5pm.
Bibliographic Resources
Paper Grading Policies
Formatting Guidelines

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

Attendance: Regular attendance is important. I will allow each student to miss up to three classes without penalty to cover things like illness and religious observances. However, absences on discussion days or days when graded material is due are not permitted except by prior arrangement or in case of emergencies. Please email me in advance if you are going to miss class. For each absence after the first three, unless there is a serious problem, I will lower the final participation grade by 10 points. If you do have to miss a class, make sure you meet with another student to find out what you missed!

Grade Breakdown:
Participation: 15% 
Paper 1: 15% 
Paper 2: 30% 
Midterm: 15% 
Final: 25%

Reading Materials

Required Books
Ammianus Marcellinus, Walter Hamilton (trans). The Later Roman Empire (A.D. 354-378). ISBN 9780140444063
Gregory of Tours, Lewis Thorpe (trans.) The History of the Franks. ISBN 9780140442953
Prokopios, Anthony Kaldellis (trans.) The Secret History and Related Texts. ISBN 9781603841801
Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. ISBN 9780393320978

Other texts will be distributed under the syllabus below.


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.

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 or drinking before coming into class. Please remain seated during class - if you need to use the lavatory, do so before or after class.

Emergency Procedures 

Many types of emergencies can occur on campus; instructions for specific emergencies such as severe weather, active shooter, or fire can be found at  

Severe Weather (Tornado Warning): Follow the directions of the instructor or emergency personnel. Seek shelter in the basement or interior room or hallway on the lowest floor, putting as many walls as possible between you and the outside. If you are in a multi-story building, and you cannot get to the lowest floor, pick a hallway in the center of the building. Stay in the center of the room, away from exterior walls, windows, and doors.

Violence / Active Shooter (CADD):

  • CALL: 9-1-1
  • AVOID: If possible, self-evacuate to a safe area outside the building.  Follow directions of police officers.
  • DENY: Barricade the door with desk, chairs, bookcases or any items.  Move to a place inside the room where you are not visible.  Turn off the lights and remain quiet.  Remain there until told by police it’s safe.
  • DEFEND: Use chairs, desks, cell phones or whatever is immediately available to distract and/or defend yourself and others from attack.

Daily Topics and Reading Assignments

Week 1
January 18: Introduction

January 20: The Roman World in 235

Week 2
January 23: The Rise of Rival Powers

January 25: No class due to inclement weather

January 27: Religion in the Roman World in the 3rd Century
    Lactantius: On the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died, Chapters I-VI

Week 3
January 30: The Age of Anarchy
    Eutropius, Book 9

February 1: Diocletian and the Restoration of Power
    Lactantius: On the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died, Chapters VII-XIX
    Diocletian’s Price Edict
    Diocletian’s Decree against Manichaeism

February 3: The Rise of Constantine
    Eusebius: The Life of Constantine, Book 1 & Book 2

Week 4
February 6: Discussion: Eusebius & Constantine
    Eusebius: The Life of Constantine, Book 3 & Book 4

February 8: The Family of Constantine
    Ammianus Marcellinus: 14.5-7, 14.9-11, 15.1-3, 15.7, 15.9, 15.12, 16.1-5, 16.10-12

February 10: The Apostate
    Ammianus Marcellinus: 17.3-4, 17.11, 17.13, 18.1, 20.4-5, 21.1-2, 21.5, 21.14-16

Week 5
February 13: Ammianus Discussion 1
    Ammianus Marcellinus: 22 (all), 23.1, 23.6, 24.6-8, 25.1-4

February 15: Early Christian Art
    Keep reading Ammianus

February 17: The New Barbarians
    Ammianus Marcellinus: 25.5-8, 25.10, 26.1-9, 27.5-7, 28.1, 28.4

Week 6
February 20: Ammianus Discussion 2
    Ammianus Marcellinus: 29.1-3, 30.5-10, 31.1-8. 31.12-16

February 22: The Triumph of Christianity
    Ambrose: On the Death of Theodosius

February 24: The Splintering Empire
    Hydatius: Chronicle

Week 7
February 27: Man or God? / Paper 1 due by 5pm

March 1: The Huns
    Priscus: The Embassy to Attila

March 3: The “Fall" of the Western Empire
    Sidonius Apollinaris: Panegyric to Avitus
    Hydatius: Chronicle

Week 8
March 6: Christian Art 2

March 8: Midterm

March 10: The New Kingdoms: Ostrogoths and Vandals
    Cassiodorus: Selections from the Variae

Week 9
March 13: The Rise of Justinian
    Prokopios: The Secret History - Preface & Part 1, start Part 2
    The Nika Riots (pp.136-145 in Prokopios)

March 15: The Empire Strikes Back
    Prokopios, The Secret History - Finish Part 2, start Part 3
    Related Texts 7-11 in Prokopios (pp. 157-182)

March 17: The Later Reign of Justinian
    Prokopios: Finish the Secret History

Spring Break!

Week 10
March 27: Prokopios Discussion

March 29: The New Western Kingdoms: Merovingians
    Gregory of Tours: Preface, Book 1 (pp. 63-99)

March 31: The New Western Kingdoms: Visigoths and Lombards
    Gregory of Tours: Book 2

Week 11
April 3: The Medieval City
    Gregory of Tours: Book 3 Preface, Book 4.21-34, 46-51

April 5: Gregory of Tours Discussion 1
    Gregory of Tours: Book 5 Preface, Chapters 6, 11, 14, 17-18, 33-34, 39, 43-44, Book 6.2-5, 29-31, 45-46

April 7: The Rise of the Papacy
    Select Sermons of Leo I
    Select Letters of Gregory I
    Gregory of Tours: Book 7.2-15, 32-38

Week 12
April 10: Monasticism
    Rule of St. Benedict excerpts

April 12: Gregory of Tours & Medieval Christianity Discussion
    Gregory of Tours: Book 8.15-17, 28-34, Book 9.6, 8-10, 33, Book 10.10, 24-25, 31 (only from p. 601 to the end)

April 14: On the fringes: England
    Beowulf, pp. 3-103

Week 13
April 17: Beowulf Discussion
    Beowulf, pp. 103-end

April 19: The Jews in Late Antiquity
    Severus of Minorca on the Conversion of the Jews

April 21: Kingdoms and Provinces of the East
    History of Vardan Excerpts

Week 14
April 24: The Persian Empire in the 6th Century
    Zamyad Yasht

April 26: The Other Empire Strikes Back
    Excerpts from the Chronicle of Theophanes

April 28: The Rise of Islam
    Selections from the Quran

Week 15
May 1: Apocalypse Discussion
    Apocalypse of Pseudo-Ephrem
    Chronicle of Disasters  
    Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius
    Apocalypse of John the Little

May 3: The End of Antiquity

May 4: Final Paper due by 5pm

Final Exam
Monday, May 8 at 10:15-12:15