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Art and Archaeology of Empires: Rome Meets Byzantium

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This course is primarily intended to introduce students to the history, archaeology and art of the Roman and Byzantine periods in the Mediterranean world (200 BC- 1453 AD).

The pottery, painting, mosaics, monumental sculpture and micro-sculpture (ivory carvings, gems) as well as private and public architecture of these two periods will be studied and placed in their historical context.

Along with the study of art the course will also attempt to address certain questions: the connection with classical Greek art; patronage in the arts; diversity in the production of art in different regions of the empires; the nature of society and political structures; daily life and economy; the place of women; the role of monasteries in the production of art; and the role of religion.

This course is for anyone with an interest in archaeology and the enthusiasm to take that interest further. It operates as part of the Exploring the Past Pathway, and will equip you with the knowledge, understanding and skills that will help you to study other courses on the pathway.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through nine two-hour sessions. These sessions will consist of a one-hour lecture followed by class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module. The discussion and group work will enable you to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures. The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available via Learning Central.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Rome’s Debt to Greece.
  • Public and private architecture. Fora, baths, temples, amphitheatres, aqueducts, palaces.
  • Art in context: Roman villas and the art of painting. The case of Pompeii: frescoes and mosaics.
  • The Built environment in the Byzantine period. House, Church and the Individual.
  • Micro-sculpture and Painting in the Byzantine Period.

Coursework and assessment

This module will be assessed by two short assignments, comprising around 1500 words in total.

Reading suggestions

Essential Reading

  • Borg, B.E. (ed.) 2015. A Companion to Roman Art. Oxford and Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Cormack, R. 2000. Byzantine Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Stewart, P.  2004. Roman Art.  Oxford: Oxford University Press

Recommended Reading

  • Barchiesi, A. and Scheidel, W. (eds.) 2010. The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Boardman, J., Griffin, J. and Murray, O. (eds.) 2001. The Oxford History of the Roman World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Haward, A. 1999. Art and the Romans. London: Bristol Classical Press.
  • Henig, M. (ed.) 1983. A Handbook of Roman Art. Oxford: Phaidon.
  • Herrin, J. 2007. Byzantium. London & New York.
  • Ramage, N. and Ramage, A. 1995. Roman Art (2nd edition). Laurence King: London.
  • Rodley. L. 1994. Byzantine Art and Architecture: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Shepard, J. 2008. The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c.500-1492. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Stewart, P. 2008. The Social History of Roman Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.