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Art and Archaeology of Empires: Rome Meets Byzantium

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What can we learn about the Roman and Byzantine period in the Mediterranean world (200 BC - 1453 AD) through the study of their history, archaeology and art?

Introducing the study of these periods through the pottery, painting, mosaics, monumental sculpture, ivory carvings and gems, as well as private and public architecture, we will study the fascinating worlds of the Roman and Byzantine Empires and place their archaeology and art in historical context.

In doing so we will consider questions that allow us to gain insights into the nature of the societies involved, considering the connection between Roman and Byzantine art and classical Greek art.

We will consider 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.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered as nine online sessions of 2 hours.  Sessions will consist of a mixture of lectures, audio-visual resources, class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable students to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

Students will also be expected to read relevant printed material and use that as the basis for contributions in class.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures themselves will be supplemented by internet resources available to the students via Learning Central.


  1. Introduction: historical background
  2. Rome’s Debt to Greece: What is Roman Art?
  3. Roman Sculpture
  4. Roman Architecture
  5. Roman Frescoes and Mosaics
  6. The Byzantine Empire: From Early Christianity to the Palaeologan period
  7. Byzantine Patronage and Art: The art of metalworking and ivory carving
  8. Byzantine Buildings: House, Church and the Individual
  9. Painting in the Byzantine Period

Coursework and assessment

You will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work:

  • a short critical review
  • a 1000-word essay.

There will be lots of help and support available for both assignments.

Reading suggestions

  • 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

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.