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 Sean Strong

Sean Strong

Research student,


I am a PhD candidate researching leadership depictions in Theophylact Simocatta's History. My main research focus is the reign of Emperor Maurice (AD 582-602), but this also extends to his predecessors, the Emperor Justin II (AD 565-578) and Tiberius II Constantine (AD 578-582). I have particular interest in the imperial and military leadership of the Roman Empire, Sasanian Empire, and the Avar Khaganate which also encompasses the internal and external perception of leadership throughout the landscape of Eastern Europe and the Near East. My general research interests are expansive and vary throughout the Late Antique and Byzantine world, and include military, political, and social history.

Academic Background:

  • PhD, Ancient History - Cardiff University (2019 - Present) Thesis Title: 'Generals and Rulers in Theophylact Simocatta's History: Ideals of Leadership in a Time of Transition, AD 565-602', Supervisors: Professor Shaun Tougher and Dr Eve MacDonald 

  • Mst, Medieval History (Byzantine Studies) - University of Oxford (2017-18) Thesis Title: 'Triumph and Treachery: A Comparative Study of Usurpation in the Late-Eleventh Century Byzantium - The ‘Saviour’, the ‘Tragic Insurgent’ and, the ‘Wolf in Waiting’', Supervisor: Professor James Howard-Johnston 

  • BA, Ancient and Medieval History - University of Wales, Lampeter (2014-17) Thesis Title: 'The Role of Emperor Justinian in the Decline of the Byzantine Empire', Supervisor: Dr Harriett Webster 


Research interests

  • Late Roman and 'Byzantine' History (AD 330-1204)

  • Sasanian Iran (AD 224-651)

  • The Steppe Nomads and Danubian Powers (Dacians, Avars, Lombards, Slavs, and Pechenegs) 

  • Imperial Leadership 

  • Usurpation in Late Antiquity and Byzantium 

  • Generalship, Warfare, and Frontiers 

Active IMC 2022 CfP:


  • University of Leeds – International Medieval Congress: Panel Title – Between Byzantium and Sasanian Persia: The Climate of Leadership between Ērānshahr and the Eastern Roman Empire - (July 2021) - Paper Title: Vindicated, Dismissed, or Crushed: Roman-Sasanian Generalship and Punishment in the Late Sixth Century AD

  • University of Birmingham - The 21st Annual Postgraduate Colloquium of the Centre of Byzantine, Ottoman, and Modern Greek Studies (Theme: Colour, Emotion, and Senses) - (May 2021) - Paper Title: Emotion as Evidence for Legitimacy? The Public Reception of Emperor Maurice 

  • UWTSD Lampeter – Classics Research Seminar (April 2021) - Paper Title: Theophylact Simocatta and Leadership at Times of Transition: Approaches and Evidence from the Late Roman and Sasanian Empire, AD 565-602 [Invited] 

  • University of Exeter - Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient History (March 2021) - Paper Title: Becoming Šāhanšāh in Ērānshahr: Visual and Literary Evidence for Sasanian Investiture Rituals in the Late Sixth Century AD

  • University of Wales, Lampeter (UWICAH) - Themes of Isolation in, and in the Study of, the Ancient World (November 2020) - Paper Title: Being a Byzantinist: An Academic Discipline on the Periphery

  • (Cancelled: Covid-19) Cardiff University – Breaking Boundaries: An Interdisciplinary Conference for the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (May 2020) - Paper Title: Byzantium and Sasanian Persia: A Comparative Study of Eastern Kingship

  • (Cancelled: Covid-19) University of Exeter – Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient History (March 2020) - Paper Title: Panegyric and the Perception of Rulership in Early Byzantium

  • University of Bristol - Follow the Leader: Medieval Leaders and Leadership (January 2020) - Paper Title: Rulership in Early Byzantium: The Case of Inauguration Speeches 

  • Sapienza: Università di Roma - Apprendistato dello Storico -  Dialettiche del Potere: rivendicazione, usurpazione, giustificazione (May 2019) - Paper Title: Nikephoros III Botaneiates and Nikephoros Bryennios: The Means and Ends to Usurp an Imperial Throne and the Precedent it set for Alexios I Komnenos in 1081 AD

  • St Anne’s College, Oxford – ‘Lampeter Legacies’, (November 2018) – Event in Honour of Professor Janet Burton - Paper Title: ό διπλωματία των Βυζαντινών: Religious Missionaries and their Role along the Northern Frontier, 8th Century – 12th Century AD [Invited]

  • Lancaster University - HistFest (June 2018) - Paper Title: Realism in Late Roman Warfare: A Military Arms Race between Rome and Sassanid Persia (The Concept of Development Over Time Between the 4th and 6th Century AD)

  • UWTSD Lampeter - Undergraduate Humanities Conference (May 2017) - Paper Title: The Role of Emperor Justinian in the Decline of the Byzantine Empire


  • Strong, S, 'Death, Confusion, and Darkness: Late Antique Military Operations at Twilight', in J. Oorthuys (ed.), Ancient Warfare Magazine (2021), pp. 44-49.  

  • Strong, S, ‘Reconstructing the Narrative: The Usurpation of Nikephoros Bryennios the Elder’, SHARE: Studies in History, Archaeology, Religion and Conservation 4.1 (2020), 1-27.

  • Strong, S, 'The Sword that Became Blunt: The Usurpation of Nikephoros Bryennios', in P. Konieczy (ed.), Medieval Warfare Magazine, 10, 2 (2020), 34-7.

In Preparation: 

  • Strong, S, 'Being a Byzantinist: An Academic Discipline on the Periphery.'

  • Strong, S, 'The Careers of Maurice's Generals and Theophylact Simocatta's Portrayal of Roman-Sasanian Generalship and Punishment in the Late Sixth Century.' to be published in an edited volume (9,000 words). 

Book Reviews:

Academic Public Engagement:

Academic Committee Positions:

  • March 2021 - Present: 'Graduate Associate' of the Executive Committee of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies (SPBS)

  • May 2020 - Present: Committee Member of the South-West and Wales Late Antique, Early Medieval, and Byzantine Network (LAEMB)

  • November 2017 - February 2018: Organising Committee for the Oxford University Byzantine Society’s 20th International Graduate Conference 

Professional Memberships:

  • Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies (SPBS) - (2017-Present)

  • The British Institute of Persian Studies (BIPS) - (2018-Present)


Graduate Tutor (2021/22): 

  • HS1112: Medieval Worlds, 500-1500 

  • HS3106: Introduction to Ancient History 2 - Empires East and West, 323 BC to 680 AD 


Generals and Rulers in Theophylact Simocatta's History: Ideals of Leadership in a Time of Transition, AD 565-602

The thesis is a comparative study of Roman and Sasanian leadership as depicted by Theophylact Simocatta in his History. Theophylact’s History is best known for its narration of Emperor Maurice’s wars (AD 582-602); however, the text has a greater relevance to historians and a wider examination needs to be undertaken within the context of imperial/royal and military leadership. This study is an examination into what Theophylact deems important to depict concerning leadership, how Theophylact exercises this interest within his History, and why does he portray events associated with leadership in the ways that he did. Key aspects of Late Antique leadership will be addressed such as legitimacy and dynasty, alongside offering an analysis into the transforming military role of the Late Roman autokrator and Sasanian Šāhanšāh


Shaun Tougher

Professor Shaun Tougher

Professor of Late Roman and Byzantine History


Dr Eve MacDonald

Lecturer in Ancient History