Aezanis, Temple of Zeus, 117-138 AD 
  
History/Medieval Studies 303
Early Medieval and Byzantine Civilization: Constantine to Crusades

Index 

Syllabus 

Readings: 
 Book List 
 Iconoclasm
 Discussion Topics

Chronologies: 
 Imperial Crisis 
 Later Roman Emperors, 306-395 
 Fall of Western Empire 
 Age of Justinian 
 Islamic Caliphs 
 Byzantine Dark Age 
 Triumph of Christianity 
 Macedonian Resurgence 
 Crusades 
 Restoration and Ottoman Advance 

Handouts: 
 Population
 Finances under Justinian
 Byzantium c.850A.D.

Links

Discussion Topics:
 
I. The New Christian Monarchy
II. Cost of Recovery
III. Imperial Decline
IV. Byzantium and the Crusades
 
REPORTS AND DISCUSSION 1:
THE NEW CHRISTIAN MONARCHY: ITS POWER AND IDEOLOGY

REQUIRED READINGS:

Jones, Constantine and the Conversion of Europe
Vasiliev, HBE, vol. 1, pp. 43-128
Brown, WLA, pp. 11-125
Brown, Authority and Sacred

Students writing a paper should compose an essay (5 pages) to present cogent arguments on a suggested issues (or a combination of suggested issues).  Student may assume a PRO or CON position, and so judge how successful was the Roman state and society in the fourth and fifth centuries.  Reports should meet with me about their particular case.  Students who are not presenting a paper are expected to attend discussion session and to join in class discussion.

REPORTS:
 
1. POLITICAL IDEOLOGY AND LOYALTY TO THE EMPEROR.  What were the advantages and disadvantages of the emperor’s new pretensions to divine rule?  Did his subjects believe his claims?  How loyal were they?  Did Diocletian and Constantine strengthen the monarchy by creating the new imperial ceremonial?
2. CHRISTIANITY AND CHURCH.  Did Constantine strengthen or weaken the state by converting to Christianity?  How important was the new “imperial” church to administering the Roman world?  What roles did bishops and monks play in late Roman society?  How much did Constantine and his heirs control the church hierarchy?  What dangers were posed to the empire by heretics?
3. IMPERIAL ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCES.  How effective was the emperor’s bureaucracy?  Could emperors after Diocletian (284-305) enforce their will better than earlier emperors?  Was the cost of the palatine and provincial government too high for the empire’s subjects?  How dangerous was corruption to the effectiveness of the monarchy? Did imperial taxation and currency meet the needs of the emperor?
4. THE ARMY: How effective was the later Roman army?  How sound was the strategy of frontier defense?  What were the virtues and failings of changes in tactics (such as use of cavalry) and recruitment (notably recruiting of Germans)?  Did the major defeats suffered by Julian in Mesopotamia or Valens at Adrianople result from bad luck, poor generalship, or deeper problems?

SUGGESTED READINGS:

Students writing papers may wish additional readings.  The main narrative account of the fourth century comes from the last pagan historian of Rome, Ammianus Marcellinus, translated in abridged edition as The Late Roman Empire, by W. Hamilton (Penguin, 1986).  The study by A. H. M. Jones, Later Roman Empire 3 vols (Oxford, 1964) has a wealth of information on all aspects of Roman society from Diocletian (284-305) to Heraclius (610-641).  For introductions, consult either J. Vogt, The Decline of Rome, trans. by J. Sondheimer (London, 1967) or Averil Cameron, The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity 395-600 (New York/London, 199 3.  For the  late Roman bureaucracy and court consult the works by Ramsay MacMullen, Constantine (NewYork, 1969) and Corruption and the Decline of Rome (New Haven, 1988).  For the role of ceremony, see S. MacCormack, Art and Ceremony in Late Antiquity (Berkeley, 1981), and K. W. Harl, Civic Coins and Civic Politics in the Roman East A.D. 180-275 (Berkeley, 1987), with the latter stressing the role of Greek provincials.  The reforms of Diocletian are discussed in S. Williams, Diocletian and the Roman Recovery (New York, 1985).   Finances and taxes are well treated by R. MacMullen, Roman Government’s Response to Crisis (New Haven, 1972).  For currency, see the relevant chapters by K. W. Harl, Coinage in the Roman Economy 300 B.C. to A.D. 700.  (Baltimore, 1996).  Studies on the army include E. Luttwak, Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire (Baltimore, 1977) and A. Ferrill, The Fall of the Roman Empire:   The Military Explanation (London, 1986).  The role of German generals (magistri militum) in politics during the fifth century is the them of J. M. O’Flynn, Generalissimos of the Western Roman Empire (Edmonton, 1983).  Many of the main themes of the fourth century can be followed in detail in Egypt (due to the wealth of documents surviving on papyri); see the widely ranging study by R. S. Bagnall, Egypt in Late Antiquity (Princeton, 1993).

 Among the many fine works on early Christianity, a concise survey is H. Chadwick, The Early Church (Penguin, 1969); a more comprehensive one is by W. H. C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity (Philadelphia, 1984). The impact of the Persecutions is the theme of the masterful W. H. C. Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church (London, 1961), but consult K, Hopkins, “ Murderous Games,” in Death and Renewal (Cambridge, 1983), pp. 1-30, for the pagan perspective. The best discussion of religious divisions, and their political repercussions, in the fifth century is J. Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division, 431-681 (Crestwood, N.Y., 1989).  On the issue of conversion, see R. MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire 100-400 (New Haven, 1984).  For the role of  bishops in society, see P. Brown, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity Madison, 1992).  The transformation of religious beliefs and cultural attitudes are brilliantly discussed by P. Brown, The Making of Late Antiquity (Cambridge, Mass, 1977).. The best study on asceticism and major intellectual developments in Christianity is P. Brown, The Body and Society in Late Antiquity (New York, 1988).  For pagan beliefs, see R. MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire (New Haven, 1981), and the opening chapters in S. R. F. Price, Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor (Cambridge, 1984).  For changes in aesthetics and arts, start with H.-P. L’Orange, Art Forms and Civic Life in the Later Roman Empire (Princeton, 1965) and E. Kitzinger, Byzantine Art in the Making (Cambridge, Mass., 1977).

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REPORTS AND DISCUSSION 2:
THE COST OF RECOVERY (527-565)

REQUIRED READINGS:

Procopius, Secret History
Moorhead, Justinian
Vasiliev, HBE, vol. 1, pp. 130-192
Brown, MLA, pp. 137-188

The recovery of imperial power and the cultural achievements under Justinian (527-565) are regarded as the turning point in the early Medieval world.  The efforts of Justinian to restore the Roman order can be discussed for either a PRO or CON position.  Reporters and the class should consider the wisdom of Justinian’s policies.  It is also necessary to judge the reliability of Procopius’ criticisms in his Secret History.

REPORTS:
 
1. MILITARY RECOVERY.  Justinian’s recovery of the West is the keystone of his policies.  What in your opinion was the best way of dealing with the barbarian kingdoms in the West?  Did the German kingdoms pose a threat to imperial security?  How well did Justinian conduct the reconquest?  What were the aims and resources at his disposal to recover the West?  How important was the eastern frontier?  How would you rate Justinian’s handling of frontier policy in the East?
2. FINANCES AND ADMINISTRATION.  Was Justinian’s western policy too costly for the empire?  How should we interpret Procopius’ criticisms of the high taxes to finance the wars?  Did Justinian overtax his subjects and leave his successors a financial nightmare?  How much did continual wars strain the governing of the empire?
3. RELIGIOUS POLICY.  Why did Justinian desire reconciliation with the Monophysites?  How successful were Justinian’s religious policies?  Could any emperor reconcile Rome, Constantinople, and the Monophysites?  How did Justinian’s own religious convictions influence policy?  Did Justinian aggravate divisions within the Christian world or offer a possible means towards reconciliation?
4. ASSESSEMENT OF THE REIGN.  What achievements of Justinian’s reign show continuity or change with the Roman past?  In what ways did Justinian push the empire along new directions (notably in cultural life)?  How important were his achievements and failures in shaping a new Byzantine world?  Was Justinian the last of the true Roman emperors or first of the Byzantine emperors?  Does Justinian deserve the title “great?”

SUGGESTED READINGS:

The best introductions for the period are Av. Cameron, The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity 395-600 (London, 1993) and J. Herrin, The Formation of Christendom (Princeton, 1987).  The biography of J. Barker, Justinian and the Later Roman Empire (Madison, 1966) must be used with care, for it is full of factual errors. The campaigns waged in the name of Justinian as well as religious policies are discussed in the fine old narrative by J. B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire 2 vols (London, 1889; reprinted in 2 vols for the period of 395- 565 by Dover, New York, 1958).  The wars in Italy are discussed from a Gothic perspective by T. S. Burns, A History of the Ostrogoths (Bloomington, 1984).   Tactics and recruitment for the army of Justinian can be found in the relevant chapters of A. H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire 3 vols. (Oxford, 1964).  Consult also the relevant essays of E.A. Thompson, Romans and Barbarians (Madison, 1982).  For the finances and currency, see the relevant chapters by K. W. Harl, Coinage in the Roman Economy 300 B.C. to A.D. 700 (Baltimore, 1996).

The artistic developments are masterfully treated by E. Kitzinger, Byzantine Art in the Making (Cambridge, Mass, 1977).  The religious issues of era are best approached through W. H. C. Frend, Rise of the Monophysite Movement (Cambridge, 1977) and J. Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division, 431-681 (Crestwood, N.Y., 1989).  For the asectic tradition, see P. Brown, Body and Society in Late Antiquity (New York, 1988).  For the miracles of Byzantine saints there is the translation of lives by E. Dawes, trans., Three Byzantine Saints (Oxford, 1948); the life of St. Theodore of Sykeon (an expert exorcist of demons) is a must.

The complete works of Procopius are translated in seven volumes of the Loeb Classical Library Series by H. B. Dewing (Cambridge, Mass, 1914).  Select passages of Justinian’s Digest are available in C. F. Kolbert, trans., The Digest of Roman Law: Theft, Rapine, Damage and Insult (Penguin, 1979)--a definite must for all.  For the importance of the capital, see G. Downey, Constantinople in the Age of Justinian (Norman, 1940).

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REPORTS AND DISCUSSION 3:
IMPERIAL DECLINE, 1025-1071

REQUIRED READINGS:

Michael Psellus, Fourteen Byzantine Emperors
Anna Comnena, Alexiad, pp. 73-134
Vasiliev, HBE, vol. 1, pp. 339-361
Macedonian Land Laws (documents available from copy center).

REPORTS:

The dramatic collapse of Byzantine political and military power in the eleventh century is linked to wider changes in society and economy.  Some historians argue that there was no economic decline in the tenth and eleventh century.  All reports should consider when decline became irreversible and how well could the empire have faced the new foes of the Normans and Seljuk Turks.  Students should choose ONE of the major causes listed below and argue for its significance as a cause of the decline of imperial power.
 
1. THE PROBLEM OF IMPERIAL SUCCESSION.  Why did the empire face continual succession difficulties after 1025?  Was there a failure of imperial leadership?  Michael Psellus dates the turning point to the death of Michael IV (1032-1041); is this sound? How valid are Psellus’ criticisms of Constantine VIII, Zoe and Theodore, Romanus III, Michael V, and Constantine IX?
 Reporters concentrate on the period 1025-1056.  READ Psellus, pp. 53-271 and 307-313.
2. THE RIVALRY BETWEEN CIVIL AND MILITARY ARISTOCRACIES.  With the end of the Macedonian dynasty in 1056 why was there a clash between the civil and military aristocracies?  What issues divided the ruling classes?  How serious was this clash?  Why was corruption so widespread?  What advantages did civil aristocrats possess?  Why were the candidates of the Anatolian army, Issac I and Romanus IV, unsuccessful in reforming the state?  Were Constantine X and Michael VII as able as Psellus portrays them?
Reporters concentrate on the period 1056-1081.  READ Psellus, pp. 271-380 and Anna Comnena, pp. 73-134.
3.  AGRARIAN CRISIS:  ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CHANGE.  How important was the success of land reform for the army and society?  What were the aims of the legislation passed by emperors from Romanus I (920-944) to Basil II (976-1025)?  Was the failure of this imperial legislation an underlying cause for dramatic social and economic changes that led to political decline after 1025?  Could this legislation have solved agrarian problems and so ensured the military power of the state?  How did revolts after 1025 reflect serious flaws in Byzantine society and economy?  What were the aims of these revolts?  How urgent was tax and land reform after 1025?
Reporters should base arguments on the Macedonian land laws, and analyze the revolts discussed by Vasiliev, pp. 345-350 and Psellus, pp. 30-43 (two Phocai, 976-978 & 987-988), pp. 109-111 (Bulgarian Revolt, 1040-1041), pp. 192-193 (Maniaces’ Revolt, 1043-1044), pp. 204-222 (Leo Tornicus, 1047), and pp. 276-302 (IsaacComnenus, 1057).

SUGGESTED READINGS:

A fine narrative of the period is found in R. Jenkins, Byzantium, The Imperial Centuries (London, 1966), pp. 301-74.  The case for economic and social decline is argued by P. Charanis, “The Byzantine Empire in the Eleventh Century,” in A History of the Crusades, ed. by K. Setton, (Madison, 1969), vol. 1, pp. 177-219.  A. Harvey, Economic Expansion in the Byzantine Empire, 900-1200 (Cambridge, 1989), argues for economic growth despite territorial losses after 1071.  For the motives behind imperial land legislation, see S. Runicman, The Emperor Romanus Lecapenus (Cambridge, 1929), chapters 11 and 13.  For the external threats, see R. S. Lopez, “The Norman Conquest of Sicily,” and C. Cahen, “The Selchukids,” in History of the Crusades, ed. by K. Setton, vol. 1, pp. 54-67 and 135-174, respectively.

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REPORTS AND DISCUSSION 4:
BYZANTIUM AND THE CRUSADES, 1095-1204

REQUIRED READINGS:

Anna Comnena, Alexiad
Villehardouin, Chronicles of the Crusades, pp. 29-107
Vasiliev, HBE, vol. 2, pp. 375-469

REPORTS:

Alexius I (1081-1118) appealed for Western aid to recover the lost themes of Anatolia, but the Western Crusaders had different aims and motives.  How much did mutual suspicions, cultural and religious differences, and prejudices contribute to the failure of Crusaders and Byantines to cooperate?  Were the Byzantines or Crusaders most responsible?  This discussion will concentrate on the two crucial Crusades, the First and the Fourth, as a means of determining why cooperation failed.
 
1. FIRST CRUSADE (1095-1099): BYZANTINE POSITION.  What were the aims of Alexius I?  How sound were his aims?  How much did the Crusaders appreciate Alexius’ aims?  How honestly did Alexius deal with the Crusaders?  What aid did Alexius furnish to them?  Were there too many cultural differences for Alexius to bridge?  How accurate is Anna Comnena’s portrayal of her father and the Crusaders?
2.  FIRST CRUSADE (1095-1099): CRUSADER POSITION.  Did the Frankish nobility cooperate in gold faith with Alexius?  What were their motives for going on Crusade?  What were their fears and prejudices about the Byzantines?  How accurately does Anna Comnena reflect Byzantine prejudices towards the Westerners?  Should the Crusaders have been satisfied with Byzantine aid?  Were they justified in carving out their own “Crusader” states in the Levant?
REPORTERS 1 & 2 read Anna Comnena and Vasiliev, vol. 2, pp. 375-417.
3.  THE FOURTH CRUSADE (1202-1204).  THE BYZANTINE POSITION.  By 1204 was any emperor able to rule effectively an offer resistance to the Turkomens?  Should the emperors come to terms with the Westerners. Did they have legitimate complaints against the Italians and Crusaders?  How much did dynastic and internal weakness contribute to the sack of 1204?  How should the emperors Alexius III, Isaac II, Alexius IV, and Alexius V be ranked as leaders?
4.  THE FOURTH CRUSADE (1202-1204).  THE CRUSADER POSITION.  By 1204 were the Crusaders justified in capturing Constantinople?  What were Crusader and Venetian motives?  How were they led by a series of circumstances (and by invitation from a Byzantine prince) to Constantinople?  How important were the leaders Enricio Dandalo, Simon de Montferrat, and Baldwin of Flanders in directing the Crusade?  Did the Crusaders deserve the reputation of destroyers of the Byzantine Empire?
REPORTERS 3 & 4 read Vasiliev, vol 2, pp. 438-469 and Villehardouin.   On reserve & RECOMMENDED is D. Queller, The Fourth Crusade (also copies available from me).

SUGGESTED READINGS:

The best narrative account of the Crusades is the superbly written work by S. Runciman, The History of the Crusades 3 vols. (Cambridge, 1951-54); the first volume on the First Crusade is recommended.  More current is J. Riley-Smith, The Crusades (New Haven, 1987) who writes from a Western viewpoint. Byzantine policy is discussed by R.-J. Lille, Byzantium and the Crusader States 1096-1204, trans. by J. C. Morris and J. E. Ridings (Oxford, 1993).  The main issues of the Comnenian state are treated by P. Madgalino, The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos 1143-1180 (Cambridge, 1993).  For economic life, see A. Harvey, Economic Expansion in the Byzantine Empire, 900-1200 (Cambridge, 1989).

The military achievement of the First Crusade is discussed by J. France, Victory in the East (Cambridge, 1994).  For the motives of Crusaders, see J. Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (Philadelphia, 1985).   For the defense of the Holy Land and tactics of Crusaders, see R. Smail, Crusading Warfare 1097-1193 (2nd ed., Cambridge, 1995) and K. Setton, in A History of the Crusades (Madison, 1969), vol. 1, pp. 368-462.   The relationship of Venice and Byzantium is discussed by D. M. Nicol, Byzantium and Venice (Cambridge, 1988).  For the Fourth Crusade, still recommended is D. Queller, The Fourth Crusade (Philadelphia, 1977), and also consult K. Setton, A History of the Crusades, vol. 2, pp. 123-86.
 

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Dr. Kenneth W. Harl 
Office: History 211 (504)862-8621 
Fax: (504) 862-8739 
Home: (504)866-5392 
 
 Tulane University
Last updated 03/19/98
by Annette Lindblom