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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Classical Art/Classical Archaeology

Undergraduate Course: Ancient Superpowers: The Armies and Military Monuments of Rome and Persia (ANHI10055)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course aims to familiarise students with the armies and military infrastructure of the Roman and Persian Empires from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD. Recent discoveries of a remarkably sophisticated military apparatus on an astonishing scale in the late antique Persian World, in comparison with the much widely known military monuments of Rome, will provide participants with a better understanding of ancient geopolitics and the use of hard power in antiquity.
Course description This course will explore the military forces and infrastructure of some of the ancient world's largest, most powerful and long-lived empires, those of Rome and Persia. It will cover the period from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD.

The Roman Empire was the dominant power in the Mediterranean and controlled up to the 5th century the majority of Europe's population, as well as Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and Northern Africa. Split from the late 4th century into Western and Eastern Roman successor states, its surviving eastern half remained a dominant player on the world stage up to the first half of the 7th century.

As far as Persia is concerned, the course will focus on Late Antiquity, as there is much more concrete evidence for Sasanian than for Parthian military installations. Centred on modern Iran, the Sasanian Empire (3rd-7th centuries) stretched to Mesopotamia in the west, to the western parts of the Indian Subcontinent in the east and into the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia in the south and north. Until a few years ago, little had been known about its military infrastructure. Recent research has revealed frontier walls and defended compounds of greater dimensions than those found in the late Roman world. It now appears that the Sasanian Empire had an army, which in terms of the scale and sophistication of its military architecture, its capabilities, achievements and, probably, its numerical strength, matched or more than matched those of the most powerful states in antiquity.

The course will present the evidence for the organisation of the Roman and Sasanian armies, the monuments they have left behind, and for their deployment in war. It will explore the question how they were able to expand or maintain such vast territorial empires over centuries. In contrast to the Eurocentric perspective of most courses on ancient warfare, this course will seek to demonstrate how the bipolar world of Late Antiquity was shaped by competing superpowers.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: The Roman World 1B: The Roman Empire (CLGE08004) OR Ancient History 2a: Past and Present in the Ancient World (ANHI08014) OR Roman Art and Archaeology (CACA08011)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should usually have at least 3 courses in Classics related subject matter (at least 2 of which should be in Classical Art/Archaeology) at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate, by way of coursework, knowledge of some important aspects of the armies and military installations, such as forts and linear barriers, of the Roman Empire and Sasanian Persia;
  2. demonstrate, by way of coursework, some knowledge of the history and geography of the Roman and Persian Empires;
  3. demonstrate, by way of coursework, awareness of some significant regional and chronological differences in military architecture, equipment and army organisation;
  4. demonstrate, by way of coursework, bibliographical research skills to enable them to find independently additional information on aspects of the archaeology and history of the armies of Rome and Persia;
  5. demonstrate, by way of coursework, the ability to assess the effectiveness of various military installations, whether on their own or in combination with others, taking into account all evidence they can reasonably be expected to know of, such as architecture, strength of garrisons, weapons and armour likely to be at their disposal, common defensive and offensive strategies, geography and topography.
Reading List
Bishop, M.C. and Coulston, J.C.N., 2006 Roman Military Equipment, 2nd edn, Oxford.
Blockley, R.C., 1992 East Roman Foreign Policy, Leeds.
Breeze, D., 2011 The Frontiers of Imperial Rome, Barnsley.
Dodgson, M.H. and Lieu, S.N.C., 1991 The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars (AD 226-363), London and New York.
Fischer, T., 2019 The Army of the Roman Emperors, Oxford.
Greatrex, G. and Lieu, S.N.C., 2002 The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars (AD 363-630), London.
Johnson, A., 1983 Roman Forts of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD in Britain and the German Provinces, London.
Johnson S., 1983 Late Roman Fortifications, London.
Le Bohec, Y., 1994 The Imperial Roman Army, London.
Sarantis, A. and Christie, N. (eds), 2013 War and Warfare in Late Antiquity, Leiden.
Sauer, E., Omrani Rekavandi, H., Wilkinson, T., Nokandeh, J. et al. 2013. Persia's Imperial Power in Late Antiquity, Oxford.
Sauer, E., Nokandeh, J., Omrani Rekavandi, H. et al. 2022 Ancient Arms Race, Oxford. [NB: This book has only just been published, but will hopefully be available by autumn.]
Shahbazi, A.S. 1987. "Army i. Pre-Islamic Iran", Encyclopædia Iranica 2: 489-99.
Southern P. and Dixon, K.R., 1996 The Late Roman Army, London.
Webster G. 1985 The Roman Imperial Army, 3rd edn, London.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Eberhard Sauer
Tel: (0131 6)50 3587
Course secretaryMiss Sara Dennison
Tel: (0131 6)50 2501
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