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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Ancient History

Undergraduate Course: Ammianus Marcellinus and the Roman Empire of the Fourth Century (ANHI10099)

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
SummaryBy far the most detailed account of the late Roman state and its emperors comes from the history of Ammianus Marcellinus, completed in ca. 390 and covering in the surviving books the years AD 353 to 378 and the emperors Constantius II, Julian, Jovian, Valentinian I, and Valens. This course focuses on an in-depth study of Ammianus' work and the Roman world he describes.
Course description The course offers an in-depth study of a historian notable both for brilliant writing and his acute and tendentious perspective on a crucial period of Roman history. Ammianus Marcellinus' Res Gestae originally covered the history of the Roman empire from the accession of Nerva onwards, but only the books covering his own times (AD 353-378) survive. Ammianus' work is unique, but he himself exemplifies the diversity and mobility of the international elite of the Roman empire post-Constantine: a pagan serving under Christian emperors, a Greek-speaker who wrote a Latin history, a Syrian who travelled throughout the Roman world as a high ranking officer and retired to Rome. Thanks to Ammianus, the history of the third quarter of the fourth century AD is one of the best attested periods of Roman history, and the course will explore both what Ammianus can tell us about the Roman world of his time and how he can mislead us. The course will provide insights into themes including the workings of the late Roman state, the Christianisation of Roman society, and the place of classical literature and historical memory in Roman identity. The course will develop students' knowledge of a fascinating period and their skills in political and social history and in reading elaborate literary texts in their historical context.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students must have progressed to Honours. Transformation of the Roman World ANHI08015 OR Past and Present ANHI08014 are recommended but not necessary.
Additional Costs They will need to buy the Loeb edition of Ammianus (ca. £60 new), and may wish to buy Hamilton's Penguin translation (ca. £10 new). In future iterations these will be replaced by the Landmark Ammianus Marcellinus (ed. M. Kulikowski, tr. G. Kelly).
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should usually have at least 3 courses in Classics or Ancient/ early Medieval History at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Show understanding of the workings of high politics, social relations, religious adherence, and literary culture in the mid-late fourth century, as understood through the work of Ammianus Marcellinus.
  2. Show understanding of Ammianus Marcellinus as a writer within the contexts of Latin and Greek historical writing and of the literature of his own time.
  3. Show critical understanding of Ammianus as a historical source, making comparison to other textual, epigraphic, and archaeological sources.
  4. Write a research-led, argument-driven essay.
Reading List
J.C. Rolfe, Ammianus Marcellinus (Cambridge MA 1935-1939)

W. Hamilton with A. Wallace-Haddrill, Ammianus Marcellinus: The Later Roman Empire

T.D. Barnes, Ammianus Marcellinus and the Representation of Historical Reality (Ithaca, 1998)

J. den Boeft, J.W. Drijvers, D. den Hengst and H.C. Teitler, Philological and Historical Commentary on Ammianus Marcellinus XX-XXXI (12 vols, Groningen/ Leiden, 1987-2018)

J. den Boeft, J.W. Drijvers, D. den Hengst and H.C. Teitler (eds), Ammianus after Julian (Leiden, 2007)

A.H.M. Jones, J.R. Martindale, and J. Morris, The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, AD 260-395 (Cambridge, 1971)

M. Hanaghan and D. Woods (eds) Ammianus Marcellinus: From Soldier to Author (Leiden, forthcoming 2022)

G.A.J. Kelly, Ammianus Marcellinus: The Allusive Historian (Cambridge, 2008)

J.F. Matthews, The Roman Empire of Ammianus (London, 1989)

A.J. Ross, Ammianus' Julian (Oxford, 2017)

G. Sabbah, La méthode d'Ammien Marcellin (Paris, 1978)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills On completion of the course, students will have developed their abilities in historical analysis; in the critical and contextualised reading of texts; in understanding the role of literary texts and historiography in the study of political and social history; in written and verbal communication; and in conducting independent research.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Gavin Kelly
Tel: (0131 6)50 3581
Course secretaryMiss Sara Dennison
Tel: (0131 6)50 2501
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