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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Undergraduate Course: The Seventh Century: The Transformation of East Rome and the Rise of Islam (IMES10104)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryJointly organised with Dr Yannis Stouraitis

After centuries of military and ideological confrontation between the East Roman empire and the Persian Sassanian empire, the world order of Late Antiquity was changed beyond recognition by an outsider on the frontier of those empires with the rise of Islam and the development of the caliphate. In less than a century, the early caliphs, successors of the prophet Muhammad, brought Sassanian rule to an end and conquered more than half of the Mediterranean. In this course, students will be invited to study this key moment in history following the development of a new world religion, Islam, as much as the survival of East Rome. The internal development of both empires will be examined as well as their military, cultural and ideological interaction and competition.
Course description The past decades have witnessed a boom in the historical research on the end of Late Antiquity and the rise of Islam. The transformation of the East Roman world - also known as the Byzantine empire - as the caliphate developed as a major religious and political force will be looked at in this course, in geopolitical and socio-political terms between the late-sixth and to the mid-eighth century. The developments of this period, known as the long seventh century, and the changes that the East Roman world underwent cannot be properly understood without studying two major phenomena: first, the rise of Islam, and the consequent establishment on the Near East of the Muslim imperial cultural sphere, second, the Slavic settlements in the Balkan peninsula. Both these phenomena had a major impact on the Byzantine Empire, contributing extensively to its territorial, administrative, demographic and cultural transformation. On the other side, as Islam became one of the major religious, political and military force of the seventh century. Its formation can be properly understood when looking at its interactions with the conquered people as much as through its competition with the Christian Byzantine empire.
Students will get the opportunity to engage with this very dynamic field of historical research and to familiarize themselves with the challenging primary material documenting this period. As contemporary narratives for the study of seventh century Arabia, where Islam developed, and of the Late Roman empire are scarce, students will be able to tackle the methodologies put forward by historians to reconstruct the events of this period. Texts in a variety of languages (Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Persian) as well as documentary (papyri, coins, seals, inscriptions, graffiti) and archaeological sources will be utilized in the seminars.
The course will consist of a 2-hour seminar each week. Students will learn to engage critically with both the latest research in the field and the primary source material in translation or in the original language depending on their linguistic expertise. Each week a different compulsory reading (primary or secondary source) will be assigned to each student or to a group of students, to be read in advance and discussed in class. Participation in the weekly class-discussion is a requirement for this course. UG students will be invited to study a longer passage from a primary source (first assessment - 25%) in preparation for their essay (second assessment - 65%).
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain and analyse the transformation of East Roman and the rise of Islam by drawing on scholarly debates and primary material.
  2. Analyse the principal modes of interaction between the two spheres and assess and evaluate the main factors influencing them.
  3. Evaluate the different disciplinary approaches to the study of the seventh century, and how they have changed in the past decades.
  4. Express arguments orally and in effective academic prose using the appropriate theoretical approach and primary material from across Byzantine and Islamic studies.
Reading List
Haldon, J. The Empire that would not die: The paradox of Eastern Roman survival, 640-740. Cambridge-London: Harvard University Press, 2016.
Howard-Johnston, J. Witnesses to a world crisis: Historians and histories of the Middle East in the seventh century, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Hoyland, R. Seeing Islam as others saw it: A survey and evaluation of Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian writings on early Islam. Princeton: Darwin Press, 1997.
Webb, P. Imagining the Arabs: Arab identity and the rise of Islam. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016-2017.
Zuckerman, C. ed. Constructing the seventh century, Paris: Centre d'histoire et de civilisation de Byzance, 2013.

Borrut, A. and P.M. Cobb eds. Umayyad legacies: Medieval memories from Syria to Spain. Leiden: Brill, 2010.
Borrut, A. and F. Donner eds. Christians and others in the Umayyad state. Chicago: The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago Press, 2016.
Brubaker L., Haldon J. Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, c. 680-850: A history, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Crone, Patricia. Slaves on horses: The evolution of the Islamic polity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Crone, P. Hinds, M. God's Caliph: Religious authority in the first centuries of Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Curta Fl. The Making of the Slavs: history and archaeology of the Lower Danube Region, ca.500-700, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Delattre, A. and M. Legendre, and P. Sijpesteijn eds, Authority and control in the countryside, From Antiquity to Islam in the Mediterranean and Near East (6th-10th Century), Leiden: Brill, 2018.
Donner, F. Narratives of Islamic origins, The beginning of Islamic historical writing. Princeton: Darwin Press, 1998.
Donner, F. M. Muhammad and the believers at the origins of Islam, New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.
George, A. and A Marsham eds. Power, patronage, and memory in Early Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.
Gnasso, A. and E. Intagliata, T. MacMaster, B. Morris eds. The long seventh century: Continuity and discontinuity in an age of transition. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2015.
Haldon J., Conrad L.I. eds. Elites Old and New in the Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East, Princeton: Darwin Press, 2004.
Haldon, J. ed. Money, power and politics in early Islamic Syria: A review of current debates. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.
Kaegi W. Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Kaegi, W. Muslim Expansion and Byzantine collapse in North Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Levy-Rubin, M. Non-Muslims in the early Islamic empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Madelung, W. The succession to Muhammad: A study of the early caliphate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Marsham, A. Rituals of Islamic monarchy: Accession and succession in the first Muslim empire. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009.
Sizgorich, T. Violence and belief in Late Antiquity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.
Stathakopoulos D. 'Crime and Punishment: The Plague in the Byzantine Empire, 541-749,' in: L. K. Little ed., Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541-750, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 99-118.
Stoyanov Y. Defenders and Enemies of the True Cross. The Sasanian Conquest of Jerusalem in 414 and Byzantine Ideology of Anti-Persian Warfare, Vienna: Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2011.
Tannous, J. The making of the Medieval Middle East: Religion, society, and simple believers. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Academic writing and referencing
- Critical analysis, synthesis of information and formulating evidence-based response to issues connected with the field under study
- Communication skills
- Time management
KeywordsLate Antiquity,seventh century,Islam,caliphate,Byzantine empire,Late Roman empire
Course organiserDr Marie Legendre
Tel: (01316)51 7112
Course secretaryMrs Anne Budo
Tel: (0131 6)50 4161
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