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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Constantinople: The History of a Medieval Megalopolis from Constantine the Great to Suleyman the Magnificent (PGHC11438)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryConstantinople - variously hailed as the 'New Rome', the 'New Jerusalem', the 'Queen of Cities' - was the largest and most splendid city of medieval Christendom into the early thirteenth century, visualised by the majestic dome of the city's main church, Emperor Justinian's Church of the Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia. While the city had been besieged many times previously, its massive walls were only breached for the first time in 1204, when the Crusaders conquered the Byzantine capital for half a century, and then again, for a final time, in 1453, when its fall equalled the ultimate collapse of the long-living Eastern Roman / Byzantine empire. This course traces the four life cycles of this medieval megalopolis, from Constantine and Justinian's late antique city via its middle (c. 750 - 1204) and late Byzantine (1261 - 1453) incarnations to the Ottoman city. It introduces participants to both textual and material sources. All source texts will be read in English translation.
Course description This course aspires students to the history of one of history's most important cities: Byzantium, renamed Constantinople after its refounder, Constantine I, 'the Great', that first Christian emperor, and nowadays known as Istanbul (from Greek eis ten polin), the Turkish capital on the Bosphorus and Sea of Marmara. While it will explore the imperial transition from the Byzantines to the Ottomans over the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, for its main part it shall highlight various aspects in the life of the Byzantine city: from politics and spiritual life - Constantinople housed an enormous number of churches, monasteries, and certainly the largest and holiest relic collection in the world prior to 1204 - via cultural life and schools to more practical issues, such as provisioning this medieval megalopolis (= 'mega-city') with water, grain, vegetables, and meat.

1. The Birth of a Capital: From Constantine to Justinian
2. Circles of Decline and Renewal (626, 766, 1204, 1261, 1453), or: A Short History of Constantinople
3. Material and Textual Sources on Constantinople
4. The New Rome: Politics & Palaces
5. The New Jerusalem: Heavenly Protection for the Queen of Cities
6. Diseases and Disasters: Plagues, Earthquakes & Heavy Winters
7. Provisioning a Capital: Water, Grain & Vegetables, Livestock, Trade
8. Schools & Theatra: Constantinople as a Hub of Learning
9. Ceremonial, Public Spectacles, and Processions
10. Sacred Topography and Spiritual Life in the Later Centuries
11. The Early Ottoman City: Imperial Transitions from Mehmet the Conqueror to Suleyman the Magnificent
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 80 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) In the tutorial, an oral presentation of ca. 30 minutes introducing a monument, event, or source accompanied by a handout and slides (20%)
A written research-led essay of max. 5,000 words (80%)
Feedback Via regular classroom discussions; students will be offered detailed feedback on their oral presentations and written essays.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate a detailed and critical command of the sources of the late antique, medieval and early modern history of Contantinople
  2. analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship, primary source materials, and conceptual approaches considered in the course
  3. understand and apply specialised research or professional skills, techniques and practices to the variety of primary source material (medieval texts of different genres; material evidence: art, architecture, archaeology; coins; seals) considered in the course
  4. develop and sustain original scholarly arguments in oral and written form, by independently formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence considered in the course, and demonstrate originality and independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers; and a considerable degree of autonomy
  5. conduct a sustained individual enquiry into a particular aspect of the topic.
Reading List
1. Bassett, S. (2004) The Urban Image of Late Antique Constantinople (Cambridge)
2. Dagron, G. (1984a) Naissance d'une capitale: Constantinople et ses institutions de 330 a 451 (Paris)
3. Dagron, G. (1984b) Constantinople imaginaire: etudes sur le recueil des 'Patria' (Paris)
4. Grig, L. and Kelly, G. (eds) Two Romes: From Rome to Constantinople (Oxford - New York)
5. Hatlie, P. (2007) The Monks and Monastries of Constantinople, ca. 350 - 850 (Cambridge)
6. Magdalino, P. (2007) Studies on the History and Topography of Byzantine Constantinople
7. Mango, C. and Dagron G. (eds) (1995) Constantinople and its Hinterland: Papers from the Twenty-seventh Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Oxford, April 1993 (Aldershot)
8. Mullett, M. (1984) 'Aristocracy and Patronage in the Literary Circles of Comnenian Constantinople', in Angold, M. (ed.), The Byzantine Aristocracy, IX-XIII Centuries (Oxford), 173 - 201
9. Necipoglu, G. (1991) Architecture, Ceremonial and Power: The Topkapi Palace in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Cambridge, Mass.)
10. Necipoglu, N. (ed.) (2001) Byzantine Constantiople: Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life (Leiden)
11. Ousterhout, R. G. (1999) Master Builders of Byzantium (Princeton)
12. Talbot, A.M. (1993) 'The Restauration of Constantinople under Michael VIII', Dumbarton Oaks Papers 47: 243 - 61
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills In addition to the course specific skills that the students will acquire, they will also show through the assessed pieces of work and the presentation that they are required to give in Semester 1:
- Enhancement of written and oral communication skills
- Refinement of observational skills
- Ability to research defined topics independently
- Library research skills
- Visual memory skills
- Presentational skills
- Analytical skills relating to analysis of primary and secondary evidence
Course organiserProf Niels Gaul
Tel: (0131 6)50 3776
Course secretaryMrs Shannon McMillan
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