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

Postgraduate Course: Ancient Superpowers: The Armies and Military Monuments of Rome and Persia (PGHC11600)

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
SummaryThis 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.
Course description 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 Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Ancient Superpowers: The Armies and Military Monuments of Rome and Persia (ANHI10055)
Other requirements Students should usually have at least 3 courses in Classics-related subject matter (at least 2 of which should be on the archaeology and/or history or the Roman Empire between the 1st century BC and the 7th century AD and/or the Persian Empire under the Parthian and/or Sasanian dynasty). They should have passed these courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). (Note that it is perfectly sufficient to have taken 2 courses on the Roman Empire above, but courses on the archaeology and/or history of the Partho-Sasanian Empire are also eligible.) Other relevant courses may be considered at the course organiser¿s discretion.
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 on the archaeology and/or history or the Roman Empire between the 1st century BC and the 7th century AD and/or the Persian Empire under the Parthian and/or Sasanian dynasty, as specified above) 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. **
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 11, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
5,000 word research essay (100%)
Feedback Students will be invited to give an oral presentation on their essay topic. Any students with adjustments who cannot give an oral presentation are invited to submit a written summary instead. These presentations/written summaries will not be assessed, but students will receive feedback from the course organiser and their peers which they can take advantage of when producing the written version of their essays. Feedback will be limited to some key points, and students cannot submit or read out the entire essays in advance.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. explain some important aspects of the armies and military installations, such as forts and linear barriers, of the Roman Empire and/or Parthian/Sasanian Persia;
  2. use bibliographical research skills to enable them to find independently additional information on aspects of the archaeology and history of the armies of Rome and/or Persia;
  3. assess some of following: the effectiveness of various military installations, weapons and armour, 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, the strength of garrisons, the materials and design of weapons and armour and defensive and offensive strategies.
Reading List
Bishop, M.C. and Coulston, J.C.N., 2006 Roman Military Equipment, 2nd edn, Oxford.

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.

Webster G. 1985 The Roman Imperial Army, 3rd edn, London.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Assimilate, process and communicate a wide range of information from a variety of sources.

Process and critically assess information derived from historical and archaeological research, utilising theoretical and methodological knowledge and skills specific to the subject area.

Construct and present a coherent argument driven by analysis of the primary evidence.

Analyse, assimilate and deploy critically a range of secondary literature relevant and related to the student's individual research subject.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Eberhard Sauer
Tel: (0131 6)50 3587
Course secretary
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