Week 21

Week 21: Thursday, March 30, 2017
Septimius Severus

From 98 AD to 190 AD there were four emperors. From 235 to 284 there were twenty emperors. This shocking contrast in imperial stability and instability tells us that something happened around the year 200 AD and that the empire was never the same again. Whatever stability was built into the imperial system by Augustus which survived even the shenanigans of Caligula and Nero, did not survive long the death of Marcus Aurelius. The one emperor who did establish some stability in the period of chaos was Septimius Severus. Septimius Severus was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the cursus honorum—the customary succession of offices—under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors.

REQUIRED READING

Eusebius (260 - 340 AD) is the most important historian of the early church whose work survives. His history from the beginning of with Jesus Christ in Bk I, goes to our period in the last chapters. We are most interested in those last chapters on the age of Diocletian and Constantine. You may want to start out reading his Book I and then skip forward to the later chapters on Diocletian and Constantine. For this first week, Book 7 would be a good introduction on the spreading heresies. Next week there are Books 8 and 9 on Diocletian. And the following week Book 10 on the triumph of Constantine.

Eusebius,

The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine,

G. A Williamson, trans.,

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0140445358

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK
FOR THE WHOLE YEAR OF HISTORY OF ROME

You will all want one book to use as an introduction and as a kind of reference book to search out answers and maps and other study helps for this year of study on ancient Rome. I have searched for such a book, and although there are newer ones than this classic by one of the truly great experts on Rome, there really is nothing better. This is a one-volume, basic introduction to the whole subject of our year of study. It covers the period from the Republic to the Decline and Fall. So I encourage you to get a copy of this book. It is out of print so you will have to sort through the used book options but there are many copies available as of August, 2013. Don't buy the "new" from the UK since I have no idea whether this is a quality reprint or not. So go get a used hardcover for $10.00. At that price amazon says "very good" so that's a great deal. A used hardcover is more likely to have endured in good shape than a paperback. But we may exhaust the supplies of used hardcovers so donut be afraid of a used paperback if the seller says it is in excellent condition. There are many used paperback copies that they describe as "like new," so there is nothing wrong with that.

Michael Grant,

History of Rome,

Prentice Hall,

ISBN 0023456108

About the Author :

Michael Grant (1914-2004) was a historian whose over forty publications on ancient Rome and Greece popularised the classical and early Christian world. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, served in intelligence and as a diplomat during the Second World War, and afterwards became deputy director of the British Council's European division, when he also published his first book. He later returned to academia, teaching at Cambridge and Edinburgh, and serving as Vice Chancellor at the University of Khartoum and at Queen's University, Belfast.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK FOR SPRING QUARTER:

Peter Brown,

The World of Late Antiquity,

W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (March 17, 1989),

ISBN 0393958035

This remarkable study in social and cultural change explains how and why the Late Antique world, between ca. 150 and ca. 750 A.D., came to differ from "Classical civilization." These centuries, as the author demonstrates, were the era in which the most deeply rooted of ancient institutions disappeared for all time. By 476 the Roman empire had vanished from western Europe; by 655 the Persian empire had vanished from the Near East. Mr. Brown, Professor of History at Princeton University, examines these changes and men's reactions to them, but his account shows that the period was also one of outstanding new beginnings and defines the far-reaching impact both of Christianity on Europe and of Islam on the Near East. The result is a lucid answer to a crucial question in world history; how the exceptionally homogeneous Mediterranean world of ca. 200 A.D. became divided into the three mutually estranged societies of the Middle Ages: Catholic Western Europe, Byzantium, and Islam. We still live with the results of these contrasts.

PART TWO: DVD

Tonight we will view the last part of the excellent DVD called "Engineering an Empire" produced by the History Channel in 2006. In this last section, we will revisit the great building projects of the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian, Septimius Severus and Caracalla. We have talked about some of these projects, but this video recreation, especially the animated demonstrations of construction techniques are excellent.

22

Week 22: Thursday, April 6, 2017
Diocletian

Diocletian

Diocletian was Roman emperor from 284 to 305. Born to a family of low status in the Roman province of Dalmatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become cavalry commander to the Emperor Carus. After the deaths of Carus and his son Numerian on campaign in Persia, Diocletian was proclaimed emperor. The title was also claimed by Carus' other surviving son, Carinus, but Diocletian defeated him in the Battle of the Margus. Diocletian's reign stabilized the empire and marks the end of the Crisis of the Third Century. He appointed fellow officer Maximian as augustus, co-emperor, in 285. Diocletian delegated further on 1 March 293, appointing Galerius and Constantius as caesars, junior co-emperors. Under this 'tetrarchy', or "rule of four", each emperor would rule over a quarter-division of the empire. Diocletian secured the empire's borders and purged it of all threats to his power. He defeated the Sarmatians and Carpi during several campaigns between 285 and 299, the Alamanni in 288, and usurpers in Egypt between 297 and 298. Galerius, aided by Diocletian, campaigned successfully against Sassanid Persia, the empire's traditional enemy. In 299 he sacked their capital, Ctesiphon. Diocletian led the subsequent negotiations and achieved a lasting and favorable peace. (The above from Wikipedia.)

READING:

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part VIII, Chapter 19, "The Supreme State and the Church."

REQUIRED READING

Eusebius (260 - 340 AD) is the most important historian of the early church whose work survives. His history from the beginning of Christianity with Jesus Christ in Bk I, goes forward to our period in the last chapters. We are most interested in those last chapters on the age of Diocletian and Constantine. You may want to start out reading his Book I and then skip forward to the later chapters on Diocletian and Constantine. For this first week, Book 7 would be a good introduction on the spreading heresies. Next week there are Books 8 and 9 on Diocletian. And the following week Book 10 on the triumph of Constantine.

Eusebius,

The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine,

G. A Williamson, trans.,

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0140445358

PART TWO: PICTURES

Diocletian's Palace at Split, Croatia. Diocletian's Palace is a building in Split, Croatia, that was built by the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD. Diocletian built the massive palace in preparation for his retirement on 1 May 305 AD. It lies in a bay on the south side of a short peninsula running out from the Dalmatian coast, four miles from Salona, the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. The terrain slopes gently seaward with low limestone ridges running east to west with marl in the clefts between them.

DiocletianPalace

23

Week 23: Thursday, April 13, 2017
Constantine the Great

Constantine

Constantine the Great (Latin: Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus; 27 February 27, 272 to May 22, 337), also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Constantine was the son of Flavius Valerius Constantius, a Roman army officer, and his consort Helena. His father became Caesar, the deputy emperor in the west in 293. Constantine was sent east, where he rose through the ranks to become a military tribune under the emperors Diocletian and Galerius. In 305, Constantius was raised to the rank of Augustus, senior western emperor, and Constantine was recalled west to campaign under his father in Britannia. Acclaimed as emperor by the army after his father's death in 306, Constantine emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against the emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of both west and east by 324. As emperor, Constantine enacted many administrative, financial, social, and military reforms to strengthen the empire. The government was restructured and civil and military authority separated. A new gold coin, the solidus, was introduced to combat inflation. It would become the standard for Byzantine and European currencies for more than a thousand years. The first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine played an influential role in the proclamation of the Edict of Milan, which decreed religious tolerance throughout the empire. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, at which the Nicene Creed was professed by Christians. In military matters, the Roman army was reorganized to consist of mobile field units and garrison soldiers capable of countering internal threats and barbarian invasions. Constantine pursued successful campaigns against the tribes on the Roman frontiers, ”the Franks, the Alamanni, the Goths, and the Sarmatiansâ, even resettling territories abandoned by his predecessors during the turmoil of the previous century. (The above from Wikipedia.)

READING:

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part VIII, Chapter 19, "The Supreme State and the Church."

REQUIRED READING

Eusebius (260 - 340 AD) is the most important historian of the early church whose work survives. His history from the beginning of Christianity with Jesus Christ in Bk I, goes forward to our period in the last chapters. We are most interested in those last chapters on the age of Diocletian and Constantine. This week: Book 10 on the triumph of Constantine.

Eusebius,

The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine,

G. A Williamson, trans.,

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0140445358

RECOMMENDED READING

David Potter,

Constantine, The Emperor,

Oxford University Press, 2012,

ISBN 0199755868

REVIEWS:

"David Potter's Constantine the Emperor is a fresh look by a veteran scholar at one of the most pivotal reigns in Western history. Almost all studies of this emperor take his conversion to Christianity as their starting point. Potter broadens the focus to show a shrewd field commander who can diagnose and exploit his opponents' weaknesses and an able ruler with a deeply held belief that his 'job' committed him to protecting the weak and ensuring fairness for all his subjects." --Harold Drake, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Crisp in its prose and comprehensive in its coverage, Constantine the Emperor grounds its much mythologized subject in the solid realities of imperial governance." --Noel Lenski, University of Colorado

"This is a penetrating and original analysis, closely based on contemporary evidence, of the step-by-step evolution of Constantine's role as Emperor, and of his conception of that role. Within that wider framework, the nature of Constantine's commitment to Christianity, and of his self-representation as a Christian, is carefully re-evaluated." --Sir Fergus Millar, University of Oxford

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK FOR SPRING QUARTER:

Peter Brown,

The World of Late Antiquity,

W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (March 17, 1989),

ISBN 0393958035

This remarkable study in social and cultural change explains how and why the Late Antique world, between ca. 150 and ca. 750 A.D., came to differ from "Classical civilization." These centuries, as the author demonstrates, were the era in which the most deeply rooted of ancient institutions disappeared for all time. By 476 the Roman empire had vanished from western Europe; by 655 the Persian empire had vanished from the Near East. Mr. Brown, Professor of History at Princeton University, examines these changes and men's reactions to them, but his account shows that the period was also one of outstanding new beginnings and defines the far-reaching impact both of Christianity on Europe and of Islam on the Near East. The result is a lucid answer to a crucial question in world history; how the exceptionally homogeneous Mediterranean world of ca. 200 A.D. became divided into the three mutually estranged societies of the Middle Ages: Catholic Western Europe, Byzantium, and Islam. We still live with the results of these contrasts.

PART TWO: PICTURES

The life and work of Empress Helen: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Rome.

Archofconstantine

24

Week 24: Thursday, April 20, 2017
Constantine and the Christians

David Potter in his book on Constantine, Constantine, The Emperor:

The Roman Emperor Constantine changed the world. For many millions of people across this planet, an institution that he introduced and promoted has become a central part of their lives; they use or hear words that he approved. In the twenty-first century, Constantine is best known as the Roman emperor who converted to Christianity and in so doing made it possible for Christianity to become a world religion. Without Constantine, Christianity probably would not occupy the place that it does today. Without him it is unlikely that Christianity would have emerged from the mass of conflicting, if often quite similar, belief systems coexisting in the empire into which he was born. . . . the immense impact of Christian thought upon the behaviors and thinking of the many generations who came after Constantine makes it very difficult to imagine a world without it. When he was born around AD 282, it would have been far easier to imagine a world in which Christianity had a marginal place.

At the right you will find a copy of the Nicene Creed adopted at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and amended at the Council of Constantinople in 381. The text here provided uses the language that is used in almost all the various denominations in both Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity. The Roman Catholic church has just recently adopted a new word, "consubstantial," which I think is not helpful, since no one suggested using this word in 325.  Why complicate the problems of a public creed by introducing a new word 1700 years after the adoption of the original creed? It makes no sense to me. (Note: WHF)

READING:

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part VIII, Chapter 19, "The Supreme State and the Church."

REQUIRED READING

This week: Book 10 on the triumph of Constantine.

Eusebius,

The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine,

G. A Williamson, trans.,

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0140445358

RECOMMENDED READING

David Potter,

Constantine, The Emperor,

Oxford University Press, 2012,

ISBN 0199755868

REVIEWS:

"David Potter's Constantine the Emperor is a fresh look by a veteran scholar at one of the most pivotal reigns in Western history. Almost all studies of this emperor take his conversion to Christianity as their starting point. Potter broadens the focus to show a shrewd field commander who can diagnose and exploit his opponents' weaknesses and an able ruler with a deeply held belief that his 'job' committed him to protecting the weak and ensuring fairness for all his subjects." --Harold Drake, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Crisp in its prose and comprehensive in its coverage, Constantine the Emperor grounds its much mythologized subject in the solid realities of imperial governance." --Noel Lenski, University of Colorado

"This is a penetrating and original analysis, closely based on contemporary evidence, of the step-by-step evolution of Constantine's role as Emperor, and of his conception of that role. Within that wider framework, the nature of Constantine's commitment to Christianity, and of his self-representation as a Christian, is carefully re-evaluated." --Sir Fergus Millar, University of Oxford

PART TWO: PICTURES

The earliest churches of Rome, built in the immediate aftermath of the Edict of Milan in 313 which now permitted the construction of public houses of worship for the Christians and other non-Roman religions. (Ex: Mithra)

Some of the churches:

  1. Santa Pudenziana.
  2. Santa Maria Maggiore
  3. Santa Prassede
  4. San Clemente

25

Week 25: Thursday, April 27, 2017
Athanasius in Alexandria

Athanasius

Athanasius of Alexandria was Bishop of Alexandria for 45 years from 328 to 373 AD. During this almost half a century, he fought almost alone at times, to preserve his understanding of the orthodox or "correct" interpretation of the nature of Jesus of Nazareth. During this same period, a new interpretation, a dangerously beguiling new interpretation arose in his own city developed by another great Christian leader, Arius. These two men led an international debate that took over every discussion every decision within the church during the later fourth century. Now when we look back, Athanasius seems Herculean in his resolute conviction about the Trinitarian nature of God and the Son of God. This is our subject this week and we will also look at Athanasius' city of Alexandria, second only to Rome in the development of Christian thinking in the fourth century.

RECOMMENDED READING

St Athanasius,

The Incarnation of the Word,

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013,

ISBN 1490388370

Here is a summary of the importance of The Incarnation of the Word:

On the Incarnation of the Word is a classic work of Orthodox theology written by noted bishop of Alexandria, St. Athanasius. In this apologetic treatise, St. Athanasius defends the incarnation of Christ against the derision of 4th century non-believers. St Athanasius explains why God chose to approach his fallen people in human form. He states, "The death of all was consummated in the Lord's body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished." St. Athanasius resolves the paradox of the Incarnate by relying heavily on both Scripture and the teachings of the early Church. St. Athanasius also answers several objections to his account, many of which are still raised against Christians today by those outside the Church. On the Incarnation of the Word was highly recommended by modern writer and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, who suggested that contemporary Christian audiences could benefit from reading more ancient classics. Indeed, though St. Athanasius wrote this text in the 4th century, his style is easy to follow and his concepts are of irreplaceable worth.

Emmalon Davis, Christian Classics Ethereal Library Staff Writer

26

Week 26: Thursday, May 4, 2017
Ambrose in Milan

Ambrose

Ambrosius, better known in English as Saint Ambrose (ca. 340 to 397), was an archbishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was consular prefect of Liguria and Emilia, headquartered in Milan, before being made bishop of Milan by popular acclamation in 374. Ambrose was a staunch opponent of Arianism. Ambrose is traditionally credited with promoting "antiphonal chant", a method of chanting where one side of the choir alternately responds to the other; and the composition of Veni redemptor gentium (a Christmas hymn). Ambrose was one of the four original doctors of the Church, and is the patron saint of Milan. He is notable for his influence on St. Augustine. (The above is taken from Wikipedia article on Ambrose.)

Our evening on Ambrose will allow us to explore the city of Milan. By the middle of the fourth century, Milan had become the most exciting, the most progressive, the most challenging city in Italy. Rome had been replaced by the ancient northern city whose roots went back to pre-Roman Celtic times.

There remains a considerable amount of Roman Milan to be seen during a visit to the city.

RECOMMENDED READING

Saint Augustine,

The Confessions,

Oxford World Classics,

ISBN 0199537828

PART TWO: PICTURES

A visit to Roman Milan. Here below you see the Baptistry where Ambrose baptized Augustine in 387 AD. The Baptistry is now under the Medieval Cathedral of Milan, but like so much of Roman Milan, it is preserved and allows us to appreciate the greatness of the Milan of Ambrose.

Baptistrymilan

27

Week 27: Thursday, May 11, 2017
Galla Placidia

GallaPlacidia

Aelia Galla Placidia (392 to November 27, 450), was the daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, and a major force in Roman politics for a half century. She was married to Ataulf, King of the Goths, in an attempt by the Roman government to buy peace for Rome from the Barbarians. When Ataulf died in 415, she was stranded within the hostile Gothic community and almost killed. Upon her return to Roman territory she was married to Constantius III and became Empress from 417 until Constantius' death in 422. Upon the death of her husband, she became the Regent for her young son Emperor Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437. But even after he officially was crowned Emperor, his mother was the most important influence in the government of Valentinian. The story of her life in Rome and Milan and in the south of France is a great history of the relationship between the Romans and the Barbarian peoples during the last years of the fourth century and the early years of the fifth century.

READING:

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part IX, Chapter 20, "The Fall of the Western Empire."

PART TWO: Pictures

Galla Placidia in Milan, Rome and Ravenna.

Here below is a photo of the Mausoleum built in Ravenna for her tomb.

Gallamausaleum

28

Week 28: Thursday, May 18, 2017
Theodoric the Great

Theodoric2

Theoderic the Great (454 to 526), often referred to as Theodoric, was king of the Germanic Ostrogoths, ruler of Italy, regent of the Visigoths, and a viceroy of the Eastern Roman Empire. His Gothic name Þiudareiks translates into "people-king" or "ruler of the people". Theoderic was born in Pannonia in 454, after his people had defeated the Huns at the Battle of Nedao. His father was King Theodemir, a Germanic Amali nobleman, and his mother was Ereleuva. Theoderic grew up as a hostage in Constantinople, receiving a privileged education, and he succeeded his father as leader of the Pannonian Ostrogoths in 473. Settling his people in lower Moesia, Theoderic came into conflict with Thracian Ostrogoths led by Theodoric Strabo, whom he eventually supplanted, uniting the peoples in 484. Byzantine Emperor Zeno subsequently gave him the title of Patrician and the office of Magister militum (master of the soldiers), and even appointed him as Roman Consul. Seeking further gains, Theoderic frequently ravaged the provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire, eventually threatening Constantinople itself. In 488, Emperor Zeno ordered Theoderic to overthrow the German Foederatus Odoacer, who had likewise been made patrician and even King of Italy, but who had since betrayed Zeno, supporting the rebellious Leontius. After a victorious three-year war, Theoderic killed Odoacer with his own hands, settled his 100,000 to 200,000 people in Italy, and founded an Ostrogothic Kingdom based in Ravenna. While he promoted separation between the Arian Ostrogoths and the Roman population, Theoderic stressed the importance of racial harmony,though intermarriage was outlawed. Seeking to restore the glory of Ancient Rome, he ruled Italy in its most peaceful and prosperous period since Valentinian, until his death in 526. Memories of his reign made him a hero of German legend as Dietrich von Bern. (The above from Wikipedia.)

PART TWO: PICTURES

Theodoric in Ravenna.

Here below you see a photograph of Theodoric's tomb in Ravenna, the single most elaborate and influential work of architecture of the "Gothic" period of  the late Roman Imperial period. It was a model for Charlemagne's cathedral in Aachen, Germany.

From Wikipedia: The current structure of the mausoleum is divided into two decagonal orders, one above the other; both are made of Istria stone. Its roof is a single 300–ton Istrian stone, 10 meters in diameter. A niche leads down to a room that was probably a chapel for funeral liturgies; a stair leads to the upper floor. Located in the center of the floor is a circular porphyry stone grave, in which Theoderic was buried. His remains were removed during Byzantine rule, when the mausoleum was turned into a Christian oratory. In the late 19th century, silting from a nearby rivulet that had partly submerged the mausoleum was drained and excavated. It was inscribed with seven other "Early Christian Monuments and Mosaics of Ravenna" buildings as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1996. According to the ICOMOS evaluation, "the significance of the mausoleum lies in its Gothic style and decoration, which owe nothing to Roman or Byzantine art, although it makes use of the Roman stone construction technique of opus quadratum, which had been abandoned four centuries before" and in the fact that "it is the only surviving example of a tomb of a king of this period."

Theodorictomb

29

Week 29: Thursday, May 25, 2017
Boethius

Boethius

At the right you see a fifteenth-century printed edition of Boethius' work The Consolation of Philosophy, printed in Ghent in 1485, with this beautiful hand painted rendition of Boethius with Lady Philosophy. This work was the most influential work of philosophy of the whole Late Antiquity period. Boethius was influential as the "Last Roman" or the "Last Classical Philosopher" before the onset of the Dark Ages. Boethius was the last of the bilingual Romans who knew all of the ancient Greek philosophy of Plato and Aristotle and also knew the whole of the Latin philosophical tradition. His greatest service to this tradition was to begin to translate all of Plato and Aristotle into Latin. This project came at a critical moment. The documents of the Greek philosophical tradition were all still available and therefore a scholar like Boethius could still conceivably complete this project if he had the time to do it.

Unfortunately, Boethius' time was short. In 525, he was executed by Theodoric in the mistaken belief that Boethius was plotting against him with the Byzantine emperor. This plot was a fiction and Theodoric lived to regret his stupid action. But for the history of philosophy the early death of Boethius was a tragedy that left the whole of the Medieval period with a truncated idea of what the Greeks had thought about things. It favored Aristotle since it was the work of Aristotle that Boethius managed to translate, and it neglected Plato because most of the Platonic works were not translated by Boethius. They were not translated into Latin until the Renaissance. Boethius is an extraordinary presence in the Middle Ages. Everyone with any education read and treasured The Consolation of Philosophy.

Here is more about Boethius from Wikipedia:

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, commonly called Boethius (c. 480-524 or 525 AD), was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to the ancient and prominent Anicia family, which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after Odoacer deposed the last Western Roman Emperor. Boethius himself entered public life at a young age and was already a senator by the age of 25. He was consul in 510 in the kingdom of the Ostrogoths. In 522 he saw his two sons become consuls. Boethius was imprisoned and eventually executed by King Theodoric the Great, who suspected him of conspiring with the Eastern Roman Empire. While jailed, Boethius composed his Consolation of Philosophy, a philosophical treatise on fortune, death, and other issues. The Consolation became one of the most popular and influential works of the Middle Ages.

REQUIRED READING

Reading Boethius. We will read the whole of The Consolation of Philosophy. It is only about 100 pages and a pleasure to read. Remember this was written while Boethius was in prison awaiting his fate. He had to consider that this might be his last work and therefore he examined his life and what was worth doing and what was worth learning. Therefore it is much more than just a reflection on classical learning and more than that, it is a reflection on the good life and why we are here.

Boethius,

The Consolation of Philosophy,

Oxford Classics, 2008,

ISBN 0199540543

RECOMMENDED READING

John Marenbon,

Boethius,

Oxford University Press, 2003,

ISBN 0195134079

BELOW: Boethius imprisoned, discussing philosophy, as seen in this manuscript illumination by Gregorius of Genoa in 1385.

Boethiusimprisoned

30

Week 30: Thursday, June 1, 2017
Justinian the Great

Justinian

During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the historical Roman Empire. One of the most important figures of late antiquity and the last Roman emperor to speak Latin as a first language,  Justinian's rule constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of the eastern Roman empire. The impact of his administration extended far beyond the boundaries of his time and domain. Justinian's reign is marked by the ambitious but only partly realized renovatio imperii, or "restoration of the Empire". Because of his restoration activities, Justinian has sometimes been called the "last Roman" in modern historiography. This ambition was expressed by the partial recovery of the territories of the defunct western Roman empire. His general, Belisarius, swiftly conquered the Vandal kingdom in North Africa, extending Roman control to the Atlantic Ocean. Subsequently Belisarius, Narses, and other generals conquered the Ostrogothic kingdom, restoring Dalmatia, Sicily, Italy, and Rome to the empire after more than half a century of rule by the Ostrogoths.

(The above excerpted from the Wikipedia article on Justinian)

READING:

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part IX, "The Transformation of Europe."

REQUIRED READING

About the Secret History from Wikipedia: The famous Secret History (Lat. Historia Arcana) was discovered centuries later in the Vatican Library and published by Niccolo Alamanni in 1623 at Lyons. Its existence was already known from the Suda, which referred to it as the Anekdota. The Secret History covers roughly the same years as the first seven books of Procopius' earlier work of history, History of Justinian's Wars and appears to have been written after they were published. Current consensus generally dates it to 550 or 558, or maybe even as late as 562. The Secret History reveals an author who had become deeply disillusioned with the emperor Justinian and his wife, Empress Theodora, as well as Belisarius, his former commander and patron, and Antonina, Belisarius' wife. The anecdotes claim to expose the secret springs of their public actions, as well as the private lives of the emperor, his wife and their entourage. Justinian is portrayed as cruel, venal, prodigal and incompetent; as for Theodora, the reader is treated to the most detailed and titillating portrayals of vulgarity and insatiable lust combined with shrewish and calculating mean-spiritedness.

Procopius,

The Secret History,

translated by G. A. Williamson,

Penguin Classics, new edition, 2007,

ISBN 0140455280

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK
ON JUSTINIAN AND THEODORA

Robert Browning,

Justinian and Theodora,

Thames and Hudson, revised ed. 1987,

ISBN 0500250995

PART TWO: PICTURES

San Vitale at Ravenna

Sanvitale

LAST CLASS OF THE YEAR

All

Week 21: Thu., Mar. 30, 2017
Septimius Severus

From 98 AD to 190 AD there were four emperors. From 235 to 284 there were twenty emperors. This shocking contrast in imperial stability and instability tells us that something happened around the year 200 AD and that the empire was never the same again. Whatever stability was built into the imperial system by Augustus which survived even the shenanigans of Caligula and Nero, did not survive long the death of Marcus Aurelius. The one emperor who did establish some stability in the period of chaos was Septimius Severus. Septimius Severus was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the cursus honorum—the customary succession of offices—under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors.

REQUIRED READING

Eusebius (260 - 340 AD) is the most important historian of the early church whose work survives. His history from the beginning of with Jesus Christ in Bk I, goes to our period in the last chapters. We are most interested in those last chapters on the age of Diocletian and Constantine. You may want to start out reading his Book I and then skip forward to the later chapters on Diocletian and Constantine. For this first week, Book 7 would be a good introduction on the spreading heresies. Next week there are Books 8 and 9 on Diocletian. And the following week Book 10 on the triumph of Constantine.

Eusebius,

The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine,

G. A Williamson, trans.,

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0140445358

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK
FOR THE WHOLE YEAR OF HISTORY OF ROME

You will all want one book to use as an introduction and as a kind of reference book to search out answers and maps and other study helps for this year of study on ancient Rome. I have searched for such a book, and although there are newer ones than this classic by one of the truly great experts on Rome, there really is nothing better. This is a one-volume, basic introduction to the whole subject of our year of study. It covers the period from the Republic to the Decline and Fall. So I encourage you to get a copy of this book. It is out of print so you will have to sort through the used book options but there are many copies available as of August, 2013. Don't buy the "new" from the UK since I have no idea whether this is a quality reprint or not. So go get a used hardcover for $10.00. At that price amazon says "very good" so that's a great deal. A used hardcover is more likely to have endured in good shape than a paperback. But we may exhaust the supplies of used hardcovers so donut be afraid of a used paperback if the seller says it is in excellent condition. There are many used paperback copies that they describe as "like new," so there is nothing wrong with that.

Michael Grant,

History of Rome,

Prentice Hall,

ISBN 0023456108

About the Author :

Michael Grant (1914-2004) was a historian whose over forty publications on ancient Rome and Greece popularised the classical and early Christian world. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, served in intelligence and as a diplomat during the Second World War, and afterwards became deputy director of the British Council's European division, when he also published his first book. He later returned to academia, teaching at Cambridge and Edinburgh, and serving as Vice Chancellor at the University of Khartoum and at Queen's University, Belfast.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK FOR SPRING QUARTER:

Peter Brown,

The World of Late Antiquity,

W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (March 17, 1989),

ISBN 0393958035

This remarkable study in social and cultural change explains how and why the Late Antique world, between ca. 150 and ca. 750 A.D., came to differ from "Classical civilization." These centuries, as the author demonstrates, were the era in which the most deeply rooted of ancient institutions disappeared for all time. By 476 the Roman empire had vanished from western Europe; by 655 the Persian empire had vanished from the Near East. Mr. Brown, Professor of History at Princeton University, examines these changes and men's reactions to them, but his account shows that the period was also one of outstanding new beginnings and defines the far-reaching impact both of Christianity on Europe and of Islam on the Near East. The result is a lucid answer to a crucial question in world history; how the exceptionally homogeneous Mediterranean world of ca. 200 A.D. became divided into the three mutually estranged societies of the Middle Ages: Catholic Western Europe, Byzantium, and Islam. We still live with the results of these contrasts.

PART TWO: DVD

Tonight we will view the last part of the excellent DVD called "Engineering an Empire" produced by the History Channel in 2006. In this last section, we will revisit the great building projects of the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian, Septimius Severus and Caracalla. We have talked about some of these projects, but this video recreation, especially the animated demonstrations of construction techniques are excellent.

Week 22: Thu., Apr. 6, 2017
Diocletian

Diocletian

Diocletian was Roman emperor from 284 to 305. Born to a family of low status in the Roman province of Dalmatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become cavalry commander to the Emperor Carus. After the deaths of Carus and his son Numerian on campaign in Persia, Diocletian was proclaimed emperor. The title was also claimed by Carus' other surviving son, Carinus, but Diocletian defeated him in the Battle of the Margus. Diocletian's reign stabilized the empire and marks the end of the Crisis of the Third Century. He appointed fellow officer Maximian as augustus, co-emperor, in 285. Diocletian delegated further on 1 March 293, appointing Galerius and Constantius as caesars, junior co-emperors. Under this 'tetrarchy', or "rule of four", each emperor would rule over a quarter-division of the empire. Diocletian secured the empire's borders and purged it of all threats to his power. He defeated the Sarmatians and Carpi during several campaigns between 285 and 299, the Alamanni in 288, and usurpers in Egypt between 297 and 298. Galerius, aided by Diocletian, campaigned successfully against Sassanid Persia, the empire's traditional enemy. In 299 he sacked their capital, Ctesiphon. Diocletian led the subsequent negotiations and achieved a lasting and favorable peace. (The above from Wikipedia.)

READING:

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part VIII, Chapter 19, "The Supreme State and the Church."

REQUIRED READING

Eusebius (260 - 340 AD) is the most important historian of the early church whose work survives. His history from the beginning of Christianity with Jesus Christ in Bk I, goes forward to our period in the last chapters. We are most interested in those last chapters on the age of Diocletian and Constantine. You may want to start out reading his Book I and then skip forward to the later chapters on Diocletian and Constantine. For this first week, Book 7 would be a good introduction on the spreading heresies. Next week there are Books 8 and 9 on Diocletian. And the following week Book 10 on the triumph of Constantine.

Eusebius,

The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine,

G. A Williamson, trans.,

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0140445358

PART TWO: PICTURES

Diocletian's Palace at Split, Croatia. Diocletian's Palace is a building in Split, Croatia, that was built by the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD. Diocletian built the massive palace in preparation for his retirement on 1 May 305 AD. It lies in a bay on the south side of a short peninsula running out from the Dalmatian coast, four miles from Salona, the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. The terrain slopes gently seaward with low limestone ridges running east to west with marl in the clefts between them.

DiocletianPalace

Week 23: Thu., Apr. 13, 2017
Constantine the Great

Constantine

Constantine the Great (Latin: Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus; 27 February 27, 272 to May 22, 337), also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Constantine was the son of Flavius Valerius Constantius, a Roman army officer, and his consort Helena. His father became Caesar, the deputy emperor in the west in 293. Constantine was sent east, where he rose through the ranks to become a military tribune under the emperors Diocletian and Galerius. In 305, Constantius was raised to the rank of Augustus, senior western emperor, and Constantine was recalled west to campaign under his father in Britannia. Acclaimed as emperor by the army after his father's death in 306, Constantine emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against the emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of both west and east by 324. As emperor, Constantine enacted many administrative, financial, social, and military reforms to strengthen the empire. The government was restructured and civil and military authority separated. A new gold coin, the solidus, was introduced to combat inflation. It would become the standard for Byzantine and European currencies for more than a thousand years. The first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine played an influential role in the proclamation of the Edict of Milan, which decreed religious tolerance throughout the empire. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, at which the Nicene Creed was professed by Christians. In military matters, the Roman army was reorganized to consist of mobile field units and garrison soldiers capable of countering internal threats and barbarian invasions. Constantine pursued successful campaigns against the tribes on the Roman frontiers, ”the Franks, the Alamanni, the Goths, and the Sarmatiansâ, even resettling territories abandoned by his predecessors during the turmoil of the previous century. (The above from Wikipedia.)

READING:

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part VIII, Chapter 19, "The Supreme State and the Church."

REQUIRED READING

Eusebius (260 - 340 AD) is the most important historian of the early church whose work survives. His history from the beginning of Christianity with Jesus Christ in Bk I, goes forward to our period in the last chapters. We are most interested in those last chapters on the age of Diocletian and Constantine. This week: Book 10 on the triumph of Constantine.

Eusebius,

The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine,

G. A Williamson, trans.,

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0140445358

RECOMMENDED READING

David Potter,

Constantine, The Emperor,

Oxford University Press, 2012,

ISBN 0199755868

REVIEWS:

"David Potter's Constantine the Emperor is a fresh look by a veteran scholar at one of the most pivotal reigns in Western history. Almost all studies of this emperor take his conversion to Christianity as their starting point. Potter broadens the focus to show a shrewd field commander who can diagnose and exploit his opponents' weaknesses and an able ruler with a deeply held belief that his 'job' committed him to protecting the weak and ensuring fairness for all his subjects." --Harold Drake, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Crisp in its prose and comprehensive in its coverage, Constantine the Emperor grounds its much mythologized subject in the solid realities of imperial governance." --Noel Lenski, University of Colorado

"This is a penetrating and original analysis, closely based on contemporary evidence, of the step-by-step evolution of Constantine's role as Emperor, and of his conception of that role. Within that wider framework, the nature of Constantine's commitment to Christianity, and of his self-representation as a Christian, is carefully re-evaluated." --Sir Fergus Millar, University of Oxford

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK FOR SPRING QUARTER:

Peter Brown,

The World of Late Antiquity,

W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (March 17, 1989),

ISBN 0393958035

This remarkable study in social and cultural change explains how and why the Late Antique world, between ca. 150 and ca. 750 A.D., came to differ from "Classical civilization." These centuries, as the author demonstrates, were the era in which the most deeply rooted of ancient institutions disappeared for all time. By 476 the Roman empire had vanished from western Europe; by 655 the Persian empire had vanished from the Near East. Mr. Brown, Professor of History at Princeton University, examines these changes and men's reactions to them, but his account shows that the period was also one of outstanding new beginnings and defines the far-reaching impact both of Christianity on Europe and of Islam on the Near East. The result is a lucid answer to a crucial question in world history; how the exceptionally homogeneous Mediterranean world of ca. 200 A.D. became divided into the three mutually estranged societies of the Middle Ages: Catholic Western Europe, Byzantium, and Islam. We still live with the results of these contrasts.

PART TWO: PICTURES

The life and work of Empress Helen: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Rome.

Archofconstantine

Week 24: Thu., Apr. 20, 2017
Constantine and the Christians

David Potter in his book on Constantine, Constantine, The Emperor:

The Roman Emperor Constantine changed the world. For many millions of people across this planet, an institution that he introduced and promoted has become a central part of their lives; they use or hear words that he approved. In the twenty-first century, Constantine is best known as the Roman emperor who converted to Christianity and in so doing made it possible for Christianity to become a world religion. Without Constantine, Christianity probably would not occupy the place that it does today. Without him it is unlikely that Christianity would have emerged from the mass of conflicting, if often quite similar, belief systems coexisting in the empire into which he was born. . . . the immense impact of Christian thought upon the behaviors and thinking of the many generations who came after Constantine makes it very difficult to imagine a world without it. When he was born around AD 282, it would have been far easier to imagine a world in which Christianity had a marginal place.

At the right you will find a copy of the Nicene Creed adopted at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and amended at the Council of Constantinople in 381. The text here provided uses the language that is used in almost all the various denominations in both Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity. The Roman Catholic church has just recently adopted a new word, "consubstantial," which I think is not helpful, since no one suggested using this word in 325.  Why complicate the problems of a public creed by introducing a new word 1700 years after the adoption of the original creed? It makes no sense to me. (Note: WHF)

READING:

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part VIII, Chapter 19, "The Supreme State and the Church."

REQUIRED READING

This week: Book 10 on the triumph of Constantine.

Eusebius,

The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine,

G. A Williamson, trans.,

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0140445358

RECOMMENDED READING

David Potter,

Constantine, The Emperor,

Oxford University Press, 2012,

ISBN 0199755868

REVIEWS:

"David Potter's Constantine the Emperor is a fresh look by a veteran scholar at one of the most pivotal reigns in Western history. Almost all studies of this emperor take his conversion to Christianity as their starting point. Potter broadens the focus to show a shrewd field commander who can diagnose and exploit his opponents' weaknesses and an able ruler with a deeply held belief that his 'job' committed him to protecting the weak and ensuring fairness for all his subjects." --Harold Drake, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Crisp in its prose and comprehensive in its coverage, Constantine the Emperor grounds its much mythologized subject in the solid realities of imperial governance." --Noel Lenski, University of Colorado

"This is a penetrating and original analysis, closely based on contemporary evidence, of the step-by-step evolution of Constantine's role as Emperor, and of his conception of that role. Within that wider framework, the nature of Constantine's commitment to Christianity, and of his self-representation as a Christian, is carefully re-evaluated." --Sir Fergus Millar, University of Oxford

PART TWO: PICTURES

The earliest churches of Rome, built in the immediate aftermath of the Edict of Milan in 313 which now permitted the construction of public houses of worship for the Christians and other non-Roman religions. (Ex: Mithra)

Some of the churches:

  1. Santa Pudenziana.
  2. Santa Maria Maggiore
  3. Santa Prassede
  4. San Clemente

Week 25: Thu., Apr. 27, 2017
Athanasius in Alexandria

Athanasius

Athanasius of Alexandria was Bishop of Alexandria for 45 years from 328 to 373 AD. During this almost half a century, he fought almost alone at times, to preserve his understanding of the orthodox or "correct" interpretation of the nature of Jesus of Nazareth. During this same period, a new interpretation, a dangerously beguiling new interpretation arose in his own city developed by another great Christian leader, Arius. These two men led an international debate that took over every discussion every decision within the church during the later fourth century. Now when we look back, Athanasius seems Herculean in his resolute conviction about the Trinitarian nature of God and the Son of God. This is our subject this week and we will also look at Athanasius' city of Alexandria, second only to Rome in the development of Christian thinking in the fourth century.

RECOMMENDED READING

St Athanasius,

The Incarnation of the Word,

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013,

ISBN 1490388370

Here is a summary of the importance of The Incarnation of the Word:

On the Incarnation of the Word is a classic work of Orthodox theology written by noted bishop of Alexandria, St. Athanasius. In this apologetic treatise, St. Athanasius defends the incarnation of Christ against the derision of 4th century non-believers. St Athanasius explains why God chose to approach his fallen people in human form. He states, "The death of all was consummated in the Lord's body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished." St. Athanasius resolves the paradox of the Incarnate by relying heavily on both Scripture and the teachings of the early Church. St. Athanasius also answers several objections to his account, many of which are still raised against Christians today by those outside the Church. On the Incarnation of the Word was highly recommended by modern writer and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, who suggested that contemporary Christian audiences could benefit from reading more ancient classics. Indeed, though St. Athanasius wrote this text in the 4th century, his style is easy to follow and his concepts are of irreplaceable worth.

Emmalon Davis, Christian Classics Ethereal Library Staff Writer

Week 26: Thu., May. 4, 2017
Ambrose in Milan

Ambrose

Ambrosius, better known in English as Saint Ambrose (ca. 340 to 397), was an archbishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was consular prefect of Liguria and Emilia, headquartered in Milan, before being made bishop of Milan by popular acclamation in 374. Ambrose was a staunch opponent of Arianism. Ambrose is traditionally credited with promoting "antiphonal chant", a method of chanting where one side of the choir alternately responds to the other; and the composition of Veni redemptor gentium (a Christmas hymn). Ambrose was one of the four original doctors of the Church, and is the patron saint of Milan. He is notable for his influence on St. Augustine. (The above is taken from Wikipedia article on Ambrose.)

Our evening on Ambrose will allow us to explore the city of Milan. By the middle of the fourth century, Milan had become the most exciting, the most progressive, the most challenging city in Italy. Rome had been replaced by the ancient northern city whose roots went back to pre-Roman Celtic times.

There remains a considerable amount of Roman Milan to be seen during a visit to the city.

RECOMMENDED READING

Saint Augustine,

The Confessions,

Oxford World Classics,

ISBN 0199537828

PART TWO: PICTURES

A visit to Roman Milan. Here below you see the Baptistry where Ambrose baptized Augustine in 387 AD. The Baptistry is now under the Medieval Cathedral of Milan, but like so much of Roman Milan, it is preserved and allows us to appreciate the greatness of the Milan of Ambrose.

Baptistrymilan

Week 27: Thu., May. 11, 2017
Galla Placidia

GallaPlacidia

Aelia Galla Placidia (392 to November 27, 450), was the daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, and a major force in Roman politics for a half century. She was married to Ataulf, King of the Goths, in an attempt by the Roman government to buy peace for Rome from the Barbarians. When Ataulf died in 415, she was stranded within the hostile Gothic community and almost killed. Upon her return to Roman territory she was married to Constantius III and became Empress from 417 until Constantius' death in 422. Upon the death of her husband, she became the Regent for her young son Emperor Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437. But even after he officially was crowned Emperor, his mother was the most important influence in the government of Valentinian. The story of her life in Rome and Milan and in the south of France is a great history of the relationship between the Romans and the Barbarian peoples during the last years of the fourth century and the early years of the fifth century.

READING:

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part IX, Chapter 20, "The Fall of the Western Empire."

PART TWO: Pictures

Galla Placidia in Milan, Rome and Ravenna.

Here below is a photo of the Mausoleum built in Ravenna for her tomb.

Gallamausaleum

Week 28: Thu., May. 18, 2017
Theodoric the Great

Theodoric2

Theoderic the Great (454 to 526), often referred to as Theodoric, was king of the Germanic Ostrogoths, ruler of Italy, regent of the Visigoths, and a viceroy of the Eastern Roman Empire. His Gothic name Þiudareiks translates into "people-king" or "ruler of the people". Theoderic was born in Pannonia in 454, after his people had defeated the Huns at the Battle of Nedao. His father was King Theodemir, a Germanic Amali nobleman, and his mother was Ereleuva. Theoderic grew up as a hostage in Constantinople, receiving a privileged education, and he succeeded his father as leader of the Pannonian Ostrogoths in 473. Settling his people in lower Moesia, Theoderic came into conflict with Thracian Ostrogoths led by Theodoric Strabo, whom he eventually supplanted, uniting the peoples in 484. Byzantine Emperor Zeno subsequently gave him the title of Patrician and the office of Magister militum (master of the soldiers), and even appointed him as Roman Consul. Seeking further gains, Theoderic frequently ravaged the provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire, eventually threatening Constantinople itself. In 488, Emperor Zeno ordered Theoderic to overthrow the German Foederatus Odoacer, who had likewise been made patrician and even King of Italy, but who had since betrayed Zeno, supporting the rebellious Leontius. After a victorious three-year war, Theoderic killed Odoacer with his own hands, settled his 100,000 to 200,000 people in Italy, and founded an Ostrogothic Kingdom based in Ravenna. While he promoted separation between the Arian Ostrogoths and the Roman population, Theoderic stressed the importance of racial harmony,though intermarriage was outlawed. Seeking to restore the glory of Ancient Rome, he ruled Italy in its most peaceful and prosperous period since Valentinian, until his death in 526. Memories of his reign made him a hero of German legend as Dietrich von Bern. (The above from Wikipedia.)

PART TWO: PICTURES

Theodoric in Ravenna.

Here below you see a photograph of Theodoric's tomb in Ravenna, the single most elaborate and influential work of architecture of the "Gothic" period of  the late Roman Imperial period. It was a model for Charlemagne's cathedral in Aachen, Germany.

From Wikipedia: The current structure of the mausoleum is divided into two decagonal orders, one above the other; both are made of Istria stone. Its roof is a single 300–ton Istrian stone, 10 meters in diameter. A niche leads down to a room that was probably a chapel for funeral liturgies; a stair leads to the upper floor. Located in the center of the floor is a circular porphyry stone grave, in which Theoderic was buried. His remains were removed during Byzantine rule, when the mausoleum was turned into a Christian oratory. In the late 19th century, silting from a nearby rivulet that had partly submerged the mausoleum was drained and excavated. It was inscribed with seven other "Early Christian Monuments and Mosaics of Ravenna" buildings as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1996. According to the ICOMOS evaluation, "the significance of the mausoleum lies in its Gothic style and decoration, which owe nothing to Roman or Byzantine art, although it makes use of the Roman stone construction technique of opus quadratum, which had been abandoned four centuries before" and in the fact that "it is the only surviving example of a tomb of a king of this period."

Theodorictomb

Week 29: Thu., May. 25, 2017
Boethius

Boethius

At the right you see a fifteenth-century printed edition of Boethius' work The Consolation of Philosophy, printed in Ghent in 1485, with this beautiful hand painted rendition of Boethius with Lady Philosophy. This work was the most influential work of philosophy of the whole Late Antiquity period. Boethius was influential as the "Last Roman" or the "Last Classical Philosopher" before the onset of the Dark Ages. Boethius was the last of the bilingual Romans who knew all of the ancient Greek philosophy of Plato and Aristotle and also knew the whole of the Latin philosophical tradition. His greatest service to this tradition was to begin to translate all of Plato and Aristotle into Latin. This project came at a critical moment. The documents of the Greek philosophical tradition were all still available and therefore a scholar like Boethius could still conceivably complete this project if he had the time to do it.

Unfortunately, Boethius' time was short. In 525, he was executed by Theodoric in the mistaken belief that Boethius was plotting against him with the Byzantine emperor. This plot was a fiction and Theodoric lived to regret his stupid action. But for the history of philosophy the early death of Boethius was a tragedy that left the whole of the Medieval period with a truncated idea of what the Greeks had thought about things. It favored Aristotle since it was the work of Aristotle that Boethius managed to translate, and it neglected Plato because most of the Platonic works were not translated by Boethius. They were not translated into Latin until the Renaissance. Boethius is an extraordinary presence in the Middle Ages. Everyone with any education read and treasured The Consolation of Philosophy.

Here is more about Boethius from Wikipedia:

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, commonly called Boethius (c. 480-524 or 525 AD), was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to the ancient and prominent Anicia family, which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after Odoacer deposed the last Western Roman Emperor. Boethius himself entered public life at a young age and was already a senator by the age of 25. He was consul in 510 in the kingdom of the Ostrogoths. In 522 he saw his two sons become consuls. Boethius was imprisoned and eventually executed by King Theodoric the Great, who suspected him of conspiring with the Eastern Roman Empire. While jailed, Boethius composed his Consolation of Philosophy, a philosophical treatise on fortune, death, and other issues. The Consolation became one of the most popular and influential works of the Middle Ages.

REQUIRED READING

Reading Boethius. We will read the whole of The Consolation of Philosophy. It is only about 100 pages and a pleasure to read. Remember this was written while Boethius was in prison awaiting his fate. He had to consider that this might be his last work and therefore he examined his life and what was worth doing and what was worth learning. Therefore it is much more than just a reflection on classical learning and more than that, it is a reflection on the good life and why we are here.

Boethius,

The Consolation of Philosophy,

Oxford Classics, 2008,

ISBN 0199540543

RECOMMENDED READING

John Marenbon,

Boethius,

Oxford University Press, 2003,

ISBN 0195134079

BELOW: Boethius imprisoned, discussing philosophy, as seen in this manuscript illumination by Gregorius of Genoa in 1385.

Boethiusimprisoned

Week 30: Thu., Jun. 1, 2017
Justinian the Great

Justinian

During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the historical Roman Empire. One of the most important figures of late antiquity and the last Roman emperor to speak Latin as a first language,  Justinian's rule constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of the eastern Roman empire. The impact of his administration extended far beyond the boundaries of his time and domain. Justinian's reign is marked by the ambitious but only partly realized renovatio imperii, or "restoration of the Empire". Because of his restoration activities, Justinian has sometimes been called the "last Roman" in modern historiography. This ambition was expressed by the partial recovery of the territories of the defunct western Roman empire. His general, Belisarius, swiftly conquered the Vandal kingdom in North Africa, extending Roman control to the Atlantic Ocean. Subsequently Belisarius, Narses, and other generals conquered the Ostrogothic kingdom, restoring Dalmatia, Sicily, Italy, and Rome to the empire after more than half a century of rule by the Ostrogoths.

(The above excerpted from the Wikipedia article on Justinian)

READING:

Michael Grant, History of Rome, Part IX, "The Transformation of Europe."

REQUIRED READING

About the Secret History from Wikipedia: The famous Secret History (Lat. Historia Arcana) was discovered centuries later in the Vatican Library and published by Niccolo Alamanni in 1623 at Lyons. Its existence was already known from the Suda, which referred to it as the Anekdota. The Secret History covers roughly the same years as the first seven books of Procopius' earlier work of history, History of Justinian's Wars and appears to have been written after they were published. Current consensus generally dates it to 550 or 558, or maybe even as late as 562. The Secret History reveals an author who had become deeply disillusioned with the emperor Justinian and his wife, Empress Theodora, as well as Belisarius, his former commander and patron, and Antonina, Belisarius' wife. The anecdotes claim to expose the secret springs of their public actions, as well as the private lives of the emperor, his wife and their entourage. Justinian is portrayed as cruel, venal, prodigal and incompetent; as for Theodora, the reader is treated to the most detailed and titillating portrayals of vulgarity and insatiable lust combined with shrewish and calculating mean-spiritedness.

Procopius,

The Secret History,

translated by G. A. Williamson,

Penguin Classics, new edition, 2007,

ISBN 0140455280

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK
ON JUSTINIAN AND THEODORA

Robert Browning,

Justinian and Theodora,

Thames and Hudson, revised ed. 1987,

ISBN 0500250995

PART TWO: PICTURES

San Vitale at Ravenna

Sanvitale

LAST CLASS OF THE YEAR