27269 - History of Late Antiquity (1)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will knows the historians’ arguments as to periodization in the transition between Antiquity and the Middle Ages. They will be able to evaluate the concept of Late Antiquity and, more generally, to apply the analysis models that generated it. They will know at least one specific topic and significant issue of the period, in the political, institutional, social, economic or religious context. They will be able to describe various instances of cultures meeting during Late Antiquity and assess the multicultural contexts. They will be geared to group work, show judgment on the professional, human and ethical planes, and know how to listen, understand and debate respectfully with different cultures and viewpoints.

Course contents

First week: Introduction to the themes and problems of late antiquity: periodization, school and culture, society, gender. Introduction to people, emperors, new religious protagonists and imperial elites.

Second week: Classical culture and its survival in late antiquity: the literary tradition and rhetorical tradition. The school and libraries, books, texts, students and teachers. Case studies and critical readings.

Third week: New organization of society, the new dialectic of power, the new ceremonials, the relationship between culture / power / imperial court.  In particular will be analyzed the events at the court of Costance II, Julian, Gratian, Valentinianus and Valens (banquets, embassies etc.)

Fourth week: Ethical and political problems. Analysis of the new meanings given to classical terms and applied to emperors and officials. Case studies: the Immaculati, the ambitious and the insolents of late antiquity. The problems of ethics and politics will be addressed through critical readings chosen from pagan and Christian sources of the 4th century AD. (Jerome, Ambrose, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, Ammianus Marcellinus, Historia Augusta).

Fifth week: Gender and late antiquity. Case studies: the "collateral" presence  of influential female characters of the 4th century AD will be highlighted.

Advise for the Students: The last lesson of the course is partly devoted to the exemplification of the exam.




R. Pfeilschifter, Il Tardoantico, PBE, Torino, 2015


F. Carlà-Uhink, Diocleziano, il Mulino, Bologna, 2019 (only chapters 1-3-5-6

Notes and slides from lessons. Additional materials will be downloadable from the online page (Virtuale).



R. Pfeilschifter, Il Tardoantico, PBE, Torino, 2015 

F. Carlà-Uhink, Diocleziano, il Mulino, Bologna, 2019

M. Clauss, Costantino e il suo tempo, il Mulino 2009 (only chapters 3,4,5,11)


two (2) chapters from the following book:

La famiglia tardoantica, Società, diritto, religione. A cura di V. Neri e B. Girotti, Milano 2016 (free pdf online available at http:/www.ledonline.it/index.php/Erga-Logoi/pages/view/qel-5-famiglia-tardoantica).


Caution: Students not attending shall always write to the teacher by institutional e-mail   (name.surname@studio.unibo.it) this way they will not run the risk of their mails being blocked by the anti-spam filters.

Teaching methods

Oral lessons.

Teaching and source materials will be distributed in advance to foster discussion in class, comparing different interpretations. Students are encouraged to participate and contribute with their own analysis of literary texts.
Students can agree also on additional texts to be analyzed.


Assessment methods

Oral examination

Oral exam. The examination consists of an assessment of the knowledge acquired during the course through the comments of a few texts chosen from all those in the program and educational materials and the verification of the ability to concisely and critically expose the topics addressed at the base of the contents of exam bibliography and provided educational materials.
The interview will have to emerge a solid basic knowledge of the discipline.

The assessment will therefore be based on:
- Mastery of content;
- Synthesis and analysis of issues and problems;
- Ability to express themselves adequately and with language appropriate to the subject matter.

The achievement by the student the ability to comment comprehensively the steps and to express an organic vision of the topics discussed in class with a good mastery of expression and specific language will be evaluated with marks of excellence. A mnemonic knowledge of matter, together with capacity of synthesis and analysis articulated in a proper language, lead to discrete evaluations. Knowledge gaps and / or inappropriate language - albeit in a context of minimal knowledge of exam material - will lead to votes that will not exceed sufficiency. Knowledge gaps, inappropriate language, lack of orientation within the bibliographic materials offered during the course will be evaluated negatively.

Teaching tools

Teaching tools will be furnished at lesson. Mainly we  will read  passages of ancient authors.

Photocopies, slides, text in the original language and in translation; pdf of modern historiography and contemporary contributions. The lectures will be supported by power point presentations. The teaching material presented in class will be made available to students (upon request, for not attending).

Office hours

See the website of Beatrice Girotti