Worlds of Late Antiquity

Winter 1995: University of Washington

Visiting Professor James J. O'Donnell

Mon.-Tues.-Wed., 10:30-11:50
Parrington 206
Office: Classics (Denny Hall)
Office Hours TBA (but e-mail finds me from early a.m. to late at night)

Goals for the Course: Mine and Yours

This course will introduce you to the societies and cultures that co-existed around the Mediterranean from approximately 400-800 C.E. Two modern surveys will be read as textbooks to give you a backbone of reliable information -- in-class examinations will test your comprehension and retention of these books; four ancient books will be read by all students and each student will write a short essay (1000 words or so) on each of those four books. Finally, you will write a final essay for which you will pursue a self-chosen course of reading in subjects and texts related to the course.

Half the required readings (Collins, Ammianus, Cassiodorus) address the public, secular, and political history of the late ancient world, while the second half (Lane Fox, Boethius, Augustine) address the private, religious, and personal history. Lectures will address the ancient authors read to some extent, but will also range much more widely to introduce you to events, personalities, and issues in the study of late antiquity.

But the subject matter for this course is vast. Each student must choose how to spend his or her time most effectively. To assist you in that regard, I require that you submit, by 5 p.m. Friday of the first week of classes, no more than 500 words outlining your goals for this course. They may still be inchoate and consist more of curiosities and questions that you have; I will work with you to refine them. By no later than the end of January, you and I will have worked out a strategy for your readings and final essay for the course, based on your particular interests and goals.

Required Reading (available in bookstore)
Roger Collins, Early Medieval Europe (St. Martin's paperback)
Ammianus Marcellinus, The Later Roman Empire (Penguin paperback)
Augustine, Confessions (Doubleday paperback)
Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin paperback)
Cassiodorus, Variae (U. Penn. Press paperback)
Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (Harper paperback)

Schedule of Work Week by Week

All written work may be submitted by e-mail to the instructor as This is preferable to submission on paper, but paper will also be accepted.

Policy on Late Work

Work will not be accepted after the stated times without written recommendation from physician or appropriate member of university advising staff. No exceptions.