The Third-Century Crisis of the Roman Empire

History 280A/285A.001

Spring 2014
F 2-5P
Day & Time: 
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    • CCN for 280A.001: 39777
    • CCN for 285A.001: 39885

    This seminar investigates the complex transition from the middle to the later Roman empire, with a focus on the turbulent middle decades of third century CE(235-284).  Readings and discussion will be oriented towards macroscopic problems, and in particular to system-level analyses of how the Roman empire, as a particular configuration of social power, developed over the course of the "long" third century, from the Severan dynasty through the Tetrarchic and Constantinian restoration.  Central topics include the formal apparatus of state and empire during this period, especially fiscal regimes, military machinery, and other instruments of coercion; rulership, monarchic ideology, and the twin problems of imperial legitimacy and usurpation; imperial fragmentation and the decentralization of decision-making authority; juridical status, citizenship, and competing conceptions of community and ways of belonging; shifting frontiers and emerging provincial identities; Christianity, prosecution, and martyrdom; money, finance, and inflation; demographic trends, patterns in urbanization, changes in material culture, and other indices of quality of life.  Throughout the seminar we will pay close attention to the nature of the evidence and to chronological and regional variation in the intensity of changes associated with the third-century crisis, all with a view to assessing the recent revisionist scholarship that has called the very idea of "crisis" into question. 

    The seminar is intended primarily for graduate students in ancient Greek and Roman history (and related disciplines), who will be expected to do some of the reading in Greek and Latin, and in at least one modern foreign language (German, French, Italian, Spanish).