This series provides sophisticated and authoritative overviews of periods of ancient history, genres of classical literature, and the most important themes in ancient culture. Each volume comprises between twenty-five and forty concise essays written by individual scholars within their area of specialization. The essays are written in a clear, provocative, and lively manner, designed for an international audience of scholars, students, and general readers.


A Companion to the Roman Army

Edited by Paul Erdkamp

A Companion to the Roman Republic

Edited by Nathan Rosenstein and Robert Morstein-Marx

A Companion to the Roman Empire

Edited by David S. Potter

A Companion to the Classical Greek World

Edited by Konrad H. Kinzl
A Companion to the Ancient Near East

Edited by Daniel C. Snell

A Companion to the Hellenistic World

Edited by Andrew Erskine

A Companion to Late Antiquity

Edited by Philip Rousseau

A Companion to Ancient History

Edited by Andrew Erskine

A Companion to Archaic Greece

Edited by Kurt A. Raaflaub and Hans van Wees

A Companion to Julius Caesar

Edited by Miriam Griffin

A Companion to Byzantium

Edited by Liz James

A Companion to Ancient Egypt

Edited by Alan B. Lloyd

A Companion to Ancient Macedonia

Edited by Joseph Roisman and Ian Worthington

A Companion to the Punic Wars

Edited by Dexter Hoyos

A Companion to Women in the Ancient World

Edited by Sharon L. James and Sheila Dillon

A Companion to Augustine

Edited by Mark Vessey



A Companion to Classical Receptions

Edited by Lorna Hardwick and Christopher Stray

A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography

Edited by John Marincola

A Companion to Catullus

Edited by Marilyn B. Skinner

A Companion to Roman Religion

Edited by Jörg Rüpke

A Companion to Greek Religion

Edited by Daniel Ogden

A Companion to the Classical Tradition

Edited by Craig W. Kallendorf

A Companion to Roman Rhetoric

Edited by William Dominik and Jon Hall

A Companion to Greek Rhetoric

Edited by Ian Worthington

A Companion to Ancient Epic

Edited by John Miles Foley

A Companion to Greek Tragedy

Edited by Justina Gregory

A Companion to Latin Literature

Edited by Stephen Harrison

A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought

Edited by Ryan K. Balot

A Companion to Ovid

Edited by Peter E. Knox

A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language

Edited by Egbert Bakker

A Companion to Hellenistic Literature

Edited by Martine Cuypers and James J. Clauss

A Companion to Vergil’s Aeneid and its Tradition

Edited by Joseph Farrell and Michael C. J. Putnam

A Companion to Horace

Edited by Gregson Davis

A Companion to Families in the Greek and Roman Worlds

Edited by Beryl Rawson

A Companion to Greek Mythology

Edited by Ken Dowden and Niall Livingstone

A Companion to the Latin Language

Edited by James Clackson

A Companion to Tacitus

Edited by Victoria Emma Pagán

A Companion to Sophocles

Edited by Kirk Ormand

A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East

Edited by Daniel Potts



Ancient trompe l'oeil, panel from a cubiculum in the villa of P. Fannius

Prima Porta Augustus

Bronze colossus of an emperor

Images of co-emperors displayed in icons and embroidery around an official

Wall painting of Orpheus and animals

Dionysiac mosaic in Santa Costanza

Wall painting of Hercules and Athena

The Good Shepherd, wall painting from Dura-Europos

Women at the Tomb(?), wall painting from Dura-Europos

Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus

Maskell Passion Ivories


Sarcophagus of Plotinus

Arch of Constantine

Church of Santa Pudenziana: apse mosaic

Engraved gem (intaglio)


Late Roman Learning in the West: Preservation and Transmission

Land and People: The Roman World in Late Antiquity

Travel and Communication in the Late Empire

“Coptic” Egypt

Beyond the Northern Frontiers

The Islamic World in the Umayyad Period (AD 660–750)

Major Christian Centers in Late Antiquity

The Ascetic World in Late Antiquity

Notes on Contributors

CLIFFORD ANDO is Professor of Classics at the University of Chicago. He has recently published a book on religion in the Roman Empire, The Matter of the Gods (University of California Press, 2008), and is now working on a study of law and cultural change, to be published under the title The Ambitions of Government.

OLOF BRANDT is Secretary of the Istituto Pontificio di Archeologia Cristiana in Rome, and Assistant to the Chair of Early Christian Architecture at the same institute. He has excavated the early Christian baptistery of the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina in Rome, and is currently working on a new archaeological analysis of the Lateran baptistery.

PHILIP BURTON is Lecturer in New Testament Studies and Biblical Languages in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham. He is the author of The Old Latin Gospels: A Study of Their Texts and Language (Oxford University Press, 2000), of Language in the Confessions of Augustine (Oxford University Press, 2007), and has translated Augustine's Confessions (Everyman, 2001). He is currently working on an edition of the Old Latin traditions of the Gospel according to John.

DANIEL F. CANER is Associate Professor in the Departments of History and Classics at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. He is the author of Wandering, Begging Monks: Spiritual Authority and the Promotion of Monasticism in Late Antiquity (University of California Press, 2002), and History and Hagiography from the Late Antique Sinai (Liverpool University Press, forthcoming). He is currently working on a book on monastic wealth and economy in the late antique east.

MALCOLM CHOAT is Lecturer in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University, Sydney. Most recently, he has published Belief and Cult in Fourth Century Papyri (Brepols, 2006). He is currently working on an edition of the bilingual papyrus archive of Apa Johannes.

DAVID COOK is Associate Professor of Religious Studies, specializing in Islam, at Rice University, Texas. He has published most recently Understanding Jihad (University of California Press, 2005) and Martyrdom in Islam (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

KATE COOPER is Senior Lecturer in Early Christianity at the University of Manchester and Director of its Centre for Late Antiquity. She is the author of The Virgin and the Bride (Harvard University Press, 1996), and joint editor (with Jeremy Gregory) of several Ecclesiastical History Society Meeting collections (Boydell Press, 2004, 2005, 2006). Her book The Fall of the Roman Household was published by Cambridge University Press in 2007, together with a collection edited with Julia Hillner, Religion, Dynasty, and Patronage in Early Christian Rome, 300–900 (from the same publisher). She is now working on the first volume (250–500) of The Oxford History of Medieval Europe, and developing a more general book on early Christian women, aimed at disaffected female accountants and stockbrokers.

RAFFAELLA CRIBIORE is Professor of Classics at New York University. She is the author of Writing, Teachers, and Students in Graeco-Roman Egypt (Scholars Press, 1996), Gymnastics of the Mind: Greek Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt (Princeton University Press, 2001), The School of Libanius in Late Antique Antioch (Princeton University Press, 2007), and, with Roger Bagnall, Women's Letters from Ancient Egypt, 300 BCAD 800 (University of Michigan Press, 2006). She is currently working on the Orations of Libanius.

JAN WILLEM DRIJVERS is Lecturer in Ancient History in the History Department at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. His latest book is Cyril of Jerusalem: Bishop and City (Brill, 2004), and he is coauthor of Philological and Historical Commentary on Ammianus Marcellinus, xxii–xxvi (Brill, 1995–2007). He coedited Ammianus after Julian: The Reign of Valentinian and Valens in Books 26–31 of the Res Gestae (Brill, 2007).

JENNIFER EBBELER is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of several articles on classical and late antique epistolography. Her first book, Disciplining Christians: Correction and Community in Augustine's Letters, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

JUDITH EVANS-Grubbs is Professor in the Classics Department at Washington University in St. Louis. Author of Law and Family in Late Antiquity: The Emperor Constantine's Marriage Legislation (Clarendon Press, 1995), she has most recently published Women and the Law in the Roman Empire: A Sourcebook on Marriage, Divorce, and Widowhood (Routledge, 2002). Her current project is a book, Children without Fathers in Roman Imperial Law, to be published by Oxford University Press.

JAMES A. FRANCIS is Associate Professor of Classics in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Kentucky. He is author of Subversive Virtue: Asceticism and Authority in the Second-Century Pagan World (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995). He is currently working on a book on visuality and verbal and visual representation in classical and late antiquity, tentatively titled More than Meets the Eye: Image, Text, and Visuality in the Second to Fourth Centuries, CE.

MICHAEL GADDIS is Associate Professor in the Department of History at Syracuse University. He is author of There is No Crime for Those who Have Christ: Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire (University of California Press, 2005) and (with Richard Price) Acts of the Council of Chalcedon (Liverpool University Press, 2005).

ANDREW GILLETT is Australian Research Council Queen Elizabeth II Fellow and Lecturer in Late Antiquity in the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University, Sydney. His books include Envoys and Political Communication in the Late Antique West, 411–533 (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and (as editor) On Barbarian Identity: Critical Approaches to Ethnicity in the Early Middle Ages (Brepols, 2002). His current research projects concern early medieval epistolary communication and late antique ethnography.

THOMAS GRAUMANN is Senior Lecturer in Early Church History at the University of Cambridge. His most recent major publication is Die Kirche der Väter (Mohr Siebeck, 2002), an analysis of the formation of patristic authority in theological discourse from the third to the fifth centuries. He is currently working on a new history of church councils in Late Antiquity.

KIM HAINES-EITZEN is Associate Professor of Early Christianity and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. She is author of Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature (Oxford University Press, 2000) and is working on a monograph that treats the intersection of gender and text transmission in early Christianity (to be published by Oxford University Press), and on the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Christianity.

GUY HALSALL is Professor in the Department of History at the University of York. His most recent book is Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376–568 (Cambridge University Press, 2007), and he collaborated with Wendy Davies and Andrew Reynolds in editing People and Space in the Middle Ages, 300–1300 (Brepols, 2007). He is currently compiling a volume of his collected essays, and developing new thoughts on Merovingian cemeteries and social history (see his Early Medieval Cemeteries, Cruithne Press, and Settlement and Social Organization, Cambridge University Press, both 1995).

FELICITY HARLEY is Lecturer in Medieval Art History at the University of Melbourne and a Research Fellow at the Trinity College Theological School. She is currently completing a book on the emergence of Crucifixion iconography in Late Antiquity.

CAROLINE HUMFRESS is Reader in History in the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology at Birkbeck, University of London. She is the coauthor (with Peter Garnsey) of The Evolution of Late Antiquity (Orchard Academic, 2001; French tr. F. Regnot, Éditions La Découverte, 2004), and she is author of Orthodoxy and the Courts in Late Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2007). She is currently working on a project exploring comparative ancient law and legal practice.

MARK HUMPHRIES is Professor of Ancient History in the Department of Classics, Ancient History, and Egyptology at Swansea University. He has published various books and articles on ancient religions and Late Antiquity, notably Communities of the Blessed: Social Environment and Religious Change in Northern Italy, 200–400 (Oxford University Press, 1999) and, most recently, Early Christianity (Routledge, 2006). He is currently working on usurpers and local politics in the late Roman world.

NAOMI KOLTUN-FROMM is Associate Professor in the Department of Religion, Haverford College. She has published most recently on Tatian, and is currently working on a book focusing on the connections made in early Jewish and Christian exegesis between holiness and sexuality in religious community formation, to be published under the title The Hermeneutics of Holiness.

BLAKE LEYERLE is the John Cardinal O'Hara Associate Professor of Early Christianity in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of Theatrical Shows and Ascetic Lives: John Chrysostom's Attack on Spiritual Marriage (University of California Press, 2001), and is currently completing a book on early Christian pilgrimage.

CONRAD LEYSER is Fellow and Tutor in History at Worcester College, Oxford. Author of Authority and Asceticism from Augustine to Gregory the Great (Oxford University Press, 2000), he is reinventing himself as a historian of the late Carolingian and Ottonian episcopate, with articles on the Formosan Schism and Liudprand of Cremona either published or due to appear. He is coediting England and the Continent in the Tenth Century, to be published by Brepols; with Kate Cooper, he is co-editing a volume, Making Early Medieval Societies: Conflict and Belonging in the Latin West, 400–1200, to be published by Cambridge University Press.

RICHARD LIM is Professor of History at Smith College, responsible for teaching the history of the ancient Mediterranean, of Greece and Rome, and of Late Antiquity. Author of Public Disputation, Power, and Social Order in Late Antiquity (University of California Press, 1995), and joint editor (with Carole Straw) of The Past before Us: The Challenge of Historiographies of Late Antiquity (Brepols/Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité Tardive, 2004), he is currently working on a book about the reception of public spectacles and civic transformation in late Roman cities, as well as a volume on the social history of late antiquity and another on the historical interactions in premodern Eurasia.

RITA LIZZI TESTA is Professor of Roman History at the Università degli Studi, Perugia. Long noted for her work on both the eastern (Il potere episcopale nell'Oriente romano: Rappresentazione ideologica e realtà politica nel IV-V secolo d. C., Edizioni dell'Ateneo, 1987) and the western episcopate (Vescovi e strutture ecclesiastiche nella città tardoantica: L'Italia Annonaria nel IV-V secolo d. C., Edizioni New Press, 1989), she has published most recently Senatori, popolo, papi: il governo di Roma al tempo dei Valentiniani (Editrice Edipuglia, 2004), and has edited two important volumes: (with Jean-Michel Carrié) Humana sapit: Études d'Antiquité tardive offertes à Lellia Cracco Ruggini (Brepols, 2002), and La trasformazioni delle élites in età tardoantica (L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2006).

S. T. LOSEBY is Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Sheffield. His most recent publications deal with urbanism in Gaul and exchange in the Mediterranean during Late Antiquity. He edited, with Neil Christie, Towns in Transition: Urban Evolution in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Scolar Press, 1996), and is working on a book entitled Marseille in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, to be published by Oxford University Press.

NEIL MCLYNN is University Lecturer in Later Roman History in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Corpus Christi College. He has published widely in the field of Late Antiquity, including Ambrose of Milan: Church and Court in a Christian Capital (University of California Press, 1994). He is currently working on a study of the career of Gregory of Nazianzus.

ANDREW MARSHAM is Lecturer in Islamic History in the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He has published on rebellion and safe conduct in early Islam. His book, Rituals of Islamic Monarch: Accession and Succession in the First Muslim Empire, will be published by Edinburgh University Press in 2009.

WENDY MAYER is Research Associate in the Centre for Early Christian Studies at the Australian Catholic University. She has published most recently The Homilies of St John Chrysostom – Provenance: Reshaping the Foundations (Pontificio Istituto Orientale, Rome, 2005), and (with Bronwen Neil) St John Chrysostom: The Cult of the Saints (St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2006). She is currently working on a critical analysis of the sources concerning John Chrysostom's life under the title John Chrysostom: The Deconstruction of a Saint, and with Pauline Allen on a compendium and analysis of the sources concerning the churches of Antioch under the title The Churches of Syrian Antioch (300–638 CE).

STRATIS PAPAIOANNOU is William A. Dyer Jr. Assistant Professor in the Humanities and Dumbarton Oaks Assistant Professor of Byzantine Studies in the Classics Department at Brown University. He has published widely on Byzantine Literature. Currently, he is completing a book-length study on autobiography and literary aesthetics in premodern Greek writing with a focus on Michael Psellos (provisional title: Michael Psellos' Autography: A Study of Mimesis in Premodern Greek Literature). He is also working on a critical edition of Psellos' letters.

KARLA POLLMANN is Professor of Classics at the University of St. Andrews. She has published most recently a commentary, with introduction and text, on Statius, Thebaid 12 (Ferdinand Schöningh, 2004), and has edited (with Mark Vessey) Augustine and the Disciplines (Oxford University Press, 2005). She is currently working on Augustine's De Genesi ad litteram, and is directing a major international and interdisciplinary project on the reception of Augustine through the ages. Her Poetry and Exegesis in Premodern Latin Christianity (edited jointly with Willemien Otten) was published by Brill in 2007.

STEFAN REBENICH is Professor of Ancient History and the Classical Tradition in the Department of History at the Universität Bern. He has published most recently Jerome (Routledge, 2002), following his major study Hieronymus und sein Kreis (Steiner, 1992), and Theodor Mommsen: eine Biographie (first published Beck, 2002; 2nd edn., 2007). He is currently working on the correspondence between Theodor Mommsen and Friedrich Althoff, to be published by the Bavarian Academy.

ÉRIC REBILLARD is Professor of Classics and History at Cornell University. Author of In hora mortis: évolution de la pastorale chrétienne de la mort aux IVe et Ve siècles dans l'Occident latin (École Française de Rome, 1994), he has published most recently Religion et sépulture: l'église, les vivants et les morts dans l'antiquité tardive (IIIe–Ve siècles) (Éditions de l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 2003), of which an English translation will be published by Cornell University Press in 2008; and he has edited (with Michel Nancy) Hellénisme et christianisme: questions de religion, de philosophie et d'histoire dans l'antiquité tardive (Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2004). He is currently working on the interactions between Christians and non-Christians in Late Antiquity.

PHILIP ROUSSEAU is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Early Christian Studies at The Catholic University of America. He has published most recently The Early Christian Centuries (Longman, 2002), and is working on a book tentatively entitled The Social Identity of the Ascetic Master in Late Roman Christianity.

CHRISTINE SHEPARDSON is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at The University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Her first book is entitled Anti-Judaism and Christian Orthodoxy: Ephrem's Hymns in Fourth-Century Syria (Catholic University of America Press, 2008). Two recent articles study how religious authority relies on the manipulation of physical places in fourth-century Antioch (the theme of her next major study): “Controlling Contested Places: John Chrysostom's Adversus Iudaeos Homilies and the Spatial Politics of Religious Controversy,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 15 (2007): 483–516, and “Burying Babylas: Meletius and the Christianization of Antioch,” Studia Patristica 37, XV International Conference on Patristic Studies (forthcoming).

CLAIRE SOTINEL is Professor of Roman History in the Department of History at the Université Paris XII Val de Marne. Author of Rhétorique de la faute et pastorale de la reconciliation dans la Lettre apologétique contre Jean de Ravenne (École Française de Rome, 1994), she has published most recently Identité civique et christianisme: Aquilée du IIIe au VIe siècle (École Française de Rome, 2005). She is currently working on the role of information in Late Antiquity.

DENNIS E. TROUT is Associate Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is author of Paulinus of Nola: Life, Letters, and Poems (University of California Press, 1999), and his recent publications include articles on Pope Damasus and Lombard Rome. He is currently preparing an annotated translation of the epigraphic poetry of Pope Damasus.

JOHN VANDERSPOEL is Professor of Late Antiquity in the Department of Greek and Roman Studies at the University of Calgary. He is author of Themistius and the Imperial Court: Oratory, Civic Duty, and Paideia from Constantius to Theodosius (University of Michigan Press, 1995). More recently, he coedited The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization (Cambridge University Press, 2006). He is currently preparing a book on the emperor Julian and developing a project on the nature of the late antique west.

MARK VESSEY is Principal of Green College and Professor of English at the University of British Columbia. He is author of Latin Christian Writers in Late Antiquity and Their Texts (Ashgate, 2005), and editor (with Karla Pollmann) of Augustine and the Disciplines (Oxford University Press, 2005). Current projects include a Blackwell Companion to Augustine and the translation and annotation of Erasmus' Annotations on Luke for the Collected Works of Erasmus (University of Toronto Press).

DAVID WOODS is College Lecturer in the Department of Classics at University College Cork. He has published numerous articles relating to the history of the late antique and early medieval periods, from the work of Ammianus Marcellinus to that of Adomnán of Iona. He is currently working on the relationship between, and reliability of, the surviving sources for the Arab–Byzantine wars of the seventh century.

Preface and Acknowledgments

The challenges we faced in creating this volume were considerable, the main consideration being a need to be different. Late Antiquity has recently attracted a new kind of interest, displayed precisely in the production of broad surveys like this one. The thirteenth and fourteenth volumes newly incorporated into the Cambridge Ancient History (Cameron and Garnsey 1998; Cameron et al. 2000), the compendium produced by Harvard University Press on the “postclassical world” (Bowersock et al. 1999), the volume The Evolution of the Late Antique World (Garnsey and Humfress 2001), and the collection of papers edited by Simon Swain and Mark Edwards (2004) are only the most obvious examples; there is more to come, notably in the relevant volumes of the Cambridge History of Christianity. A desire to sum up the scholarly achievements of a generation or more has, perhaps naturally, brought pressure to bear on potential editors and publishers alike.

In what way could we be different, therefore? My answer depended on a specific understanding of “Companion.” Instead of drawing up a list of topics that I thought such a book should contain, and then asking potential contributors to write about one of them, I worked the other way around, approaching potential contributors, and then asking them what they would like to write about. My reasoning was that we would attract in that way well-documented essays that reflected what scholars working in the field found interesting and important; essays that would give some impression of how this or that topic was being defined and tackled. In a sense, therefore, the contributors designed the book. For reasons implicit in the scheme, I also tried to approach scholars who, while having proved themselves in early publications, still faced a substantial career of exploration in the period. Although that does not apply to every chapter, the number of younger scholars who have contributed gives the volume a special character.

There were predictable results. The first was an apparent selectivity; but that was also implicit in the scheme: for, there are aspects of Late Antiquity that nowadays attract less attention than they used to. The selectivity might reflect, therefore, new directions in which late antique studies are currently moving. Or one could put the matter another way and say simply that there are gaps. It is striking that no one saw fit to offer a chapter on the structure of the empire or on the way its government and administration functioned. Much is revealed when we compare the pattern here with the formalities of A. H. M. Jones's Later Roman Empire (Jones 1964) – a book we all grew up with (see Brown's review, Brown 1967b). So, while we have a perhaps predictable interest in families and monasticism, there is nothing on the army or on slavery. It remains true, nevertheless, that a treatment of more traditional topics is lodged within chapters ostensibly different in their focus. Government, for example, makes its appearance in the contexts within which it was applied. And one can also plead that the book as a whole gives a useful impression of what “late antique studies” meant to a significant cadre of its devotees in the early years of the twenty-first century.

But it is not, therefore, an exhaustive work of reference. We have taken the concept “Companion” seriously. Because we started out with authors rather than topics, the book presents itself as a potential journey in the company of enthusiasts and experts. Instead of examining a building, as it were, that conveniently stands still while we look it over, we set out across a landscape under the guidance of people who know it well, who have their favorite areas and landmarks, and can point them out with erudition and delight. Armed with such a gazetteer, readers can then make the journey over again by themselves, knowing what kinds of things they might look for and how to recognize their significance.

The model of a journey has other uses: for, if there is an overarching theme to the book, it consists in change and movement. Late Antiquity was a period in which little stood still (in spite of attempts to achieve the contrary). The men and women we observe in this exotic, distant setting were themselves in transit, displaced persons impelled by loyal or nostalgic recollections of their past, yet constantly stumbling upon unpredictable futures. That is no doubt true of every period of human experience. Yet, there is something specific about the combined uneasiness and inventive courage of late antique people – their “anxious” energy (see Dodds 1965, and Brown's review, Brown 1968a). They knew that the ground was shifting somewhat beneath their feet; but those who successfully mastered events were able to do so because they identified viable alternatives to their familiar habits of mind and culture.

So, what is Late Antiquity? It is not facetious to suppose that it is both antique and late. Equally to the point, it is not an entirely new concept. Those who study the late antique field today (and not only in the English-speaking world) feel naturally indebted to the work of Peter Brown, symbolized in what was an early and broad-ranging work, The World of Late Antiquity (Brown 1971b). Brown's point was in part to bridge a gap between studies of “the Later Roman Empire” and of “Byzantium,” while paying due respect also to those cultures that lay to the east of the Greek world and to the west of Persia – cultures eventually brought under the sway of Islam.

To some extent, all scholars devoted to such a project are students of Gibbon (see Ando, ch. 5); and in his most famous work we see an unapologetic link between “late” and “decline.” Among the finest analyses of our debt to Gibbon are the essays of Arnaldo Momigliano (a scholar to whom Peter Brown, by his own admission, owed a great deal: see his splendid obituary, Brown 1988a). One thinks especially of the papers collected in his Studies in Historiography (Momigliano 1966b). By the turn of the twentieth century, however, the later empire had already begun to acquire a more distinct and positive character in the eyes of historians, as we can see reflected in the work of, for example, J. B. Bury. His willingness to give independent definition to the period is reflected in a 1909 Creighton Memorial Lecture, “The Constitution of the Later Roman Empire” (Bury 1910). Twenty years before, he had published A History of the Later Roman Empire, from Arcadius to Irene, 395 AD to 800 AD , which he continued later with A History of the Eastern Roman Empire, from the Fall of Irene to the Accession of Basil I, AD 802–867 (Bury 1889, 1912). His best-known summation of the period is probably his History of the Later Roman Empire from the Death of Theodosius I to the Death of Justinian, AD 395 to AD 565 (Bury 1923), which he followed up five years later with a lecture series, The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians (Bury 1928). Embedded in all those titles is a set of suppositions about the meaning of the late Roman period.

At the time Bury was developing his treatments of the theme, Ernst Stein was publishing (in 1928) his Geschichte des spätrömischen Reiches (familiar to most historians in its French translation by Jean-Rémy Palanque, Histoire du Bas-Empire, 1949–59). He had already published a volume on Byzantium in the later sixth century (Stein 1919). Meanwhile, on the basis of extensive scholarship toward the end of the nineteenth century, inspired by both Pan-Slavism and a burgeoning confidence in Greek self-identity, Norman Baynes was working on his Byzantine Empire (Baynes 1925). His earlier interest in the roots of that Byzantine tradition is demonstrated, for example, in his almost contemporary work The Historia Augusta: Its Date and Purpose (Baynes 1926), and by his Raleigh Lecture to the British Academy, “Constantine the Great and the Christian Church” (Baynes 1930). His understanding of the tradition was in some ways crowned by the book he edited with H. St. L. B. Moss, Byzantium: An Introduction to East Roman Civilization (Baynes and Moss 1948). (Moss himself had already published his Birth of the Middle Ages, 395–814 (Moss 1935).) The overlap with Jones was now in place – the Jones who produced in the same period his wonderful volumes, The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces and The Greek City from Alexander to Justinian (Jones 1937, 1940). This is only to scratch the surface of late Roman scholarship between the two world wars; but it makes clear enough how firmly established the concept of Late Antiquity had become, in ways that broke barriers between Roman, Byzantine, and medieval history, well before 1971. (For further reflections, see Rebenich, ch. 6.)

Breaking the barriers was, however, a difficult task then and not markedly easier now. The different fields of inquiry – Roman, Byzantine, and medieval – are still often segregated into different departments in universities and entered upon under different banners, both conceptual and methodological (see Mayer, ch. 1). One complicating factor is the study of the “early Middle Ages.” Just as we face here the question of how late is “late,” so medievalists wonder how early is “early.” One of the legacies of nineteenth-century nationalism was each nation's desire to have its own “heroic age,” the supposed seedbed of its specific character. Franks, Lombards, and Anglo-Saxons had all been participants in the age of migration (more properly, perhaps, of immigration); and their descendants recognized their own Volk as essential to the Völkerwanderung. That momentous shift in populations sat squarely between familiar medieval developments and the more obviously Roman period; but it was always possible, furthermore – indeed, had been since the days of Jordanes and Gregory of Tours (Geary 1988, 2002; Goffart 1988, 2006) – to push back the specificity of “the people” to form a historical tradition at least parallel if not prior to that of Rome.

Similar problems attach to the notion of “Byzantium,” for it is difficult to decide whether to start with Constantine and the building of his new capital in the ad 320s, or with later emperors like Justinian (ad 527–65), Heraclius (ad 610–41), or Basil I (ad 867–86). A lot depends on what one imagines such figures marked the beginning of; but it has always been difficult to present Constantine as a convincingly “Byzantine” figure (see Papaioannou, ch. 2).

A third difficulty arises in connection with Christianity. Here, for some historians, Constantine does mark a clear beginning, a break with the pagan past. Yet Christianity was established, obviously, long before Constantine, which makes it difficult to characterize that religion as another species of antiquity – as if to think that “late” antiquity means Christian antiquity. It is more convincing to think of “ancient Christianity” as a single historical unit, reaching from the first century ad; but that introduces the further difficulty of deciding when, if ever, that ancient Christianity could be said to have “ended” (Markus 1990). And the “novelty” of Constantine has long been hotly contested, especially if one brings into play factors other than the religious (Barnes 1981, 1982).

Lurking behind many of those difficulties and complexities is the notion that there had been a real divide, after which Roman government, culture, and religion took on markedly new forms; forms that were, nevertheless, neither Byzantine nor medieval. The divide took the form (in historians' minds) of a “third-century crisis,” partly economic, partly political. The nature, indeed the reality, of the crisis has been endlessly debated in modern times; but, insofar as it existed (and there was obviously disruption of serious dimensions), it served to make any enduring antiquity seem “late.” A major architect of the theory (somewhat in the spirit of Gibbon) was Michael Rostovtzeff, a Russian exile much embittered by the eventual outcome of the Revolution, which he saw as the destruction of the urban middle classes, the true guardians of both liberty and refinement. He detected a similar outcome in the third century, which ushered in (for him) an age of brutalism and ignorance (see especially Rostovtzeff 1926). Other writers have continued to refine the picture (Remondon 1964; MacMullen 1976). Rostovtzeff was only an extreme example of the disenchantment generated by the horrors of two world wars (another crucial exemplar was Henri Marrou: see Marrou 1938); a loss of faith in the achievements of both the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, each in their way the offspring of a “classical” mentality. To some degree, that correspondingly invited historians to think of later antiquity as more in accord with the spirit of Revolution and of Romanticism, not to say a demotic and progressive spirit. Such simplicities are impossible to sustain for long; but the rectification developed by a scholar like A. H. M. Jones gave Diocletian (the ostensible founder of the new order) a past that explained his propensities, defined his opportunities, encouraged his reactions, and inspired his reforms. Jones was also confident in venturing at least to the lip of the Islamic era – another culture wedded to uncompromising monotheism and a politically inventive notion of the state and of civil society, both of them with ancient roots (Fowden 1993). So we are brought to Brown's subtitle (1971b), From Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad.

Late Antiquity is considered to be, therefore, after some things and before others. The polarities are significant, in that they conjure up slippage from state to state. One recalls both the anxiety and the speed of life in this period. It is no accident, perhaps, that many at the time felt that they were heading for the biggest ending of all, the end of the world; a moment of completion that would signal both the demise of Rome and the triumph of Christianity (Daley 1991). The finality was a sign that the future was hard to give a shape to: eschatology exhausted some people's capacity for optimism. Indeed, so confused was the vision of what was to come that dissent itself, especially theological dissent, became a hallmark of the Christianizing mentalité (see Graumann and Lim, chs. 36 and 33 respectively). One might almost argue that to be postclassical was to become theologically argumentative. Yet, the transformations envisaged by Augustine in his City of God, the inventive ambitions of new settler kings, and Justinian's ruthless desire to reinstate the glories of empire, all kept those with nerve and insight intent upon creating as well as salvaging. Antiquity for them was no longer a jewel to be preserved but a resource to be mined; a key not to escape or even to survival but rather to invention. Paradoxically, the apparent calm and confidence that we associate with the classical temper enabled the men and women of this more turbulent time to create the world in which we now live.

In conclusion, some brief but heartfelt words of gratitude: to the contributors, who have provided the most important ingredients of this volume (and have taught me to value colleagues who are accurate, patient, and prompt); to Jutta Raithel, for meticulous attention to detail in manuscripts and bibliographies; to my most recent collaborators at Blackwell – Barbara Duke, Janey Fisher, and Jacqueline Harvey – who aided the final dash to the finish (not forgetting the many others who encouraged and guided me at earlier stages, including Al Bertrand, Ben Thatcher, Rebecca du Plessis, and Hannah Rolls); and to my wife Thérèse, who steered me through many shoals of panic and despair, and without whose application the index would never have seen the light.



Abbreviations used correspond to those adopted in The Oxford Classical Dictionary and The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Regularly referred to are:


Hildegard Temporini (ed.), Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung, Berlin and New York, Walter de Gruyter (1972– )


The Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Many references will be to the recent new volumes:
Bowman, Alan K., Cameron, Averil, and Garnsey, Peter (eds.), The Cambridge Ancient History, xii: The Crisis of Empire, A.D. 193–337 (2005)
Cameron, Averil, and Garnsey, Peter (eds.), The Cambridge Ancient History, xiii: The Late Empire, A.D. 337–425 (1998)
Cameron, Averil, Ward-Perkins, Brian, and Whitby, Michael (eds.), The Cambridge Ancient History, xiv: Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, A.D. 425–600, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (2000)


Corpus Christianorum (normally the Series Latina), Turnhout, Brepols


Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Berlin, Reimer/Walter de Gruyter (1863– )


Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum


H. Dessau (ed.), Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, Berlin, Weidmann (1892–1916)


Monumenta Germaniae Historica


J. P. Migne (ed.), Patrologia Graeca


J. P. Migne (ed.), Patrologia Latina


Jones, A. H. M., Martindale, J. R., and Morris, J. (eds.), The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, 3 vols., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (1971–92)