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090047 UE The view from Antioch: Identities, rhetoric and society in a Late Antique city (2021W)

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 9 - Altertumswissenschaften
Continuous assessment of course work
Mo 31.01. 11:30-13:00 Digital


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 20 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

UPDATE: Starting from Monday, November 22 the course will take place online on Zoom until further notice. The Zoom link is available on Moodle in the course syllabus.

Monday 11.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Seminarraum AB3.24.2 Augasse 2-6, 3.OG Kern A, Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik
Monday 18.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Seminarraum AB3.24.2 Augasse 2-6, 3.OG Kern A, Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik
Monday 25.10. 11:30 - 13:00 Seminarraum AB3.24.2 Augasse 2-6, 3.OG Kern A, Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik
Monday 08.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Seminarraum AB3.24.2 Augasse 2-6, 3.OG Kern A, Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik
Monday 15.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Seminarraum AB3.24.2 Augasse 2-6, 3.OG Kern A, Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik
Monday 22.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Monday 29.11. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Monday 06.12. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Monday 13.12. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Monday 10.01. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Monday 17.01. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Monday 24.01. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

What was it like to live in a major city of the empire in the 4th century CE? Over the 4th century Christianity went from being a persecuted faith to pervading many aspects of personal, cultural and political life. On top of that, political life changed significantly as a consequence of the foundation of a new capital, Constantinople.

The goal of this course is to investigate together how these epoch-making changes were reflected in the civic life of Antioch, a huge bustling metropolis in Syria where pagans, Christians and Jews had for a long time lived side by side. The high amount of literary sources originating from this city - some of them stunning masterpieces of Late Antique / Early Byzantine Greek literature! - allows for a close analysis of a variety of topics. Among these:

1) How Christians and pagans thought of their religious identity.
2) How ‘the poor’ were introduced by Christian leaders as a distinct group in the social imagination.
3) The so-called ‘riot of the statues’ of 387, which was bloodily put down by the Roman army, and the conflicting sources about it.
4) What it was like to ‘go to university’ in Antioch (i.e., to the rhetorician’s school) and what role Greek literature played in defining the identity of the Greco-Roman elite.
5) Political dissent and how it could be expressed (e.g., acclamations in the theater for a part of the population or speeches and letters for a much smaller one).

The course can be of particular interest to students of Byzantine studies, Classical Philology, Ancient or Medieval History, Classical Archaeology and Theology. Erasmus+ students are more than welcome.

N.B.: The language of the course will be English, but written work (and, upon request, class presentations) can be in German, as well. The instructor will be mindful of the fact that English may cause additional difficulties.


Week 1 (11/10) – Introduction I. Introductions. Overview of the course. What is Late Antiquity?

Week 2 (18/10) – Introduction II. The city of Antioch. Civic history, civic memory.

Week 3 (25/10) – The impact of Christianity I. Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Antioch. Shifting identities, stories for children

Week 4 (08/11) – The impact of Christianity II. The invention of poverty. From ‘lovers of the citizens’ to ‘lovers of the poor’

Week 5 (15/11) – The impact of Christianity III. Emperor Julian in Antioch. Spaces, Hellenism, satire

First response paper (deadline: 19/11). Please schedule a meeting with me before the end of Week 5 to discuss the topic of your presentation and paper.

Week 6 (22/11) – Literature I. What is Late Antique literature? What is it for?

Week 7 (29/11) – Literature II. How to become a true Hellene: the school of Libanius

Week 8 (06/12) – Literature III. The rowdy world of sermons: the church of John Chrysostom

Second response paper (deadline: 10/12). Please schedule a meeting with me before the end of Week 8 to discuss the reading list and outline of your presentation and paper.

Week 09 (13/12) – Forms of political action I. Lobbying through acclamations. Crowds and riots in Antioch. The riot of the statues (part 1)

Week 10 (10/01) – Forms of political action II. Lobbying through rhetoric. Speeches for and against governors. The riot of the statues (part 2)

Week 11 (17/01) – Students’ presentations

Week 12 (24/01) – Students’ presentations

Week 13 (31/01) – Conclusion and retrospect

Assessment and permitted materials

1. Attendance and participation (40%)
• Assignment: Reading of source text(s) in translation to be downloaded from Moodle and active participation in their discussion. You should send two questions on the assigned material from you to me (e.g., something that is not clear or something that conflicts with what you know). I will also give guiding questions to help you think.
• Max. 2 absences (beyond that, extra work will be required). Please get in touch if you cannot attend a session.

2. 2 short reaction papers (10% each, ca. 300 words) after Week 5 and 8 on a single source chosen among the ones already assigned for the single sessions.
• What is a reaction paper? What you found interesting (and why), what was unexpected, what was not consistent with what you knew before.

3. 1 short class presentation (20%) and 1 paper (ca. 3000 words, excl. footnotes and bibliography, 20%).
• Please schedule a meeting with me before the end of Week 5, so we can talk about the topic of your presentation and paper, and before the end of Week 8, to discuss your presentation/paper outline. Start thinking widely about what sparked your curiosity (and put that into the reaction paper maybe!).
• Presentations will be at the end of the course in Weeks 11 and 12.
• Deadline for the paper: February 28.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Knowledge of ancient languages is by no means a requirement, but students with some knowledge of one or more of them are welcome to engage with the sources’ original language in their written assignments or presentation.

Examination topics

Reading list

Bibliographical references will be provided during the first session and throughout the course.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Fr 07.01.2022 11:28