The Roman Empire and the Barbarians: From Attila to Charlemagne - Not offered in AY 2022-23

Undergraduate Program Status

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
US Credits: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Description: 

The core class will have a closer look at the period of transition from the Roman Empire to the Carolingian Empire comprising the period from the 3rd until the 9th century A.D. The main regional focus point will be the Latin West and Italy. The title deliberately uses the term "Roman Empire" in a broader sense in order to discuss the aspects of continuity and discontinuity. The class will try to connect itself to the discussions about the period of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages as period of – according to some scholars – a rupture or, according to others, a slow and steady transformation. The seminar will therefore explore the character of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in the framework of recent and older scholarship that shifted between regarding these developments as a transition period on the one hand and “the end of civilization” on the other. The core class will also discuss the various attempts to define the character of the new emerging political entities in the region, including Attila's Empire, the Gothic realms, the Longobards and the Frankish kingdom(s). The core class will try to explore, how the new political entities defined themselves with respect to the Roman Empire. It is commonly assumed that the Roman Empire was the role model for the newly emerging kingdoms, realms and political formations that were created by the invading peoples. This becomes obvious when the Franks under Charlemagne finally tried to restore the Roman Empire with Charlemagne himself being crowned as Emperor. During more than 300 years between the fall of the Western part of the Roman Empire and the coronation of Charlemagne, in the new political entities various political models emerged and disappeared. Each of these models had a different approach to define its own ethnic belonging as well as the relationship between Romans and “Barbarian” invaders. We will have a closer look at some of them and try to contribute to the discussion on the character of ethnicity in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.

Learning Outcomes: 

Apart from simply learning about the topic itself, the students will become familiar with historical methodology and recent research tendencies. The course will always refer to the relevant texts and the possible modes of interpretation. The students will be acquainted with different types of sources, like, e. g., chronicles, diplomas, letters, treatises, and others.