The city of Rome certainly did not end after the Roman era, but it transformed considerably – just like Italy and the Mediterranean in general. At the same time, Early Medieval Rome was not an entirely new world as it was deeply rooted in its ancient past. Although pan-Mediterranean Roman imperialism had disappeared, contact and exchange between other cities (including Constantinople) did not cease altogether. At the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR), this course offers an archaeological exploration of how to make sense of this situation of continuity and gradual change.
Rome’s transition from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages will be investigated during this course, between roughly the fifth and tenth centuries after Christ. The emphasis will be on cultural and socioeconomic developments of the Early Medieval period in Rome and Italy, based on the study of material culture with a focus on ceramic finds.
‘Byzantine Rome’ is placed in the context of Medieval Italy and the wider Mediterranean world. Connections between Rome and Constantinople and the Byzantine ‘East’, and other Mediterranean regions are going to be discussed. What continued, and what changed in this period? What were political, religious, economic and cultural links to sites within and beyond the Italian Peninsula? How do we see historical economic, and societal shifts and developments back in the archaeological record?
This course is open to BA and (R)MA students of archaeology and (art) history from KNIR- partner universities (Universiteit Leiden, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit, Universiteit Utrecht, Radboud Universiteit and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen). A formal application, including a short CV and letter of motivation, is required before participation. Active involvement and a general interest in the post-Roman Mediterranean are necessary; some background knowledge is appreciated.
Course format and assignments
The course is organised by Joanita Vroom and hosted at the KNIR, Rome. It consists of a 10-day intensive seminar, including one free day. The course contains (guest) lectures, historical site visits, group discussions, and a material (ceramic) practical. Excursions include trips to several ‘Byzantine’ churches. Furthermore, we are planning to visit the Crypta Balbi Museum and the National Museum of the Middle Ages (in E.U.R.).
During the seminar, each participant will deliver an oral presentation either at the KNIR and/or during excursions on a related topic of choice. Students will write their final essay on the presentation’s topic. Before and during the seminar, participating students will read selected literature on subjects related to this course. Student assignments will be part of the excursions and practical.
The study load is divided as follow:
1. Before and during the course: independent study of the literature (1 ECTS);
2. During the course: active participation in all parts of the course (3 ECTS);
3. After the course: a final essay ranging from circa 2500 (BA) to 6000 ((R)MA) words (1 ECTS).
Credits and assessment
The study load is the equivalent of 5 ECTS. Each student should arrange with his/her university coordinator or study advisor whether the course can be a part of the existing curriculum. After successful completion of the course, the KNIR provides a certificate mentioning study load and evaluation. Dutch and Italian language skills are not required; however, English is the course language. The assessment and grading are based on:
1. preparatory work, including literature study (20%);
2. active participation, including presention and discussions (30%);
3. final essay (50%).
Tuition and lodging at the KNIR is free for selected participants from the above-mentioned Dutch universities. Personal expenses, including meals, are not included. Students receive a €100 reimbursement of their expenses for travelling to Rome after a successful completion of this course.
Facilities in Rome
All participants will be housed at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome’s Villa Borghese Park. From there, it is only a short walk to the historical center of Rome. The KNIR accommodation consists of shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and includes a living and dining space, a large kitchen, washing machine and wireless internet.* All residents have 24/7 access to the library and the garden of the Royal Netherlands Institute.
Abulafia, D., (ed) 2021. The Mediterranean in History. London: Thames and Hudson.
Arthur, P. and H. Patterson, 1994. Ceramics and Early Medieval central and southern Italy: ‘A potted history’, in: R. Francovich and G. Noyé (eds), La storia dell’ alto medioevo italiano (VI-X secolo) alla luce dell’archeologia, Florence: All’Insegna del Giglio, 409–441.
Hodges, R., 2012. Adriatic Sea trade in an European perspective, in: S. Gelichi and R. Hodges (eds), From One Sea to Another: Trading Places in the European and Mediterranean Early Middle Ages,Turnhout: Brepols , 207–234.
Vroom, J., 2012. From one coast to another: Early Medieval ceramics in the southern Adriatic region,in: S. Gelichi and R. Hodges (eds), From One Sea to Another: Trading Places in the European and Mediterranean Early Middle Ages, Turnhout: Brepols, 353–391.
Vroom, J., 2017. The Byzantine web: Pottery and connectivity between the southern Adriatic and the eastern Mediterranean, in: S. Gelichi and C. Negrelli (eds), Adriatico altomedievale (VI-XI secolo). Scambi, porti, produzioni, Venice: Ca’Foscari, 285–310.
Ward-Perkins, B., 2006. The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wickham, C., 2010. The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000. London: Penguin.
1 June 2023
Please note that the decision of the selection committee is final and no correspondence will be entered into.