MSt/ MPhil in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies

Course Structure

The programme comprises the following elements

Core Paper

Please note: for the MPhil programme two core papers will be chosen to take place over the two-years.

A core paper on History, Art and Archaeology, or History and Byzantine Literature during the first two terms of the academic year (comprising two sets of weekly classes), examined on the basis of two 5,000-word essays on topics of their choosing (subject to the approval of their supervisor), submitted at the end of the summer term (Trinity Term).

  • History, Art and Archaeology: Late Antiquity
  • History, Art and Archaeology: Byzantium
  • History and Literature: Late Antiquity
  • History and Literature: Byzantium

Except for Papyrology and Artefact Studies, which are usually examined by two 5,000-word essays, the auxiliary discipline papers are taken in pairs, and examined by 90-minute unseen examination, together counting as one advanced option.

  • Epigraphy
  • Palaeography
  • Numismatics
  • Sigillography
  • Papyrology
  • Artefact studies [one of the following: ceramics, metalware, ivories, codices, carved marbles]

Advanced options

Please note: for the MPhil programme three advanced options will be chosen to take place over the two-years.

Two advanced options courses are selected by the students, and may include topics in ancient and medieval languages and literatures, the auxiliary disciplines of papyrology, epigraphy, palaeography, numismatics, sigillography (usually studies in pairs), or artefact studies, or advanced study in the literature, history and religion of the area.

There are no detailed descriptions for these papers, as much of the teaching will be tailored to the individual training needs and interests of students on the programme. The programme convenor and a candidate's individual supervisor will agree with the student a suitable programme of work at the start of the academic year.

There is a broad range of relevant language and literature and special subject papers available; please consult your supervisor or the programme convenor for advice on the choices which would be most suitable to your academic development. The fields of study listed below illustrate the general range of expert teaching available at Oxford, but please note that not every option will be available each year, and that they are subject to change:

Students who take Advanced Option papers in Translation and Literature are expected to develop adequate competence in one of seven classical/medieval languages on offer, selecting the one which is most appropriate to their interests. Tutorials and classes are provided throughout the year. Theoretical study of grammar and syntax (together with associated exercises for developing and testing knowledge and competence) is complemented by close study of a number of prescribed texts (the selection being made in consultation with graduate students).

This option involves in-depth study of topics such as From paganism to Christianity - the Roman empire in the fourth century; the Sasanian empire; the sub-Roman west in the sixth century; the east Roman empire in the age of Justinian; nomads, Slavs and the southern powers, 370-700; the rise of Islam; Syria 400-800; Armenia 600-900; Byzantium and the Arabs ca.650-ca.860; the Christianisation of the Balkans and Russia; Islamic history 600-1000; Byzantium and Armenia 850-1050; Byzantium in the age of Constantine Porphyrogenitus; Arab and Norman Sicily 827-1250; the Seljuqs; the Komnenian revival; the Palaiologan age.

This option involves in-depth study of topics such as Late Antique sculpture/portraiture; monumental art and architecture in Late Antiquity; city, countryside and economy in Late Antiquity; pilgrimage in Late Antiquity; Constantinople; Islamic art and archaeology 650-900; early Islamic monetary history; Byzantine manuscript illumination; Byzantine monumental art; Byzantine regional archaeology; Islamic art and archaeology 900-1250; royal art and architecture in Norman Sicily 1130-1194; Palaiologan art and architecture.

This option involves in-depth study of topics such as literature in Late Antiquity (Greek); literature in Late Antiquity (Latin); literature in Late Antiquity (oriental – either Arabic or Syriac or Armenian); Hebrew/Aramaic texts; Byzantine historiography in the eleventh and twelfth centuries; Byzantine poetry from John Geometres to Theodore Prodromos; Byzantine popular narratives; Byzantine scholarship.

This option involves in-depth study of topics such as Judaism in Late Antiquity; the Arian controversy; Augustine; Gnosticism and Manichaeism; Christological debate, fifth to seventh centuries; Iconoclasm; early medieval Islamic thought; Byzantine spirituality.