The Historians of Late Antiquity

The Historians of Late Antiquity

The Historians of Late Antiquity

The Historians of Late Antiquity

Synopsis

In an accessible survey of the lives and works of historians of late antiquity David Rohrbacher explores the structure, style, purpose and nature of their writings. The second part compares and contrasts the information these historians provide.

Excerpt

Interest in late antiquity has increased dramatically in recent decades, and the profusion of scholarly work on the subject shows no sign of abating. the scope of “late antiquity” itself has undergone an expansion both chronologically and geographically. Events as early as the second and as late as the tenth centuries have been described as “late antique,” as have events in the histories of Iran, Africa, and Arabia. This book takes a comparatively restricted view of the term “late antique,” treating only what seems still to be the core of the late antiquity, the fourth and fifth centuries in the Roman empire. During these two centuries, the empire became Christian, and the political unity of the Mediterranean was sundered by the end of imperial rule over the western provinces. (Useful modern introductions to the period include Jones 1964, 1966; Brown 1971; Cameron 1993a, 1993b; Bowersock et al. 1999.)

Scholarly interpretations of the transformations which took place during late antiquity have been altered by the continual accumulation of new sources of information, such as new archaeological exploration and analysis. Just as important as the new data, however, have been changes in attitude and perspective. What had once been seen only as a melancholy time of “Decline and Fall” is now more likely to be celebrated for its new and innovative approaches to religion, art, and culture. Modern judgements on late antiquity are certain to be influenced by modern sentiments about Christianity, empire, and multiculturalism. This study seeks not to pass new judgement on this complex period, but to better illuminate how it was perceived by those living and writing at the time.

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