MA Antiquity: Byzantine Studies pathway

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The Antiquity MA: Byzantine Studies pathway allows you to study the political, cultural, social economic and literary history of the Byzantine Empire. This programme offers an ideal opportunity to pursue your interests in greater depth and also provides an ideal foundation for further research at doctoral level. This is one of several pathways available on the Antiquity MA.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Taught

Study Options: Full time, part time

Duration: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

Start date: September

Details

This is the degree for you if you enjoyed studying the ancient world as an undergraduate, and would now like to study Byzantine Studies in greater depth and at a higher level; or if you want to explore this aspect of antiquity and it wasn’t included in your first degree. It allows you to specialise, but also encourages you to branch out into related disciplines and to consider interdisciplinary approaches.

You will study three core modules [full descriptions available below]:

  • The Methodologies of Byzantine Studies
  • Approaches to Images, Material Culture and Texts
  • Research Skills

You will also choose three optional modules from across all of the programme’s pathways, offering the opportunity for interdisciplinary study. You will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation on a subject of your choice, with one-to-one expert supervision.  

Why study this course

Classical antiquity has been studied at the University of Birmingham for more than a hundred years. Particular current research strengths include: the ancient city, especially Rome and Pompeii; cultural memory; trends in the study and writing of study; religion; the life course; Greek colonisation; ancient slavery; reception of antiquity; performance and civic identity; Hellenistic Greece; Herodotus; and cultural contact between Greece, the Ancient Near East and Egypt.

With such a range of expertise available, you will be supported to explore your specific interests, particularly through the dissertation.

Modules

You will study three core modules:

The Methodologies of Byzantine Studies

This module gives you an overview of the essential sources for the study of Byzantium – images, documents, narrative accounts, coins, seals inscriptions, archaeological remains – and explores the possibilities and limits of each. The study of subjects such as archaeology, art history and gender offers you the opportunity to apply multidisciplinary approaches to your dissertation topic.

Approaches to Images, Material Culture and Texts

This module invites you to experiment with interdisciplinary approaches. Linked to a series of research seminars by academic staff, the module is a forum in which staff and students work together to identify significant current directions in research, and to explore links, and differences, between academic disciplines.

Research Skills

This module will help you to develop the skills necessary for graduate level research, introduce you to the latest methods and techniques for interpreting primary sources, and demonstrate how to make critical use of scholarly works. You will learn how to define and approach interesting research questions, and develop an overview of the fields of scholarship most relevant to your pathway.

You will also choose three optional modules, from a range which typically includes:

Ancient Greek Language (Beginners' level)

This module provides an intensive introduction to Greek. It aims to provide you with the basic linguistic skills needed to acquire a reading knowledge of Greek for the purposes of research.

Please note: If you have no previous knowledge of Greek you are advised to take this as one of your options.

Aspects of Byzantine History

The module introduces you to historiographical issues of early and middle Byzantine history. Topics may include: the end of the ancient world and the rise of medieval Byzantium; the emergence of the Byzantine aristocracy; continuity and change in the Byzantine army; life in the countryside; political, doctrinal and ideological controversies; saints and sainthood; Byzantium’s regulated economy. The readings consist of key modern studies discussed in seminar meetings. Select primary sources are introduced, which may include Byzantine Greek or medieval Latin texts.

Byzantine Art and Architecture I

This module provides a thorough grounding in the monuments of Byzantium, and an understanding of the methodological issues and problems confronting modern scholars. It provides a chronological survey of the monuments (architecture, architectural decoration, sculpture, and painting including icons and book illumination) from the foundation of Constantinople in 324 until Iconoclasm (730-843), with an emphasis on the interpretation of the monuments in their historical context. 

Byzantine Art and Architecture II

Following Byzantine Art and Architecture II, this module focuses on the monuments from Iconoclasm (730-843) until the end of the Byzantine empire (1453).  

Late Roman and Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture I

This module is based on the largest source of fresh evidence for the Late Roman-to- early medieval Eastern Mediterranean world (including southeastern Europe), namely archaeology. It is designed to accustom interested students to using archaeological materials in the discussion of historians’ ideas about economic, social, cultural, and even political changes. A background in archaeology is not essential, but some general aspects of the aims and methods of different types of archaeological projects must be introduced. The module(s) will deal with this by exploring the history of archaeological practice as it concerns the post-Roman East. We will then focus on the new debates which archaeology stimulates about important aspects of history from ca. 300 to ca. 800 AD. These concern the multiple impacts of invaders and invasions, Christianisation, demographic changes, the transformation of urban culture, and changes in rural settlement, agriculture, and artisanal production. By the end of this module you should be able to recognise key aspects of the Late Roman and Transitional (‘Dark-Age’) archaeological record, understand the problems and value of different archaeological strategies, and use the burgeoning archaeological literature to discuss some of the major long-term changes that characterise the period ca. 300-800 beyond western and northern Europe.

Late Roman and Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture II

This module is based on the burgeoning archaeology of the medieval eastern Mediterranean and SE Europe and has the same general aims and themes as Late Roman and Byzantine Archaeology I. However, taking account of the rise and spread of Islam, the Slavs, and eventually the Crusades, and the divisions which these brought to the geographical space concerned, the course concentrates on the Christian world in the Balkans, Greece, Cyprus and Anatolia. At the same time the survival of local archives from the 9th c. onwards creates new possibilities for an historical archaeology of regions and sub-regions. By the end of this module you should be able to recognise key aspects of the medieval Byzantine and Crusader (‘Frankish’) archaeological record, use the archaeological literature to question some of the grand narratives of historians, and see ‘dramatic’ short-term historical changes from new perspectives.

Women, Men and Eunuchs: Gender in Byzantium I and II

These modules examine approaches to Late Antique and Byzantine gender in depth. Topics covered may include: Why study gender?; Women, men, eunuchs: masculinities, femininities, and a third gender?; Prokopios’s Secret History; gender and heresy: women, monks and iconoclasm; church, state and gender: a patriarch and an empress in conflict; gender and daily life: family, marriage and the law; the cult of the Virgin; and gender in relation to the linguistic turn, status and monastic experience.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2015/16 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £6,210 full-time; £3,105 part-time
  • Overseas: £14,140 full-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in year two of your programme.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

University of Birmingham graduates may be entitled to a fee reduction through the College of Arts and Law Alumni Bursary scheme.

Entry requirements


Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

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Making your application

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Learning and teaching

The research modules will train you to a professional level in bibliographic research, project development, information management and retrieval, oral presentation, active listening, and a range of subject-specific skills tailored to this pathway.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).

Related research

Employability

The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

Graduates with a postgraduate degree in Antiquity can boast a wide combination of skills that can be applied in many types of work and which employers regard very positively. That’s why historically, over 91% of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology postgraduates have been in employment or further study within six months of graduating.