MA Antiquity: Byzantine Studies pathway

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.

Times Higher Education ranked us among the top five departments of Classics in the country for our performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise.

Postgraduate scholarships and loans available

The University offers a range of scholarships for our postgraduate taught and research programmes to ensure that the very best talent is nurtured and supported. There are also government-backed Masters and PhD loans available to help with course fees and living costs.

Find out more

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 choose two core language modules, at least one which should be Greek, from a range of which typically includes:

  • Greek (Beginner or Advanced)
  • Egyptian Language
  • Latin (Beginner or Advanced)
  • Modern Languages

You will also study a third core module: The Methodologies of Byzantine Studies.

You will also choose three optional modules, at least two of which should relate to Byzantine Studies. Options available may include:

  • Aspects of Byzantine History I: Narrative and the Material
  • Aspects of Byzantine History II: Byzantine Society
  • Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture
  • Byzantine Art and Architecture
  • Numismatics for Research and in Museums
  • The Economies of the Late Roman, Byzantine and Frankish East

Full module descriptions are available below.

Assessment 

Modules are typically assessed by written assignment, other than language modules which may be assessed by examination. You will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation on a subject of your choice.

Why study this course

  • Established expertise - the Byzantine Empire was a fascinatingly rich and diverse cultural world, cutting across familiar ideas of divisions between East and West, and ancient and medieval. The University of Birmingham has a long-established record as one of the world’s leading centres for the study of this field.
  • Flexibility - with such a range of expertise available, you will be supported to explore your specific interests, particularly through the dissertation.
  • Exceptional learning resources - you will have access to the Roman and Byzantine coin collection at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, one of the largest in the world, and the library of Professor A.A. M. Bryer, the founder of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, housed in the seminar room of the Centre.
  • Research strengths - Times Higher Education ranked us among the top five departments of Classics in the country for our performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise.
  • Be a part of an exciting department - you will join a lively postgraduate community with many opportunities to enhance your learning from events, research seminars and conferences.

Modules

You will study two core language modules, at least one of which should be Greek, from a range which includes:

Beginner Greek or Latin

These modules provide an intensive introduction to Greek or Latin. They aim to provide you with the basic linguistic skills needed to acquire a reading knowledge of Greek or Latin for the purposes of research.
Assessment: Class test or examination

Advanced Greek or Latin           

These modules consolidate linguistic skills to enable you to work independently on Greek or Latin texts in the original language, building upon existing knowledge. They develop analytical and critical skills by means of advanced grammar and reading classes focusing in detail on a text or texts. Texts chosen will generally reflect the interests of students in the group.
Assessment: Take-home paper or examination

Egyptian Language 1

This is a beginners’ course in Middle Egyptian, so you will start from scratch learning to read ancient Egyptian texts and translate sentences written in hieroglyphs into English. Two contact hours per week will enable us to make fast progress so that you are able to translate even unseen texts from the age of the Pharaohs into English by the end of term 2. Concentrating purely on what is called Middle Egyptian, which was the language introduced during the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000 BC), will build a strong basis for any further studies of Egyptian language.
Assessment: Class test or examination

Modern Languages modules are also available.

You will also study a third core module:

The Methodologies of Byzantine Studies

This module provides an introduction to predominant research methodologies in Byzantine studies. You are given introductory training in a variety of subject areas, such as historical writing, charters and documents, art history, numismatics, epigraphy and sigillography. Emphasis is placed on the primary sources and the analytical and bibliographical skills required for interpreting narrative, documentary and material evidence relating to the Byzantine past.
Assessment: Four 1,000-word essays

You will also choose three optional modules, at least two of which should relate to the Byzantine Studies pathway. Options available may include:

Aspects of Byzantine History I: Narrative and the Material

In this module the focus is on the narrative account of Nicholas Mesarites, an eyewitness to the failed usurpation attempt of a member of the aristocracy, John Komnenos 'the Fat' (1200). One of five contemporary accounts, Mesarites' report is distinguished by its great attention to detail, expressed not only in descriptions of the buildings of the palace and the relics kept there but also by attention to the physical, the body, the sounds and sights of the 24-hour coup. We will study the way Mesarites constructs his narrative but also the way modern historians construct their narratives of this event.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Aspects of Byzantine History II: Byzantine Society

This module takes a broad perspective on Byzantine society, concentrating on the middle Byzantine period (7th-11th centuries). We will work our way from the top – the emperor, the court, the bureaucracy – to the bottom of the social ladder, i.e. the peasants and the unfree. We will approach the social structures of Byzantium from a variety of angles, looking at the court, family structures, provincial society, merchants etc. We will use a range of sources, from the court hierarchies defined in the Taktika to legal sources on land ownership, and from historiography to first-hand accounts of captivity, and apply a comparative approach when useful.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture

The module surveys the history of archaeological practice as it concerns the post-Roman East, and explores key aspects of the Late Roman and Transitional (‘Dark-Age’) archaeological record, different archaeological strategies, and how archaeological literature can be used to understand some of the major long-term changes that characterise the period AD 300-800. It focuses in particular on interpretative themes such as Christianisation, invasions, demographic changes, the transformation of urban culture, and changes in rural settlement, agriculture and artisanal production.
Assessment: Written assignment

Byzantine Art and Architecture

This module ensures a thorough grounding in the monuments of Byzantium, and an understanding of the methodological issues and problems confronting modern scholars. Lectures provide a chronological survey of the monuments from the foundation of Constantinople in 324 until the end of the Byzantine empire (1453).
Assessment: Written assignment

Numismatics for Research and in Museums

In this module you will be working directly with the coins held at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Of the ten two-hour sessions over the course of the semester, six will be devoted to numismatics as a discipline within historical studies, and the remaining four will be devoted to coins in museum collections. As part of the museology section you will be asked to conceive, propose and design a museum display case relating to any aspect of numismatics but within the constraints of the Barber’s coin collection.
Assessment: 3,000-word essay and 1,500-word exhibition plan

The Economies of the Late Roman, Byzantine and Frankish East

This module introduces the economic history of the post-Roman East (4th-15th cc.). Lectures first review critically a range of approaches to pre-modern economies and explore their value for historical enquiries; then the study of parameters of long- and short-term change (environmental, demographic and technological); key trajectories (e.g., in land-use, artisanal production, trade, redistribution, and monetisation); evolving forms of land tenure and taxation; the state’s involvement in the economy; the roles of the Church and the law; and the impact of the Italian mercantile republics. In the seminar component you will have the opportunity to consider this predominantly empirical history in the light of the more theoretical approaches, and in the light of the burgeoning archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean, confronting some of the problems of the relationship between theories, texts, and archaeology.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay


Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2018/19 are as follows:

  • UK / EU: £9,000 full-time; £4,500 part-time
  • International: £17,010 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

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

We can also confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who have an offer to start their studies in the 2018-19 academic year will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time, provided this continues to be permitted by UK law. The UK Government has also confirmed that students from the EU applying to courses starting in the 2018-19 academic year will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or fee status. This guarantee will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.

Paying your fees

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.

Entry requirements

We  normally require a 2:1 degree, or equivalent, in a discipline relevant to the selected pathway, such as Classics, Archaeology or History.

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

Application deadlines

International students requiring visas

Monday 2 July 2018 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2018 made after this date - a new application should be made for September 2019. Applications will reopen for 2019 entry by 21 September 2018.

UK/EU students

Please apply by Friday 31 August 2018. However, we would encourage you to apply at the earliest opportunity, to allow adequate time to prepare for starting your studies once receiving a decision on your application. Please also be aware that earlier deadlines may apply if you wish to make an application for funding.

Late applicants are encouraged to contact the Admissions Tutor for advice.

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

Learn more about applying

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

The course is delivered through a range of teaching and learning methods, including lectures and seminars. You will also receive one-to-one supervision to support you in the development of your dissertation.

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 for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver tailored programmes of careers events and local support.

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies

Graduates with a postgraduate degree in Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies can boast a wide combination of skills that can be applied in many types of work and which employers regard very positively. Many graduates have gone on to pursue academic posts at institutions such as Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard University), University of Birmingham and University of Warwick.

Over the past five years, 91% of MA Antiquity postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. 

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

The Guild of Students hosts over 250 student groups and societies to suit a wide range of interests. These include the Postgraduate and Mature Students Association which runs a regular and varied programme of events specifically tailored to postgraduate students.

In addition, you will find that each Department runs its own social activities, research fora and student groups.

Accommodation

We offer accommodation for postgraduates on or near to campus, although many of our students also choose to live privately in student accommodation, shared houses or flats. If you do choose to live in private accommodation, the University has dedicated support services to help you to find properties from accredited landlords.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.