The Birth of Medieval Europe: Interactions of Power Zones and their Cultures in Late Antique and Ear

Venue: Budapest

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Event Date/Time: Jul 16, 2007 End Date/Time: Jul 27, 2007
Registration Date: Feb 14, 2007
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The fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of medieval power centres was one of the most debated historical issues in the last century. Historical, archaeological, and religious studies were dedicated to this problem, and military, economic, and climatic explanations were put forward to highlight and explain the relatively fast decline of the Western Roman Empire and the emergence of new power centres (Byzantine, Carolingian). The survival of the late antique economic system into the early medieval period is one of the most powerful historical concepts for the explanation of the transitional period, and it has been the most debated historical question of the period since the beginning of the twentieth century. Recently, major monographs have reinterpreted the whole period and the authors have proposed fundamentally new concepts for the explanation of this period. They represent an extremely wide range of modern ideas of reinterpretation and many complex issues concerning the concept of Roman continuity, regional development patterns in early medieval Europe, and a very general concept of "clashes" of cultures. Based on these recent studies and the discussions and debates generated by them, the summer course will focus on these questions in an interdisciplinary approach for scholars.

The course will focus on four major issues, starting from the local-regional context of one of the most important power centres of the period (Ravenna and Rome). Until very recently the main emphasis of research was connected to the artistic monuments of Ravenna (mosaics), but recent studies have started to focus on economic and topographic issues and on their impact on the later Medieval period. Second, the local regional aspect will be incorporated into an Italian panorama of the period, with the main questions centering on the interactions of different power zones and cultural centres. In this part, the interaction of Late Antique (Roman) heritage, its Byzantine transformation, and the emergence of the new power centre will also be discussed in the context of "Barbarian" invasions and the arrival of new ethnic groups (Goths, Lombards, etc.) The third main block of lectures and discussions will focus on the general interpretation of the period from a European-wide perspective, and the new research data derived from the archaeological project in Ravenna will be compared with the general historical debates mentioned in the introduction. Finally, discussion will turn to the afterlife of these places and sites, covering the extent to which this Late Antique archaeological and architectural heritage was reinterpreted, transformed, and re-utilised in the Late Medieval period.

The course is designed for postgraduate students and for scholars with previous knowledge gained in at least one aspect of the course (the Roman period, the early Middle Ages, continuity problems, etc.) The course themes and its program structure have been designed for specialists in ancient history, Late Classical and Early Medieval history, archaeology, art history, and/or church history. Academics in the field of religious studies, Byzantine studies, Italian studies, and European studies are also among the expected applicants for the course. As one important aspect of the course is the interpretation of cultural heritage monuments, specialists in this field working in heritage institutions are also potential participants in the course.