The Byzantine and Islamic Worlds in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleLET-GESB932
Credits (ECTS)5
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Arts; History;
prof. dr. O.J. Hekster
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. O.J. Hekster
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. O.J. Hekster
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. O.J. Hekster
Other course modules lecturer
dr. M.C.J. Verhoeven
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2022
PER 3  (30/01/2023 to 09/04/2023)
Starting block
Course mode
RemarksAccessible to exchange students
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
After completing the course, students:
  • have expanded and broadened their knowledge of the Byzantine and Islamic worlds in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages;
  • have developed academic skills that are needed to study the primary source material by way of methodological exercises that are part of the discipline of History.
In the third century A.D. the Mediterranean was enclosed by the Roman Empire. In most text books Europe is presented as the most significant heir of the Roman Empire, although Roman territory had stretched much further than the European continent into Anatolia, the Middle East and North-Africa. This course focuses on two other important heirs of the Roman Empire: the Byzantine and Islamic worlds.
The Byzantine Empire occupies a special position within the history of the Mediterranean World. For many people Byzantium fires the imagination because of its great pomp and splendour, because of famous buildings such as Haghia Sophia in Constantinople or because of the mystical icons in the many Byzantine monasteries that were built throughout Europe. This course deals with the history of Byzantium, starting with the foundation of the city Constantinople by Constantine the Great in the early fourth century and ending with the fall of the city in 1453.
No one today will deny the importance of knowledge and understanding of the world of Islam. This course examines the earliest history of this world and introduces students to the Mecca of Mohammed, and to the Great Mosque of Damascus as one of the first monumental buildings of the caliphate, and to court culture of the caliphs in Bagdad and to Cairo as a multicultural centre. We will follow this history from the appearance of Mohammed and his first followers in Late Antiquity until the emergence of the Ottoman Empire in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, a new world power in the Middle East that would usher in the end of Byzantium.
This course will – on the one hand - concentrate on continuities and raptures with Roman traditions in the Byzantine and Islamic worlds. On the other hand, we will take into consideration the contacts between Byzantium and the world of Islam and the third heir of the Roman Empire, the Latin Christendom of Europe. While studying a broad range of primary (written as well as visual) sources we will address political, cultural, social and economic developments that characterize these worlds and their mutual contacts.

Presumed foreknowledge
Note for exchange students: 
You cannot take this course if your English proficiency level is not at least B2 (TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC or Cambridge). A statement from your home university won't be accepted.
Test information


Required materials
Title: Byzantium. The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire
Author:Judith Herrin
Publisher:Princeton University Press 2008 of 2009
Title: A Thousand Years of Faith and Power
Author:Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair
Publisher:Yale University Press 2002

Instructional modes

Written Exam
Test weight100
Test typeWritten exam
OpportunitiesBlock PER 3, Block PER 4

Minimum grade