Imperium Indivisum?: The Collapse of the West Roman Empire in the Fifth Century AD (PGT) CLASSIC5116

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course examines the political history of the Roman Empire during the fifth century AD, with a close focus on the social, political, and economic causes and effects of the end of Roman power in Western Europe. It will examine the emergence of the so-called barbarian kingdoms and also ask students to think about the relationship between the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. Above all, it will explore the question of why Empires fall and of the experiences of those living through decline and collapse.


15 x 1hr seminars

5 x 1 hr lectures

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level

Excluded Courses

CLASSIC4085 Imperium Indivisum

LATIN4030  Imperium Indivisum Latin




2x Essay (3,000 words) - 50% each. 

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Introduce the political history of the fifth century AD.

■ Understand the currents of historical debate surrounding the fall of the west Roman Empire and the enormous influence that modern ideologies have upon our reading of the period.

■ Assess the various contributions of military, social, and economic factors in the collapse of the Roman state.

■ Explore the ideology of the later Roman state and the way in which that ideology affected decision making at macro and micro levels.

■ Explore the relationship between centre and periphery in the late Roman world and the way in which crisis effected local populations.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Display an understanding of the major events of fifth century history.

■ Unite written and archaeological sources to build a rounded picture of fifth century history.

■ Employ literary and legal texts to explore the impact of macro policies at a micro level.

■ Relate their understanding of this period to more generalised questions of the life cycles of Empires and the mechanisms by which power, control, and authority are able to change hands. 

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.