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Major developments in the political, social, and religious history of western Europe from the accession of Diocletian to the feudal transformation. Topics include the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam and the Arabs, the "Dark Ages," Charlemagne and the Carolingian renaissance, and the Viking and Hungarian invasions.

Early Middle Ages Yale University

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Major developments in the political, social, and religious history of western Europe from the accession of Diocletian to the feudal transformation. Topics include the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam and the Arabs, the "Dark Ages," Charlemagne and the Carolingian renaissance, and the Viking and Hungarian invasions.

    01. Course Introduction: Rome’s Greatness and First Crises

    01. Course Introduction: Rome’s Greatness and First Crises

    Professor Freedman introduces the major themes of the course: the crisis of the Roman Empire, the rise of Christianity, the threats from barbarian invasions, and the continuity of the Byzantine Empire. At the beginning of the period covered in this course, the Roman Empire was centered politically, logistically, and culturally on the Mediterranean Sea. Remarkable for its size and longevity, the Empire was further marked by its tolerance. Although it contained an eclectic mix of peoples, the Empire was unified in part by a local elite with a shared language and customs. In the third century these strengths were increasingly threatened by the Empire’s sheer size, its imbalances, both East-West and urban-rural, and by an army that realizes it could make and unmake emperors. Having set the scene, Professor Freedman looks to subsequent lectures where he will discuss reforms enacted to address these weaknesses.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Fall 2011.

    • 40 Min.
    02. The Crisis of the Third Century and the Diocletianic Reforms

    02. The Crisis of the Third Century and the Diocletianic Reforms

    Professor Freedman outlines the problems facing the Roman Empire in the third century. The Persian Sassanid dynasty in the East and various Germanic tribes in the West threatened the Empire as never before. Internally, the Empire struggled with the problem of succession, an economy wracked by inflation, and the decline of the local elite which had once held it together. Having considered these issues, Professor Freedman then moves on to the reforms enacted under Diocletian to stabilize the Empire. He attempted to solve the problem of succession by setting up a system of joint rule called the Tetrarchy, to stabilize the economy through tax reform, and to protect the frontiers through militarization. Although many of his policies failed--some within his lifetime--Diocletian nevertheless saved the Roman Empire from collapse.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Fall 2011.

    • 48 Min.
    03. Constantine and the Early Church

    03. Constantine and the Early Church

    Professor Freedman examines how Christianity came to be the official religion of the Roman Empire. This process began seriously in 312, when the emperor Constantine converted after a divinely inspired victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Constantine’s conversion would have seemed foolish as a political strategy since Christianity represented a completely different system of values from that of the Roman state, but not only did it prove to be a brilliant storke in aid of Constantine’s quest for power, it fundamentally changed the character of the Empire and that of the early Church. Constantine also moved his capitol to a new city he founded in the East, named Constantinople, opening the possibility of a Roman Empire without Rome. Professor Freedman ends the lecture with a comparison of Diocletian and Constantine.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Fall 2011.

    • 45 Min.
    04. The Christian Roman Empire

    04. The Christian Roman Empire

    The emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity brought change to the Roman Empire as its population gradually abandoned the old religions in favor of Christianity. The reign of Julian the Apostate, a nephew of Constantine, saw the last serious attempt to restore civic polytheism as the official religion. The Christian church of the fourth century was divided, however, by two serious heresies: Arianism and Donatism. Religious dissent led to the intervention of the emperors at church councils and elsewhere. Professor Freedman then introduces St. Augustine’s Confessions, including an overview of Platonism.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Fall 2011.

    • 47 Min.
    05. St. Augustine’s Confessions

    05. St. Augustine’s Confessions

    Professor Freedman begins the lecture by considering the ways historians read the Confessions. In this work, St. Augustine gives unique insight into the life of an intellectual mind in Late Antiquity, into the impact of Christianity on the Roman Empire, and into the problems of early Christianity. The three major doctrinal concerns of the early Church were the problem of evil, the soul-body distinction, and issues of sin and redemption. In the Confessions, St. Augustine searches for explanations of these problems first in Manichaeism, then (Neo)Platonism, and finally Christianity.Underlying this narrative are Augustine’s ideas of opposition to perfectionism, his exaltation of grace, and the notion of sin as indelible, not solvable.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Fall 2011.

    • 46 Min.
    06. Transformation of the Roman Empire

    06. Transformation of the Roman Empire

    The Roman Empire in the West collapsed as a political entity in the fifth century although the Eastern part survived the crisis. Professor Freedman considers this transformation through three main questions: Why did the West fall apart – because of the external pressure of invasions or the internal problems of institutional decline? Who were these invading barbarians? Finally, does this transformation mark a gradual shift or is it right to regard it as a cataclysmic end of civilization? Professor Freedman, as a moderate catastrophist, argues that this period marked the end of a particular civilization rather than the end of civilization in general.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Fall 2011.

    • 49 Min.

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