Cities and the Meanings of Late Antiquity


The last half century has seen an explosion in the study of late antiquity, which has characterised the period between the third and seventh centuries not as one of catastrophic collapse and ‘decline and fall’, but rather as one of dynamic and positive transformation. Yet research on cities in this period has provoked challenges to this positive picture of late antiquity. This study surveys the nature of this debate, examining problems associated with the sources historians use to examine late antique urbanism, and the discourses and methodological approaches they have constructed from them. It aims to set out the difficulties and opportunities presented by the study of cities in late antiquity in terms of transformations of politics, the economy, and religion, and to show that this period witnessed very real upheaval and dislocation alongside continuity and innovation in cities around the Mediterranean.

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Mark Humphries, Ph.D. (1997), University of St Andrews, is Professor of Ancient History at Swansea University. He publishes widely on the political, religious, and cultural history of late antiquity, and is a general editor of Translated Texts for Historians (Liverpool University Press).

Cities and the Meanings of Late Antiquity
Mark Humphries
 1 Introduction: a Tale of Two Cities?
 2 Sources and Debates: Discovering the City in Late Antiquity
 3 What Was a City in Late Antiquity?
 4 Cities and the State in Late Antiquity
 5 Cities and the Transformation of the Ancient Economy
 6 Religion and the City
 7 Space, Sense, and Performance: Material Remains and Urban Populations
 8 Cities and the Meanings of Late Antiquity: Decline, Fall, Transformation, or Rise?
 Appendix: Recent Studies of the Late-Antique City
All interested in the history of late antiquity and of the development of ancient cities, and anyone interested in the transformations of Christianity in the Roman world.