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CLAS443 Archaeology, History and the End of Rome

An advanced investigation into the relationship between contemporary perspectives on the end of the Roman Empire and the archaeological and historical sources.

The Fall of the Roman Empire is considered to be a watershed moment in Western history, marking an important conceptual division between the classical Mediterranean world and Medieval Europe. In fact, The Fall of Rome was not a single event, nor has anyone yet identified a single root cause for the Empire's demise. Instead, this was a drawn out process that spanned several centuries, across a period characterised by a long list of fascinating developments: the rise of Christianity, barbarian invasions, rampant corruption in the aristocratic classes, uncertainty in the imperial succession, an increasingly unstable financial system, the unpredictable actions of the Roman armies and the often seditious activities of ambitious military commanders.

In this paper, we will explore the actual changes that took place in this dynamic period, which spans from circa 200 to 500 CE. Our analysis will rely on both the ancient written sources and on contemporary archaeological evidence as we reconstruct the effects of the Empire's fall on everyday life. Ongoing archaeological work in some of the important cities of the post-Roman Mediterranean allows us to develop a state-of-the-field perspective on the fall of the western Roman Empire and its impact on the people who lived in that world.

Paper title Archaeology, History and the End of Rome
Paper code CLAS443
Subject Classical Studies
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,206.91
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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72 300-level CLAS, GREK or LATN points
CLAS 343
Teaching staff
Dr Dan Osland
Paper Structure

Dr Dan Osland will provide two 50-minute lectures per week, guiding participants through the archaeological and historical evidence related to the late Roman world and the collapse of the western Roman empire. Participants are encouraged to take active part in evaluating the sources and drawing conclusions from the available evidence. Bi-weekly tutorial sessions will be used to allow the participants to further develop and present their own ideas about dealing with the ancient evidence and interacting with contemporary scholarship in the field.

Internal Assessment 70%


The Fall of the Western Roman Empire: An Archaeological and Historical Perspective. N. Christie. 2011. Bloomsbury.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman City. W. Liebeschuetz. 2001. Oxford.

Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376 - 568. Guy Halsall​. 2007. Cambridge.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will have:

  • An understanding of the historical context of the period that incorporated the fall of the Roman Empire
  • An understanding of the key factors that contributed to Rome's fall
  • A familiarity with the archaeological record from this period
  • The ability to evaluate the available archaeological evidence and written sources (ancient and modern) on this complex period of European history
  • The skills of effective oral communication, including the ability to present formal reports and to draw reasoned hypotheses from the archaeological evidence
  • The skills of effective written communication, including the construction of clear and logical scholarly argument

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 12:00-12:50 28-34, 36-41
Wednesday 12:00-12:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 12:00-12:50 29, 31, 33, 36, 38, 40