In the year 300, Rome was still the greatest empire the West had known to that point. By 800, the city
of Rome was a shadow of its former self, Charlemagne had been crowned by the pope as Emperor of
Europe, Irene was the Byzantine Empress, and Harun al-Rashid was Caliph in Baghdad. The world
was a much different place. Within 500 years, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa had changed greatly.
Where once there were citizens, there were now barbarians. Where once there was one empire, there
were now many kingdoms. Where once there were traditional religions, now there were Christianity
and Islam. This class will examine the incredible political, cultural, social, and religious changes that
occurred during the period that has become known as Late Antiquity. We will start with a look at
the Roman world in 300 and a snapshot of the same area in 800. We will then examine the people,
events, movements, and developments that resulted in the Early Middle Ages. We will see emperors,
kings, queens, caliphs, popes, saints, sinners, thinkers, doers, those that work, those that fight, those
who pray, and, at the very end, even a Viking or two. In conclusion, we will see that whereas Edward
Gibbon thought that Rome fell suddenly and dramatically, Rome actually became Europe slowly but
perhaps just as dramatically. Plus, it’s a fun story.
Nikolas O. Hoel ’99 is an Instructor of History at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. He is a
graduate of Lawrence University and went on to earn an M.A. at the University of Colorado-Boulder and
a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is trained in both medieval and Byzantine history.
At NEIU he teaches classes concerning both ancient and medieval Europe, for which he has been honored
with several Instructor Excellent Awards. Hoel’s primary research interests concern the religious, cultural,
and intellectual history of the Middle Ages, and he became a medieval historian because of the passion for
the barbarians he learned at Lawrence.
Highly Recommended: Douglas Boin, A Social and Cultural History of Late Antiquity (Wiley-Blackwell,
2018). Paperback ISBN: 978-1-119-07681-0; eBook ISBN: 978-1-119-07698-8.