Political Science

Week 5: The Roman Empire in Late Antiquity

After 200 years of political upheaval, Rome enters into a long history of stability and solidification of power, until it becomes the dominant power throughout the entire Mediterranean. During the same time, Christianity spreads throughout the entire realm, and brings with it the need to merge classical political and cultural theories with the new religion. Eventually, the Empire is challenged on many fronts, yet its cultural and political continues to exert dominance beyond the fall and transformation of the empire itself.

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In the readings, some aspects of these transformations are discussed insofar as they influence political thought. Central to our discussion will be Marcus Aurelius and Augustine of Hippo.

Guiding Discussion Questions:

  • What is changing in Roman political thought with Christianity?
  • What do you see as possible Roman and Greek legacy within the modern world?
  • More specifically, Christopher Hitchens famously declared in Blood, Class and Empire that the British Empire compared to the United States was “Greece to their Rome”. How much do you see the influence of antiquity in the United States?
  • To what degree, would you say, are fears of immigration now informed by perceptions of the fall of Rome?

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