The Road to Byzantium

Ref: C3678944

During the term, we will examine the historical transformation of government in the Roman Empire, and how the Crisis of the Third Century was overcome. We will look closely at the significance of the rise of Christianity (contrasting it with other "mystery" cults and philosophies of the period), and attempt to chart the general course of events that affected the Roman Empire through the fourth century AD.We will also attempt to discover reasons for the decline of the Western Empire during the first half of the fifth century at the same time as the survival of the East. We will examine the nature of the Roman recovery during the later 5th century, and look carefully into the reasons why this recovery was exclusively confined to the eastern half of the Empire . We will also examine the threats to the Empire through the fourth and fifth centuries, and how these were overcome. You will be introduced to all the major cultural aspects, theology and warfare during the period concerned.

Course aim

The course aims to give a brief but wide-ranging account of Roman society and its transformation from the later third to the seventh centuries. It is primarily intended for those who would like to pursue an interest in the nature of Late Antiquity.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • You will need your own personal email address so that you’re able to login to the WEA’s digital learning platform: WEA Canvas. You will need to be able to understand how to follow URL links to pages on the internet. If you want to understand more about Canvas please visit:
  • You will need to be able to follow links to join our WEA live video learning platform: WEA Zoom. If you’d like to understand more about our video learning platform, Zoom please visit: and
  • This is a live lecture delivered by a subject specialist in an online webinar video learning platform. You will need to be able to access the internet on a device with speakers or earphones. There will be opportunities to take part in discussions and chats. If you’d like to know how to use Zoom please visit:
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • List at least three key factors in the establishment of the Roman Dominate, and its basic character.
  • Trace the general course of the Roman Empire 312 – 476, and suggest reasons for the decline of the West.
  • Outline the rise of Christianity and the significance of its major debates 314 – 451 AD
  • Identify at least two reasons for the significance of the emergence of the Gothic peoples in Roman affairs 376-485 AD

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas will be used to provide resources or to support lessons, enable assessment, provide learner feedback and for other activities for individuals away from the course. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:
  • Most of your learning will take place in your class, but one or two sessions will be online using WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas, working by yourself or engaging with other students. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:
  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • You will be able to keep a record of your progress and achievement using photos, audio, text or documents uploaded into the WEA’s digital learning platform, WEA Canvas.
  • Your tutor will provide written, text and audio feedback recorded in WEA Canvas, WEA’s digital learning platform.
  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Forgotten Power: Byzantium, Bulwark of Christianity, Roger M Keane (Thalamus Publishing 2005) The Byzantines, Averil Cameron (Blackwell 2009)

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course

Download full course information sheet

The Road to Byzantium


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2020
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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