The Fall of Rome (Online)
The ‘Decline and Fall' (or 'transformation') of the Roman empire has long been a fascinating and controversial topic which invites comparisons with the modern world. But how, why and, indeed, did Rome fall?
We will examine the period from Diocletian’s ‘restoration' of the Empire to the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, the last western emperor, in AD 476. Touching on many engaging historical, social, artistic, political, and religious issues, and brushing shoulders with a variety of engaging emperors, empresses, eunuchs, Christians, pagans and barbarians, this course aims to be an interesting, and perhaps surprising, look at one of the most important periods in world history.
Listen to Dr Steve Kershaw talking about the course:
An introduction to various aspects of the intriguing history, vibrant culture and fascinating personalities of Ancient Rome and its enemies during its ‘decline and fall' (or 'transformation') in the last two centuries of the Empire in the West.
For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.
Unit 1: Sources and Context
- What do we know, and how do we know it?
- The state of the Roman world at the start of the course
Unit 2: Diocletian and the Dominate – the Empire Strikes Back
- Diocletian and Maximianus
- The Tetrarchy
- The Army, the Economy and the Law
- Challenges from Within and Without
- The Great Persecution
Unit 3: Christianity Ascendant: Constantine the Great
- Power Struggles and the Rise of Constantine
- ‘With This be Victorious’
- Constantine’s Christian Empire
- Constantine’s Secular Empire
- Constantine’s Baptism and Death
Unit 4: Constantine’s Heirs and Julian the Apostate
- The Heirs of Constantine
- Ammianus Marcellinus
- Julian the Apostate
- Christianity Reborn
Unit 5: The East/West Divide
- Brothers in Arms: Valentinian and Valens
- Theodosius I
- Religious and Political Divisions
Unit 6: The Northern Barbarians – the Huns, Goths and others
- Mapping ‘Barbaricum’
- Roman attitudes to barbarians
- Barbarian attitudes towards Romans
- The Goths
- The Hun
- Defining the barbarian and the Roman
Unit 7: The Sack of Rome
- A Divided Empire with Child Emperors
- Alaric the Visigoth and Stilicho the Half-Vandal
- The death of the Gladiators
- The Roma withdrawal from Britain
- The Sack of Rome (410)
- The Death of Alaric
Unit 8: Roman Empresses; Barbarian Kings
- The Post-Alaric Aftershocks
- Power struggles in Spain, Gaul, Britain, Italy and Africa
- The Eastern court of Theodosius II
- Communications, trade and the land
- Imperial women
Unit 9: The End of Rome in the West
- Rome’s defences in the late Empire
- The Survival of Rome in the East: 450 Onwards
- Attila the Hun
- Endgame: the Fall/transformation of Rome in the West
- The Last Western Emperor
Unit 10: Epilogue: ‘Fall’ or ‘Transformation’ – how, why, and indeed, did Rome fall?
- The (210) Causes of the Fall of the Roman Empire
- The Fall (or Transformation) of Rome in the West
- Good Thing/Bad Thing?
- The Fall of Rome and the 21st Century
We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.
To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following textbooks:
Christie, N., The Fall of the Western Roman Empire: An Archaeological and Historical Perspective (2011). Bloomsbury, London, New York.
Goldsworthy, A., The Fall of the West: The Slow Death of the Roman Superpower (2009). Weidenfield & Nicolson, London.
Kershaw, S. P., A Brief History of the Roman Empire (2013). Robinson, London.
To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.
For more information on CATS point please click on the link below: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/studentsupport/faq/cats.php
Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.
This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.
Home/EU Fee: £270.00
Non-EU Fee: £295.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00
Steve Kershaw has taught for the department since 1998. He has been fascinated by the culture of the Greek Bronze Age ever since he first encountered the works of Homer.
This course aims to explore the history and culture of Ancient Rome throughout the last two centuries of the Empire in the West.
- Gain a knowledge of a crucial era in the history of imperial Rome.
- Examine, understand and assess that history in its social and cultural context.
- Develop skills of historical, literary and artistic observation and analysis with further applications in study, work and leisure, and provide an interesting, enjoyable and relevant course of study.
- Guided reading of texts
- Group discussions of particular issues
- Questions to be answered in personal folders
By the end of the course you will have gained the following understanding:
- The general outline of the history and culture of Imperial Rome in the two centuries prior to the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in AD 476, gained through a variety of types of literary, artistic and archaeological evidence.
- The nature of archaeological and historical evidence and the problems of interpretation.
- The historical context of Roman and ‘barbarian’ civilisation studied through their literature, art and architecture.
Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 due at the end of the course.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.
Level and demands
FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support