A Susan Manning Workshop at The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh

Over the last twenty years, archaeological excavations have yielded important new evidence and rich artefact assemblages pertaining to late antique urban landscapes across the Mediterranean region. These investigations have done much to enhance our understanding of how cities evolved over the course of the 3rd through 8th centuries AD. Nevertheless, scholarship is far from arriving at an agreement over the characterisation of the late antique city. There are some who prefer to view the situation as one of homogenous stagnation and decline, whereas others prefer one of dynamic transformation and prosperity. While this historical period saw the fall of the western Roman Empire to various barbarian incursions along with the abandonment of many of classical antiquity’s famed cities, the expansion of the Byzantine Empire and the later emergence of the Umayyad Caliphate instigated the founding of several new sites and the lavish restoration of old ones. Recognizing the validity of both arguments depending on the location and time in question, scholarship is in desperate need of a more holistic view of cities and their inhabitants during this transformative period, particularly one that moves beyond the focus on a particular topic or geographic region and integrates this narrative within diverse areas of research, such as Classical, Byzantine, Islamic, and Medieval Studies.

Therefore, submissions are invited for paper and poster presentations from researchers, scholars, and postgraduates positioned within varied academic disciplines to address significant instances of continuity, transformation, and innovation within the late antique urban milieu, with the aim of providing a more coherent narrative for the whole of the Mediterranean region from the 3rd through 8th centuries AD. Potential topics for consideration include, but are not limited to, political and religious administration; civic patronage; the effects of militarization, fortification, and/or ruralisation; urban networks and trade; and art and architectural production. Considerations of the conceptual, subjective experience of cities are also welcome, particularly those that explore popular culture and activities contingent on an urban landscape, such as public spectacle and festivals. By exploring issues such as these, scholars will assess the extent to which late antique populations were compelled by classical ideals, economic constraints, and/or contemporary sociopolitical and religious exigencies in the shaping of their urban environment. In doing so, they will challenge the premise that late antique urban spaces were largely impoverished, uncontrolled, and disorganized, and that their buildings and topographic landscapes were amateurish copies of their classical predecessors. It is thus expected that the discourse of this symposium will do much to further shift our understanding of late antique cities from the pejorative connotations of decline and degradation to a more neutral, if not positive view of transformation, intentionality, and creativity.

For full consideration, please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words, as well as your name, affiliation, and short biography to [email protected] by 8 February 2019. Decisions will be made by February 15. Papers are expected to be 30-45 minutes, with 15 minutes for discussion. Publication of the presented papers and posters may be sought after the completion of the symposium. Confirmed speakers include: Jim Crow (Edinburgh), Lucy Grig (Edinburgh), and Ine Jacobs (Oxford).