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Late antiquity saw the barbarian invasions overrun the western Roman empire and Persian and Arab armies end Roman rule over the eastern and southern coasts of the Mediterranean. Was late antiquity therefore merely a time of decline? In this vibrant and compact introduction, Gillian Clark sheds light on the concept of late antiquity and the events of its time, showing that this was in fact a period of great transformation. Late antiquity saw Roman law codified, Christian creeds formulated, the Talmud compiled, and the Qur'an composed. If the Goths sacked the city of Rome, the Vandals built churches in Africa and Attila the Hun received an embassy from Constantinople. Anthony of Egypt and Simeon Stylites offered spectacular new models of holiness, while Augustine and Basil and Benedict devised rules for monastic communities. Late antique artists produced the mosaics of Ravenna and the first dome of Hagia Sophia. And it was also the period when emperors Diocletian in the third century and Justinian in the sixth enacted extensive and much-needed reforms of government.
Gillian Clark is Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at the University of Bristol.