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Late Antiquity

Since 1996, Late Antiquity has fostered an interdisciplinary community of scholars of diverse ages and backgrounds.

Dedicated to understanding how the Mediterranean-wide empire of the Romans gave way to a patchwork of rival kingdoms whose leadership cultivated ethnic and religious difference.

Since the nineteenth century Manchester has been a place where unexpected ways of seeing and understanding the past have been valued and encouraged. We are fortunate to have inherited an intellectual legacy based in the University's long tradition of non-confessionalism and non-conformity, an enduring source of inspiration for our efforts to understand the multi-cultural world of the later Roman empire. At the same time, both students and staff have the opportunity to engage in hands-on study of the extraordinary collections of ancient material culture assembled by the cultural patrons of Victorian Manchester, from the Roman mummy portraits of Hawara to the legendary papyri collection assembled by Enriqueta Rylands.


Centre members often work together on externally funded research projects, including:

  • Constantine's Dream: Belonging, Deviance, and the Problem of Violence in Early Christianity - funded by the RCUK Global Uncertainties Programme through its ESRC/AHRC Ideas and Beliefs scheme
  • Greek and Latin papyri as generative learning objects - funded by the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Greek and Latin papyri as generative learning objects (2008-2010) - Leverhulme-funded, linking the universities of Manchester, Durham, Oxford, Brussels, and Vienna

Our people

Academic staff

The Centre's Director is Kate Cooper, Professor of Ancient History. Professor Cooper's research interest is in the cultural, social, and religious history of late Roman society, with a special focus on the Roman family and the Christianization of Roman elites. She is the author, most recently, of The Fall of the Roman Household (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), and Closely Watched Households: Visibility, exposure, and private power in the Roman domus, Past and Present 197 (Nov. 2007), 3-33, and in 2009-12 directed the Constantine's Dream project.

Dr Roberta Mazza holds a fixed-term Lectureship in Ancient History in the Department of Classics and Ancient History, and is also currently a Fellow at the John Rylands Reseach Institute. Dr Mazza is a well known papyrologist who has until recently been teaching at the University of California Santa Barbara. Her L'Archivio degli Apioni. Terra, lavoro e proprietà senatoria nell' Egitto tardoantico (Bari: Edipuglia, 2001) has been widely praised as opening a new vista on the problem of late Roman estates. Dr Mazza received her PhD from the University of Bologna in 1997, and has held fellowships at the University of Salzburg and King's College London.

Affiliated Staff

Professor Paul Fouracre is presently Professor of Medieval History at the University of Manchester and co-ordinating editor of the journal Early Medieval Europe. Prof. Fouracre's research interests include the continent in the early middle ages and Francia in the Merovingian and Carolingian periods.

Postgraduate study

Individuals who would like to join the Centre for Late Antiquity as a student member can do so through a number of taught and research degree programmes in the School of Arts, Histories, and Cultures. The taught MA programme in Classics and Ancient History and the inter-disciplinary taught MA in Medieval Studies both offer opportunities for hands-on study of papyri and manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, which is one of the UK's outstanding collections of ancient and medieval books, scrolls, and fragments.


Collaborative Publications

  • Religion, Dynasty, and Patronage in a Christian Capital: Rome, 300-900 a volume of collected essays edited by Kate Cooper and Julia Hillner (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • Early Medieval Europe 9:3 (2000), 'The Roman Martyrs and the Politics of Memory' a special issue edited by Kate Cooper, offers an initial overview of the Roman Martyrs Project's work.
  • AHDS Database Religion, Dynasty, and Patronage in Early Medieval Rome (deposited by Conrad Leyser)
  • The Peace in the Feud: History and Anthropology 1955-2005, edited by Conrad Leyser (forthcoming)

Collaborative Articles

  • Kate Cooper and Conrad Leyser, "The Gender of Grace: Impotence, Servitude, and Manliness in the Fifth-Cen Gender & History 12" (2000), 536-551. (PDF 830KB)
  • Hillner, Julia and Conrad Leyser, "Religion, Dynasty, and Patronage in Rome, c.440-c.840. A Database Project of the Centre for Late Antiquity, University of Manchester," in Le Scritture dai Monasteri. Atti del IIº Seminario Internazionale di Studio 'I Monasteri nell'Alto Medioevo' Roma 9-10 Maggio 2002, eds Flavia De Rubeis and Walter Pohl (Roma: Acta Instituti Romani Finlandiae, vol 29, 2003), 227-247. (PDF 2,319KB)
  • Hillner, Julia and Conrad Leyser, JISC Inform 5 (2004), 21. (PDF 79KB)

Selected Further Publications

Kate Cooper

  • The Fall of the Roman Household by Kate Cooper (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • "Closely Watched Households: Visibility, exposure, and private power in the Past and Present 197" (Nov. 2007), 3-33.
  • "Gender and Fall of Rome", in Philip Rousseau, ed., A Companion to Late Antiquity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009), 187-200
  • Kate Cooper, "Household and Empire: The Materfamilias as Miles Christi in the Anonymous Handbook for Gregoria," in Household, Women, and Christianities, eds., Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Brepols, 2005), 91-107. (PDF 952KB)
  • Kate Cooper, "The Household and the Desert: Monastic and Biological Communities in the Lives of Melania the Younger," in Household, Women, and Christianities, eds., Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Brepols, 2005), 11-35. (PDF 1,399KB)
  • Kate Cooper, "Ventriloquism and the Miraculous: Conversion, Preaching, and the Martyr Exemplum in Late Antiquity," Studies in Church History 41 (2005), 22-45. (PDF 1,290KB)
  • Kate Cooper, "Empress and Theotokos: Gender and Patronage in the Christological Controversy," Studies in Church History 39 (2004), 39-51. (PDF 707KB)
  • Kate Cooper, "Matthidia's Wish: Division, Reunion, and the Early Christian Family in the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions" in Narrativity in Biblical and Related Texts, eds., G.J. Brooke and J.-D. Kaestli (Leuven University Press, 2000), 243-264. (PDF 1,118KB)
  • Kate Cooper, "The martyr, the matrona and the bishop: the matron Lucina and the politics of martyr cult in fifth- and sixth-century Rome," Early Medieval Europe 8 (1999), 297-317. (PDF 1,196KB)
  • Kate Cooper, "Contesting the Nativity: Wives, virgins, and Pulcheria's imitatio Mariae," Scottish Journal of Religious Studies 19 (1998), 31-43. (PDF 770KB)
  • Kate Cooper, "The Voice of the Victim: Gender, Representation and Early Christian Martyrdom," Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 80 (1998), 147-157. (PDF 743KB)
  • Conrad Leyser, "Vulnerability and Power: The Early Christian Rhetoric of Masculine Authority," Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 80 (1998), 159-173. (PDF 937KB)

Dirk Rohmann

  • Dirk Rohmann, Gewalt und politischer Wandel im 1. Jh. n. Chr. Münchner Studien zur Alten Welt 1 (Munich: Utz, 2006)
  • Thomas Völker, Dirk Rohmann, "Praenomen Petronii. The Date and Author of the Satyricon Reconsidered," The Classical Quarterly 61.2 (2011), 660-76
  • Dirk Rohmann, "Bilder der Gewalt. Darstellung von Krieg in der frühkaiserzeitlichen Geschichtsschreibung," Böser Krieg. Exzessive Gewalt in der antiken Kriegsführung und Strategien zu deren Vermeidung. Nummi et Litterae 5, eds. M. Linder and S. Tausend (Graz: Universitaetsverlag, 2011) 153-65
  • Dirk Rohmann, "Tyrannen und Märtyrer. Seneca und das Gewaltkonzept in der Literatur des ersten Jahrhunderts n. Chr.," Extreme Formen von Gewalt in Bild und Text des Altertums, ed. M. Zimmermann (Munich: Utz, 2009), 275-94
  • Dirk Rohmann, "Vicious Virtues. The Aesthetic of Violence in Prudentius," In Pursuit of 'Wissenschaft'. Festschrift William Calder. Spudasmata 119, eds. S. Heilen et al. (Hildesheim: Olms, 2008), 379-91
  • Dirk Rohmann, "Die Ästhetik des Blutes in berühmten römischen Sterbeszenen," Göttinger Forum fuer Altertumswissenschaft 10 (2007), 251-7
  • Dirk Rohmann, "'Welche Art von Strafe ist das?' – Anmerkungen zum supplicium 'nach Art der Vorfahren'", in: Historia 55 (2006), 144-6
  • Dirk Rohmann, "Das langsame Sterben der Veterum Cultura Deorum – Pagane Kulte bei Prudentius", in: Hermes 131 (2003), 235-53

The Peace in the Feud: History and Anthropology, 1955-2005

An interdisciplinary colloquium celebrating the 50th anniversary of Max Gluckman's Custom & Conflict in Africa , held at the University of Manchester , Centre for Late Antiquity, 28-29 October 2005.

Negotiation is currently underway with Blackwell's for publication of conference proceedings to include contributions from Philippe Buc, Stuart Carroll, Kate Cooper, Mary Douglas, Maya Green, Guy Halsall, John Hudson, Conrad Leyser, RI Moore, JD Peel, David Pratten, Terence Ranger, Richard Rathbone, Karen Sykes, Stephen D White and Ian Wood.

Conference Description:

In the spring of 1955, Max Gluckman, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, delivered a series of lectures on the Third Programme entitled Custom & Conflict in Africa; his book of that name came out later in the year. The main theme of Gluckman's lectures was the constraint of conflict by custom. He showed how the tensions endemic in African tribal society were, in fact, contained by the power of tradition. There was a paradoxical 'peace in the feud', Gluckman argued--centripetal forces pulling against the centrifugal effects of vengeance and violence.

Gluckman explicitly sought to attract the attention of historians of medieval Europe, and his challenge was met with a ready response from his Manchester colleague, Michael Wallace-Hadrill. In 1959, the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library carried an article from Wallace-Hadrill, 'The Blood-Feud of the Franks', which suggested a re-interpretation of violence in Merovingian Gaul, precisely along the lines suggested by Gluckman. This functionalist approach to feud became the dominant paradigm for early medievalists for the next generation; only within the past decade has it come into serious question. In other words, the Gluckman/Wallace-Hadrill encounter at Manchester can be seen as one of the more influential moments in late twentieth-century intellectual history.

The 2005 Manchester colloquium reviewed the conversation between historians and anthropologists as it has developed in the past two generations. Did Wallace-Hadrill's uptake of Gluckman depend on their shared adherence to functionalist premises? Is such an exchange still possible in the era of (post)cultural history and (post-)processual anthropology? Fanning out from the question of feud, the colloquium considered other topics such as conversion, exchange, and the idea of Europe.


We have been fortunate to have been sponsored by numerous externally funded research projects in recent years, thanks to the help of the British Academy, the Leverhulme and Wellcome Trusts, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Economic and Social Research Council. This has allowed us to develop a lively inter-generational research culture, allowing our students the chance to learn from—and contribute to—world-class research, and our staff the opportunity to benefit from fresh questions and perspectives.