HIS32720 Frontiers of Empire

Academic Year 2023/2024

Frontiers of Empire: Ireland and the Roman World, 100-600 AD

The Roman Empire stretched from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic West in the early centuries AD, a period known as Late Antiquity. Ireland’s geography made the island a frontier of this great empire. Late Antiquity was also a time of profound change. During the fourth and fifth centuries Roman political influence declined in parts of the West, leading to new opportunities and challenges. Events shaped and reshaped the Roman frontiers, including Ireland, ultimately giving rise to the peoples and identities that transformed European and Middle Eastern histories.

This module will examine these transitions in Ireland. It will consider the island’s status as a Roman frontier, placing this in the wider contexts of the Empire as a whole. We will explore a range of sources from this era, including material evidence and texts. We will ask questions. How was Ireland shaped by the Roman frontier? How did writing first reach the island? In what ways did elites respond to Roman influences? What role did changing patterns of religious belief play? Did distinctively Irish identities emerge by the end of Late Antiquity?

When this module is complete, students will have a new understanding of the origins of Irish history and of the important role of contact with the Roman Empire,

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of this module students will have:
- An understanding of the role of frontiers in Late Antiquity
- A knowledge of the evolution of Irish society on the frontiers between AD 100-600
- A knowledge of the major primary sources, including material and textual evidence
- Familiarity with the relevant major historical debates and how Irish history fits into them

Indicative Module Content:

Frontiers of Empire: Ireland and the Roman World, 100-600 AD
Module Schedule

1. Ireland and the Classical World

2. Frontiers of the Roman Empire

3. Ireland in a Roman Atlantic West

4. The Transformation of the Western Roman Empire, AD 400-500

5. The Coming of Christianity I: Empire and Religion

6. The Coming of Christianity II: Ireland and Britain

7. Change and Continuity: Irish Society in Late Antiquity

8. Creating Irish Histories: Church and Society

9. Creating Irish Identities: Law and Learning

10. The End of Late Antiquity?

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This is a small -group seminar-led module. It combines lectures with discussion-based seminars. As a group we consider both textual and material sources in order to better understand the lived reality of the distant past. At all times active engagement and participation is encouraged. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: End of Trimester Research Essay Week 12 n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: This will be assessed throughout the semester and will be based on a) attendance at seminars and b) participation in seminars Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Journal: Learning portfolio (reflective journal and essay plan) Week 7 n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be made through two main methods - individual meetings with students (by video link, face-to-face or email) to help plan progress as well as written feedback on specific assignments. This will be supplemented with feedback on drafts of particular assignments.

The following is a short indicative list, covering the broad themes of the module. A longer and more detailed bibliography will accompany the module handbook.

Select Core Readings

Cahill Wilson, Jacqueline, et al. (eds), Late Iron Age and “Roman” Ireland (Dublin, 2014).
Johnston, Elva, 'Ireland in Late Antiquity: a forgotten frontier?’ Studies in Late Antiquity 1/2 (May 2017) 107–23.
Ó Cróinín, Dáíbhí, Early Medieval Ireland 400–1200 (2nd Ed, London, 2016).
Whittaker, C. R., Rome and its Frontiers: The Dynamics of Empire (London, 2004).

Collections of Primary Sources

Celt: Corpus of Electronic Texts, http://www.ucc.ie/celt
Freeman, Philip, Ireland and the Classical World (Austin, 2001).
MacMullen, R., & Lane, E. N., Paganism & Christianity: 100–425 C.E. (Minneapolis, 1992).