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 Romans, Arabs and Vikings


Spring Semester 2009

Seafaring in the Mediterranean in the Early Christian Era




Class notes

Q. 1st exam

Q. 2nd exam

1st Assignment

2nd Assignment


Instructor: Dr. Filipe Vieira de Castro
Class Time: Tuesday & Thursday, 3:55 P.M. - 5:10 P.M.
Room: ANTH, Rm. 130
Office hours: 2-5 Monday or by appointment (Anthropology Bld. 105A).

Syllabus - Grades


Intellectual content

During the period known as the Middle Ages, which lasted over 1000 years, the Mediterranean Sea witnessed the rise and collapse of several empires and its waters and shores were the stage of dramatic changes, both technological and ideological.

Several new religions appeared and developed, mirroring new socio-economic realities and forms of government. Migrations and invasions both from the East and the North pushed frontiers and populations around, destroyed old values and ways of life, created new ones, and changed worldviews.

Ships and boats reflected all these social, economic, and cultural changes. Sail shapes, cargo containers, and steering mechanisms changed radically, as did the way in which ships were conceived and built, reflecting changes in property and labor prices, relations of production, commerce networks and safety.

This course is a necessarily quick overview of these phenomena and intends to familiarize the students with the peoples, the cultures, the geographical features, and the history of the Mediterranean Sea, from the Atlantic shores of the North of Africa to Egypt and the Middle East, Asia Minor and the narrow passage into the Black Sea, Eastern and Western Europe.

It starts with the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in AD 410 and ends in another symbolic date, that of the fall of Constantinople, in 1453, when Europe is already experiencing the ideological revolution known as the Renaissance.


Teaching strategy

I lecture in almost all classes and I show some documentaries. I have prepared a PowerPoint presentation for each lecture. I encourage dialogue.

All notes are available on this website from the beginning of the semester, together with sample questions for preparation for the exams, timelines, a schedule of classes, videos and exams, and a comprehensive list of the required readings.

The reading materials will be made available in pdf.


Learning assessment

This course requires two take home assignments and two exams. There are extra-credit essays for those who are willing to walk an extra mile. Attendance is not regularly recorded, but I sometimes give unannounced quizzes. I seek student input before, during, and after class. I frequently ask students to write down questions that they would like to see asked in the exams.


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Last Updated: 03/24/09