Late Antiquity, the period stretching roughly from the restructuring of the Roman empire in the late third century AD to the rise of Islam in the seventh, witnessed the transformation of the ancient Mediterranean and near eastern worlds. Christianity displaced polytheism over a wide area as the Roman empire collapsed in western Europe to be replaced by Germanic kingdoms. In the east, Byzantium emerged, while the Persian empire reached its apogee and collapsed. Arab armies reshaped the political map and brought the era to a close. This book illustrates the dramatic political, social and religious changes of Late Antiquity through the words of the men and women who experienced them. This collection draws from Greek, Latin, Syriac, Hebrew, Coptic, Persian, Arabic and Armenian sources, some translated into English for the first time. The perspectives that emerge reveal the rich diversity of late antique cultures. The Roman empire is kept at the centre of discussion, with chapters devoted to government, society, army, law, medicine, philosophy, Christianity, polytheism and Jews.
Other chapters deal with the societies that surrounded the Roman state: Persia, Huns, Germanic invaders who established new states in the West and Islam. The carefully selected sources present a comprehensive insight into the lives of emperors, abbesses, aristocrats, slaves, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, historians and saints who left a vivid record of their experiences.