The subject “Ancient History” researches and describes Greek and Roman history in the traditional classification of historical disciplines. This also includes those peoples and cultures that came into contact with the Greeks and Romans, for example the Germanic peoples or the Parthians. In this context, ancient history focuses on written artifacts from Antiquity – which include not only works of literature but also inscriptions, papyri, and coins – and attempts to determine their meanings. As regards temporal classification, the fields of Classical Archaeology and Classical Philology are the immediate neighboring disciplines.
The geographical area covered in the field of ancient history reaches from Spain in the west (the ‘Pillars of Hercules’) to present-day Pakistan in the east (the place where Alexander turned back during his journey east), and from Scandinavia in the north (which was described by the Greek explorer Pytheas) to the Sahara in the south (home of the nomads who put up strong resistance to the Roman conquerors). The time period studied in ancient history generally begins with the time of the Mycenaean civilization in the second millennium BC, although the start of the period may be defined as any time up until the invention of a writing system in Greece and the beginnings of the earliest literature (Homer, Hesiod, Sappho) in the eighth century BC. The end of Antiquity, and with it the transition to the Middle Ages, is difficult to determine exactly but can be defined with the help of various events. The cut-off point is generally agreed to be the start of mass migration in the fifth/sixth century AD, but certain significant individual events also sometimes serve to set the boundaries of the period. For example, with regard to the west of the Roman Empire, the removal of the last Western Roman emperor in 476 AD or the Lombard invasion of Italy in 568 AD are often used as a boundary marker, while in the east, the death of the last Eastern Roman emperor Justinian in 565 AD, and the Arabic expansion in the seventh century are considered key turning points.
Despite these issues with regard to the definition of the exact periods of time, what is certain is that ancient historians study cultures that have had a decisive influence on a diverse range of areas in European heritage. This applies to political, legal, and social history, but also to cultural history and the history of ideas.
The Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt offers students the opportunity to study Ancient History as part of a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or teaching degree program. In its teaching practice, it offers courses on all areas of the subject, from early Greece to Late Christian Antiquity. A new degree program is currently being developed, which is intended to show a stronger interconnection of content and methodology with the neighboring disciplines of Ancient Studies.
The Chair focuses on classical topics, such as the development of Athens and Sparta in the fifth century BC, and on major personalities in Antiquity like Alexander the Great, Caesar, and Augustus. Antique geography, legal and social history and natural sciences of the old world, as well as auxiliary sciences such as epigraphy and numismatics, are also represented in its teaching and research practice. Students develop their knowledge in these areas not just through courses but also through a range of different projects.
Great importance is also placed on providing students with an introduction to archaeological sources through regular field trips to important historical sites. This ensures that in addition to an abstract approach to the topic within the University, students also have the opportunity to see the accomplishments and legacy left behind by Antiquity first hand, allowing them to develop a better understanding of the different societies, cultures, and religions of this period. In addition, the Chair also tries to provide internships, practical modules and student research projects in cooperation with museums and cultural institutions to give students insights into fields of work outside of school.
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