A Long Late Antiquity?: Considerations on a Controversial Periodization

A Long Late Antiquity?: Considerations on a Controversial Periodization

By Arnaldo Marcone

Journal of Late Antiquity, Vol.1:1 (2008)

Abstract: Late Antiquity as a period has a complex history with moments when the issues pertaining to it seem to intensify. One of these was without a doubt the aftermath of World War I and reached its apex in 1923 during the International Congress of Historical Sciences in Brussels. The tragic events that had shaken Europe had a deep impact on historiography. In the aftermath of World War II, this trend was reversed on account of a progressive change of perspective and sensibility. The new trend in late antique studies is linked especially to the work of Henri-Irénée Marrou and, more recently, Peter Brown. Marrou is responsible for the acquisition of esthetic standards that promoted an appreciation for the literary and artistic values of Late Antiquity. The very innovative reading of Late Antiquity (“a long Late Antiquity”) proposed by Brown also has had a great impact: on the one hand, Brown’s reading has made useless a periodization based on historical events, and, on the other, it has rendered impossible the concepts of crisis and decline. Recently, however, periodization has made a comeback and the decline and fall of the Roman Empire again seems worthy of consideration.

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