Sunday, September 18, 2011

About that Overview of Late Antiquity

Back  when I came to Nipissing University in the late 80s and early 90s, I was finishing up my first book, on fifth-century Latin ecclesiastical chronicles, and casting around for a new project.  One idea that occured to me was a zippy textbook on Late Antiquity, with lots of maps and pictures and punchy, straightforward language, not to mention fearless generalization.  After all, I had spent well over a decade reading intensively about the period, and I had a pretty good idea of how to fill the  major holes that remained in my personal knowledge.

So I happily began to read, write, and sketch maps.

When it was more or less done, I kind of chickened out.  I thought this "Overview of Late Antiquity" was pretty good, and accessible to a student or general audience -- a big priority -- but was it commercial?  Shouldn't it perhaps go as far as the First Crusade? Undercutting myself, I showed it to no publishers (DON'T DO THIS!) and put it on the shelf.

If it hadn't been for the Web, that would have been it.

But the Web did come along, I was approached by ORB to put together a section on Late Antiquity, and one of the first things I did was web the Overview.  At least, the text plus links to pictures elsewhere on the Web.  Regretfully, I never turned the sketch maps into polished images.

The Overview has been freely available on-line since about 1995, and I am sure it has been read by many more people than would have seen it if it had been put into print.  Currently, I am using it again to supply background material to my seminar students in the course "The World of Gregory of Tours."

And you know, I think it's pretty good.  You can see what you think if go here, or  if that doesn't work, here.

Image:  A late-antique version of heaven, from a 6th-century church in Ravenna.

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