Our website brings together multiple facets of life in a late antique city and draws on the contemporary skills needed to showcase those in a digital format. The project team lead was Douglas Boin, a historian of Late Antiquity who wanted to bring both the tools and entrepreneurial spirit of the start-up world to the Humanities. Living Late Antiquity was a 14-week project which combined historical and archaeological research, writing, editorial planning, coding, outreach, a touch of creativity, and above all, storytelling.

Our team began without realizing how important our individual backgrounds and experiences would be in this highly-collaborative project. As time went on, team members drew upon their trusted skills (and developed new ones) to bring their own unique voice to this project. Kailen Kinsey, a historian of the Viking age, found herself writing code. Thompson Wells, a scholar studying middle-Byzantine political culture, navigated the copyright laws. Brian Merlo, a papal-reformation historian, handled marketing and publicity. Joel Cerimele, a cultural and intellectual historian of medieval apocalypticism and Joachim of Fiore, worked on image permissions and explored period-appropriate music for the site. Judith Nelams, an historian of the Renaissance and gender, became image and style editor. Nick Lewis, a reformation scholar, choreographed the site’s video. Alaric Powell, a crusades scholar, rigorously edited copy. These fields were fluid and each had a hand in all roles. It was a true collaboration amongst historians of different fields.

Our vision was editorial: to focus on real lives being lived in late antique cities. And for us, that meant steering away from an overly-encyclopedic or reference-work voice in our writing. So, we focused on the spaces that contained these lives: from public assembly points to private living spaces. Many of these spaces now lie in ruins, but our team wanted to bring them back to life through stories, examples, maps, and most importantly, images. With an eye towards selecting some of the best images available, we worked with with all our content providers to secure permissions as best we could. If there has been an error or omission, we are happy to correct it.

In this digital presentation, we ask what happened to urban life after the so-called fall of Rome. And, as you’ll see from the material, that doesn’t mean we focused exclusively on Europe, either. As Late Antiquity pushes itself to include Islam, we pushed ourselves to incorporate early Islamic material, cities like Baghdad, for example. We hope it is evident that these cities were dynamic, vibrant, and evolving under no set pattern that could be consigned to a binary of either having collapsed or flourished. Our hope is that by showcasing our scholarship in a digital milieu we extend the reach of a fascinating topic and allow students of the Roman Empire and Late Antique world to begin their own discoveries.

Special thank yous are owed to Deborah Cribbs, whose knowledge of website building allowed us to properly format this site, to Mitchell Davis, whose sound equipment gave voice to our video, and whose image editting skills beautified our home page, and to the Saint Louis University Pius Library staff, for their aid in bringing our launch event to fruition.

 Updated January 2024.


Site Background Image: Gardenscape from the Villa of Livia, Primaporta Italy ca. 30-20BCE. Photo by Edeliza Macalandag, 7 January 2012, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical ShareAlike License