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From Confucius to Constantine: Ancient Global History - Outline

Many books are published focused on Greek and/or Roman culture with the titel 'X or Y Theme in the ancient world'. But what we really mean is a tiny part of the ancient world - the Mediterranean world. We have bought into a lie that when we talk about one part of the ancient globe we are talking about it all. This is no suprise - academic disciplines have grown up to carve cultures, geographical regions and eras apart from one another so that they are studied in isolation. Academic departments have grown up in universities specialised in one area or era.

And yet that is not how the modern world - or indeed the ancient world - functioned. Look where you like in the ancient Mediterranean world and you will see over and over events, objects, ideas, people who come from outside the Mediterranean region and/or which are fundamentally affected by cultures outside of the Mediterranean. Ancient civilisations were often closely linked - and not only when they shared a border. Sometimes those links stretched across huge distances. Events and ideas that begin in one part of the wider ancient world could end up having, perhaps centuries later, major impacts on other parts of the globe thanks to the dynamics of migration, trade and disease.

The study of global history is the study of these connections between cultures. But it also focuses on the comparison of cultures in order to illuminate particular aspects of each. Major studies in ancient global history have thus focused on the nature of empire across cultures such as the Roman and Chinese Empires, as well as those of the empire of South America; or on the comparison of approaches to science and philosophy amongst the Greeks and Chinese. Though these thinkers and states may never have met in reality, we can understand each better through their comparison with one another.

This module seeks to open students' eyes to the wider ancient world, to the vast canvas of sophisticated civilisations that lived at the same time as the Greeks and Romans. It seeks to explore the connections between them and how they influenced one another, as well as invite students to undertake comparative assessments of key elements of their cultures. It presumes no previous knowledge of cultures outside the Greek and Roman worlds.

Students will also have the opportunity to submit in place of a second assessed essay a digital project linked to the Oiko.world database - a project designed to display the movement of people, objects, and ideas across the wider ancient world.