People, Personal Expression, and Social Relations in Late Antiquity, Volume I

With Translated Texts from Gaul and Western Europe
Ralph W. Mathisen
A collection of Latin sources that shed light on the changing world of Late Antiquity throughout Western Europe


Late Antiquity, which lies between Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages (ca. A.D. 250-750), heralded the gradual decline of Mediterranean classical civilization, and the initial formation of a strictly western European, Christian society. During this period, three momentous developments threatened the paternalistic Roman social system: the rise of the Christian church, the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the west, and the establishment of the barbarian kingdoms.

In this volume Ralph W. Mathisen provides a new way of looking at the social transformations taking place in the Late Roman and early medieval worlds. During this tumultuous era, many marginalized groups found opportunities for literary self expression previously enjoyed only by Rome's secular male elite. Mathisen uses this literature of Late Antiquity to bring to light the personal concerns, private interactions, and family lives of the age, including a thorough exploration of the roles of women and children. Rather than extracting single words or phrases from the Latin documents, this volume gives concentrated attention to its literary sources. Mathisen provides translations of extended passages, allowing the literature of Late Antiquity to be interpreted, understood, and appreciated in the context of its own times.

Ralph W. Mathisen is Professor of Ancient and Byzantine History; Louise Fry Scudder Professor of Humanities; and Director, Biographical Database for Late Antiquity at the University of South Carolina.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . he does students and scholars of Late Antiquity an important service by bringing together a great variety of primary texts, some of which are relatively unknown. . . . . People, Personal Expression, and Social Relations in Late Antiquity will give its readers a useful introduction to the social changes and transformations that occurred in this dynamic period of European history. By making such a wide variety of texts, both in the original and in translation, easily available, Ralph Mathisen makes a significant contribution, knowing as he does we cannot understand this period if we do not understand the [sic] how those who lived then expressed themselves."
    Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  • ". . . Mathisen does not simply provide the translated passages with a brief introduction and commentary, but rather weaves the chosen texts into a fuller discussion of late antique culture and society. Second, Mathisen has collected and published the Latin original version of the texts in a second volume that complements the narrative volume. This is clearly a welcome innovation that will certainly influence future publications. . . . Mathisen has done a great service to many teachers, especially those in remote places where library resources are inadequate."
    Scripta Classica Israelica
  • "To students of the medieval Latin West, People offers a valuable grounding in its social and cultural roots in the late-antique world, particularly in Gaul. Students of late antiquity will likewise find their insight into the field deepened and enriched...Through experiencing how late-antique men and women, in speaking about their own lives and those of others, bear witness to the far-reaching transformations of the post classical world, readers of Mathisen's volumes will find themselves participating in a form of social and cultural history that has to be constructed, as it were, from the ground up."

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Copyright © 2003, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 280pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11245-6

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  • $85.00 U.S.