We may think of the “Fall of the Roman Empire” as a disastrous time, when barbarians swept through the once-great Roman Empire and ushered in a dark age. And indeed, the city of Rome suffered greatly during the period of Late Antiquity, from 200-800 CE. In this Vergilian Society tour, we will explore this history of Late Antique Italy through its urban centers and geography of power. We will begin in Rome with the magnificent displays of imperial power of the Severan Dynasty and the tetrarchy, and examine urban change through visits to the Forum and Rome’s port of Ostia. We’ll explore the impact of Christianity through visits to Rome’s Constantinian churches; the Celian, a posh neighborhood that became a center of elite Christian display; and a day trip to the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, founded in the 6th century. From Rome, we will travel to the Byzantine outpost of Ravenna, stopping in Spoleto, the 6th century capital of a Lombardic Duchy, and the Temple of Clitumnus, the site of an early church. In Ravenna, we will visit the 6th century mausoleum of Theoderic and other Ostrogothic and Byzantine monuments. The highlights of Ravenna will be the 6th-century churches of San Vitale and Sant’Apollinare and the 5th-century Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, which contain beautiful Byzantine mosaics, some of the best preserved in the world.

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