Old wooden drawers


Overview of current and completed projects
Old wooden drawers
Image: Adobe Stock

Current research projects

Nobility and kingship in the Parthian Empire

Person in charge: PD Dr. Udo Hartmann

In cooperation with: Prof. Dr. Sabine Müller (Marburg)

In this study, which resulted out of a DFG-project at the University of Kiel, the relationship between Arsacid kingship and Parthian nobility is systematically investigated for the first time. In research, the Parthian Empire is mostly understood as an unstable great empire in which nobility and royalty were in constant conflict. The detailed analysis of the sources, however, allows a more differentiated evaluation of the role of the Parthian nobility: It was above all a power base of the great empire that existed for more than four centuries, even if parts of the nobility repeatedly tried to expand their power in crisis situations. The study examines the composition and structures of the nobility, the tasks of the nobles in the army and administration of the realm, and their role in the internal conflicts in the Parthian Empire and in relations with Rome.

Ancient sources on the Caucasus (1st-4th century A.D.)
Kʽartʽlis Cʽxovreba - Version of the queen Mariam Dadiani
Kʽartʽlis Cʽxovreba - Version of the queen Mariam Dadiani
Image: Buba Kudava

Prof. Dr. Levan Gordeziani, Dr. Giorgi Ugulava, Maia Daniela (Iv. Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University), PD Dr. Frank Schleicher (FSU-Jena)

Funded by: Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation of Georgia

Duration: April 2022 - March 204

The project Ancient Sources on the Caucasus (1st-4th century AD) covers the study of Greek-Roman and Oriental sources of the first four centuries AD and their classification and analysis in the cultural and political context. This period has been studied only casually by Georgian scholars, and most Georgian scholarly studies on the subject treat the sources only from an internal perspective. Global and regional political processes have been largely ignored. In order to overcome this shortcoming and to broaden the perspective, the project cooperates with the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, a university of major importance in the study of the Caucasus region. In Jena the Caucasus region is studied from a Pan-Caucasian perspective, from which the research project will benefit greatly. This is because neither Georgian, Armenian nor Azerbaijani research has so far dealt with sources from Albania and Armenia under aspects of geopolitical contexts.

For the success of this project it is essential that all written sources - the Georgian, Armenian, Albanian, Arabic, Persian and the Greek-Roman - are carefully evaluated, their messages brought together and placed in a global context. This will be done from both an internal and external perspective. The global context in question consists of the ongoing rivalry between the Imperium Romanum on the one hand and the empire of the Parthians or their successors, the Sāsānids, on the other. Within this conflict, the Caucasus region played a central role as a buffer and border zone. Since these functions continue into today's politics, the knowledge gained in this research project can also serve as a basis for understanding modern structures.

The local Caucasian states developed their own and different identities under the impact of this conflict. The project should enable Georgian research to recognize these identities and gain a better understanding of their similarities and differences. Western research will also benefit greatly from the results of the project. Despite the fact that Western scholars have extensively researched ancient sources, there is no comprehensive study that addresses the historical past of the Caucasus during this period. The study is further relevant because it focuses on a time when the political and cultural identity of the Caucasian states, and especially that of the Kartvelian kingdoms, was formed. This period continues to preserve its importance for the entire Caucasian region to the present day, but especially for Georgia. The features of the identity created in this period are still paradigmatic for the geopolitical and geocultural functioning of the Georgian state.

The empire of the Arsacids. History, structures and culture of the Parthians

Person in charge: PD Dr. Udo Hartmann

The aim of this monograph in the new series “Empires of the Ancient World - Peoples, Realms, Dynasties” published by the Kohlhammer-Verlag is to present an up-to-date overview of the Parthian Empire, providing information on the history as well as on the structures of the empire, the society and the culture, while at the same time enabling rapid access to the current state of research.

The Huns. A Eurasian phenomenon

Person in charge: Prof. Dr. Timo Stickler

Research into the history of the Huns is very dynamic and has experienced numerous new impulses, especially in recent years. Since the brief summary of the state of research in the "Beck Wissen" book of 2007, much has been done, notably in the field of the Central Asian and Indian Huns. Thanks to the sourcebook by Dániel Balogh (in which the Chair of Ancient History in Jena contributed) the entire sources are now easily available, even for regions (China, India, Central Asia) that were previously underrepresented in Hun research. Therefore it is now possible and necessary to describe the Hun phenomenon as a pan-Eurasian phenomenon. The monograph planned for the new series „Reiche der Alten Welt - Völker, Länder, Dynastien“ published by the Kohlhammer Verlag (Stuttgart) is intended - notwithstanding the still important history of the empire of Attila - to focus consistently on the East, taking into account current research impulses emanating from the history of empires and their peripheries, from the history of globalisation and from the history of migration.

Research on the ancient Caucasus

Person in charge: Prof. Dr. Timo Stickler

The Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena and the Ivane Javakhishvili State University of Tbilisi have maintained close relations since the 1960s. In recent times, cooperation between the ancient history departments of both universities has taken a noticeable upswing, which has led to encouraging results in teaching (winter schools, student exchanges) and research (DFG-project „Iberia in Late Antiquity“, collection of essays „Iberien zwischen Rom und Iran“, excavation in Lesale/Georgia). These results are intended to create the basis for an overview of the history of the southern Caucasus in antiquity.

Research on the historiography of late antiquity

Person in charge: Prof. Dr. Timo Stickler

In recent years, numerous essays have been written on late ancient authors such as Olympiodor of Thebes, Prokop of Kaisareia and the author of the Historia Augusta. They create the basis for a comprehensive commentary on Olympiodor's Historikoi logoi, which is planned to be published in the series „Kleine und fragmentarische Historiker der Spätantike (KFHist)“ (Verlag Ferdinand-Schöningh, Paderborn).

Imperia sine fine?

The Roman-Parthian frontier zone as conflict and contact area from the late 1st to the early 3rd c. A.D.

Person in charge: PD Dr. Frank Schleicher

The external border of Rome in the Near East has in the past often aroused the attention of researchers. The scientific pursuit of this topic has been mostly shaped by three aspects: First, the military aspect was clearly central; second, the topic was only considered from the Roman point of view; and third, research emphasis was time-wise clearly on Late Antiquity.Against this backdrop, this project targets the systematic examination of the frontier zone in the Near East during the period of Vespasianus or Vologeses I. about 70 AD to Severus Alexander or the downfall of the monarchy of the Arsacids about 230 AD. This temporal limitation seems sensible because it corresponds to a historically coherent epoch. Next to the border security of the empires, especially the political, cultural and economic changes in this frontier zone between the Zagrus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, resulting of the collision of two empires, are to be analysed from a local perspective. This examination should show that the region was more often shaped by peaceful relationships than by the often discussed conflicts between the empires. The frontier zone is supposed to be considered and represented consistently from different perspectives as a in many ways independent area of exchange, trade, cultural contacts and political relationships of local and regional actors. The different types of sources, the Greek-Latin tradition, the oriental literary traditions from the Syrian-Mesopotamian cultural area and Iran, the documentary sources and the archaeological evidence of the military facilities and the Near Eastern cultural centres in the frontier zone will be analysed in collaboration with an interdisciplinary workgroup of experts from Jena and also from other countries. In doing so, the individual steps of the examination are supposed to expose two contrary aspects: On the one hand, both empires shaped their peripheries during the considered timeframe through power-political, juridical and military parameters, on the other hand, the area was on both sides of the border moulded by local and regional forces as a connected cultural area sui generis. The forces of the centre and those of the periphery didn't always align, but they both exercised decisive influence on the frontier zone. The systematic examination of the reciprocal interaction of both factors promises a deeper understanding of the local history but also of the bigger historical developments.


Person in charge: Prof. Dr. Timo Stickler

The aim of this monograph is to present an up-to-date overview of the life of the famous triumvir. The study will open up both the history of the events and the structural problems of the late Roman Republic, while at the same time providing swift access to the current state of research.

Studies of a fortress in Lesale, Georgia

Person in charge: apl. Prof. Dr. Annegret Plontke-Lüning

The department for Ancient History obtained funds from the Gerda Henkel foundation for a historical and archaeological project in Georgia which will cover a landscape archaeological study of the Jgali-Lesale region in Northwest Colchis, an outback region completely overlooked by researchers. Most exciting is an exceptionally big, obviously late antique-early byzantine fortress. Chance discoveries of objects from 8th c. BCE to 3rd–4th c. CE point to the existence of a necropolis. This probably was an intersection of the route from the Black Sea coast over the main Caucasus range to the North Pontic steppes. Selective archaeological investigations of the fortress should determine the chronology, excavations in the territory of the chance findings should localize exactly the long-lasting cemetery. The landscape archaeological study will determine the historical development of the region. The questions will be concretized in a field campaign in the late summer of 2019, and the results should be the basis for a greater research project.

The work is in cooperation with the institutes for history and archaeology of Tbilisi State university. The department of geoinformatics of Jena university is also engaged in the project.

The region Jgali-Lesale from the south. The area of the big fortress and the Jgali fortress are marked.
The region Jgali-Lesale from the south. The area of the big fortress and the Jgali fortress are marked.
Image: LS Alte Geschichte
Vassal rule in the Sāsānid Commonwealth
Reproduction of an early Sasanid rock relief from Salmas (NW Iran) by Charles Texier
Reproduction of an early Sasanid rock relief from Salmas (NW Iran) by Charles Texier
Picture: Description de l'Arménie, la Perse et la Mésopotamie, Bd. 2, Paris 1842, Pl. 40

Person in charge: PD Dr. Frank Schleicher

The personal relationship of vassal rulers with an imperial centre was a cost-effective method of exercising rule in the Sāsānid Empire. Largely independent, the vassals fulfilled important functions for the empire from the 3rd to the 5th century (border security, tax collection, administration). It was not until the later phase of Sāsānid rule, in the 5th and 6th centuries, that reforms provided the conditions for establishing direct rule across the country. This marked the beginning of a development in which many of the traditional vassal rulers were replaced by Sāsānid officials. However, the Great Kings overestimated the possibilities of their empire, which could not permanently perform the functions of the vassals. Thus began the disintegration of the empire, which contributed to the downfall of Sāsānid rule.

The project Vassal rule in the Sāsānid Commonwealth has the following object of investigation: the concept of vassalage within the Sāsānid dominion for the period from the beginning of Ardašīr I's rebellion (211/12) until the year 602, when a new phase of imperial politics began. In a first step, it will be considered how the Sāsānids dealt with the vassal rulers, some of whom were adopted from their predecessors, the Arsakids. In this context, attention will also be paid to the ways in which the structures of the Sāsānid Commonwealth were influenced by those of their predecessors. Secondly, the study examines why the system of vassal rule was widely abandoned by the Sāsānids from the 5th century onwards in many areas (Armenia, Arabia, …) and replaced by the more expensive direct rule. And thirdly, the analysis moves from the centre to the periphery and asks about the political framework and the scope of action for the vassal rulers themselves.

In doing so, vassal rule will be described as a building block of the Sāsānid 'social system' which caused an extensive administrative, cultural, and religious influence of the peripheral regions by the imperial centre. As such, this study will focus on four key regions in the east, west and south of the Commonwealth, for which numerous sources are available and each of which is well accessible by current research. In this way, the basic structures, and functions of Sāsānid vassal rule will be elaborated and described in an exemplary manner.

The final result of the research project will be a model that describes the structures of the indirect exercise of power by the Sāsānid rulers in their entirety. In addition to the differences and similarities between the various regions, particular attention will be paid to the divergent approaches of the individual Sāsānid rulers. The model thus conceived is intended to form the basis for further research into vassal rule and enable comparison with other ancient empires.

Current PhD projects

Überregionale Heiligtümer als Knotenpunkte aristokratischer Aktivität in der archaischen Zeit

Jessica Kahl, M.A. de

Während der archaischen Zeit kann im gesamten griechischen Kernland der monumentale Ausbau und die Erweiterung vieler Heiligtümer bzw. sogar die Entstehung neuer Heiligtümer beobachtet werden. Wer für diesen Ausbau verantwortlich ist, wurde bisher nicht umfassend erforscht. Vor dem Hintergrund aktueller Überlegungen (u. a. Jan B. Meister, ‚Adel‘ und gesellschaftliche Differenzierung im archaischen und frühklassischen Griechenland, Stuttgart 2020) zur archaischen Gesellschaft scheint es angebracht, dieser Frage auf den Grund zu gehen.

Dabei wird im Kleinen begonnen: Korinth und das nahegelegene, überregional bedeutsame Heiligtum in Isthmia dienen als Fallbeispiel. Schon die räumliche Nähe der beiden Orte macht klar, dass es einen engen Kontakt zwischen ihnen gegeben haben muss. Dass der Ausbau Isthmias aus Korinth gesteuert wurde, gilt in der Forschung als sicher. Wer genau sich hier aber aus welchen Gründen und mit welchem Einsatz bemühte, wurde bisher nicht eingehender untersucht und muss genauer hinterfragt werden. Damit verbunden ist auch ein Blick auf die Geschichte Korinths in der Archaik mit besonderem Augenmerk auf die Bakchiaden und die Kypseliden als besonders gut erforschte Repräsentanten der korinthischen Elite.

Zur besseren Einordnung des Befundes wird auch die nähere Umgebung – also die gesamte Korinthia – in die Studie einbezogen. Die Ebene zwischen Korinthischem Golf, Geraneiagebirge, Saronischem Golf, Oneion- und Arachnaiongebirge und den nordöstlichen Ausläufern des Kyllene- bzw. Oligyrtosgebirges, welche die Grenze zur restlichen Peloponnes darstellen, bildet aufgrund der naturräumlichen Grenzen ein ideales Untersuchungsgebiet. Auf Korinth, Isthmia und einige kleinere Siedlungen in diesem Gebiet liegt dabei der Schwerpunkt der Studie. Die Nachbarn Korinths, wie z. B. Sikyon, Megara und Epidauros, müssen aber immer wieder berücksichtigt werden, um die Beziehungen der Poleis untereinander nachvollziehen zu können und dadurch die gesamte Region besser zu verstehen.

Im Kern ist die Arbeit somit ein Beitrag zur Geschichte Korinths in der Archaik. Anschließend wird geprüft werden müssen, inwiefern sich die Ergebnisse dieser Fallstudie auf andere archaische Poleis übertragen lassen, wodurch neue Impulse für die Erforschung der archaischen Gesellschaft insgesamt entstehen können.

Between power factor and test of endurance. The Eastern Roman Master of Soldiers from Arcadius to Anastasius I.

Maximilian Höhn, M.A.

While in the 5th century in the Western Roman Empire powerful Master of Soldiers such as Stilicho, Constantius, Aëtius and Rikimer decisively determined the affairs, such a development is not discernible in the Eastern Roman part of the Empire. By establishing efficient structural and institutional mechanisms, the Eastern Roman emperors and other civil authorities succeeded in controlling their military and limiting its influence outside the purview of the military leadership. Only a few army masters, such as Aspar, managed to overcome this system for a short time.

The dissertation will address this phenomenon, explaining the special character of the Eastern Roman Master of Soldiers from the internal structural factors of the eastern part of the empire. In doing so, the thesis will elaborate a comprehensive picture of the office in general and specifically examine the scope of action of the eastern Master of Soldiers. Taking into account theoretical approaches of political science on the relationship of the civil to the military sphere, it will also get to the bottom of the circumstances and methods of the Eastern Roman Empire that prevented 'overbearing' generals.

Based on a systematic analysis of the political and military actions of all magistri militum in the Eastern Empire from Arcadius to Anastasius I, the role of these officials in the power structure of the Eastern Roman Empire will be analyzed comprehensively for the first time. Furthermore, a deeper insight into the organization and functioning of the Eastern Roman Empire will be gained by examining the structural and institutional control mechanisms.


The Livian Tradition

Raffael Schmidt, M.A.

After Titus Livius began work on his life's work, the Ab urbe condita, at the beginning of the Augustan period, his account quickly replaced the Roman annalists' historical works as the standard work on the Republican period. However, the immense size of his opus (142 libri) made it necessary to make abridged forms of his work available to the public. From the Tiberian period deep into late antiquity, therefore, the tendency of a programmatic abridgement of the Ab urbe condita developed. Some of the works of these so-called post-Livian authors are available to us in their entirety, in contrast to the Livian original (here only libri 1-10 as well as 21-45 have survived).

The main goal of the dissertation project is now to develop a theoretical foundation for reconstruction attempts of significant aspects of Livius' libri amissi (e.g. personal portraits of middle and late republican actors). To this end, the renarrative methodology of the authors in the "narrower circle" of the Livian tradition must be subjected to a precise analysis in order to enable conclusions to be drawn about their respective autonomous handling of Livius' historical information samples. Taking the results into account, it will then be demonstrated by means of selected examples to what extent it is possible to access lost material of the Livian opus magnum via the works of post-Livian authors. Authors and works that will be evaluated in their direct comparative possibilities to the Ab urbe condita are (in the presumed chronological order) Florus, the Periochae, the Oxyrhynchia, Eutrop, Rufius Festus, Iulius Obsequens, Orosius and Cassiodorus.

For the common field of research, the study of the authors of the Livian tradition is of interest because the autonomy of heteronomous texts is revealed here from an entirely historical-source-critical perspective: The historical information of Livius is handed down, reproduced, but also contaminated. The dissertation will therefore attempt to reconstruct lost material of the pre-text via the preserved metatexts.

Eusebius of Caesarea’s Conception of History in Texts between Autonomy and Heteronomy

Sebastian Weinert, M.A.

Eusebius of Caesarea, the "father of church history", stands as a central figure in an era of change: during his lifetime, the persecutions of Christians came to an end, and the first Roman emperor was baptised. Eusebius processed the events of his time in both historical and theological writings. The literary genera which he created developed an influence that was to last for centuries: his Church History and his Chronicle became examples that were followed by a multitude of successors. He thus had a lasting influence as a historian. At the same time, one should not try to understand the historian Eusebius only by examining those of his writings which are traditionally classified as historiography. His historical thinking is reflected in all of his works; for Eusebius, theological, apologetic and exegetical thoughts were always connected with history.

This fundamental assumption underlies my dissertation project. The subject of study is Eusebius's apologetic magnum opus, consisting of the Praeparatio Evangelica and the Demonstratio Evangelica, which represents a kind of Christian prehistory, but is usually studied from a theological and patristic perspective. In structure, the work consists of a multitude of quotations from older literature which are drawn upon to illustrate Eusebius's argumentation. Because of this structure, the work has often been used as a "quarry" to extract fragments from lost authors, while Eusebius himself has often been disregarded as a writer in his own right. An analysis of the sources used by Eusebius guided by the history of ideas – with a focus on the dependence, the heteronomy, in which the author consciously places himself as well as the independence, the autonomy, which he develops in the process – promises a better understanding of the historical conceptions of this important writer.

Completed research projects

Iberia in Late Antiquity
Mirian III. on a wall-painting inside the Swetizchoweli-Cathedral
Mirian III. on a wall-painting inside the Swetizchoweli-Cathedral
Image: LS Alte Geschichte

A small state between the priorities of two empires

Person in charge: PD Dr. Frank Schleicher

While recent research concerning Late Antiquity take the manifold relationships between Rome and Persia into account, as well as the contact and conflict zones of both Empires in Armenia, Mesopotamia and in the Arabic steppe zone, the Transcaucasian area between the Black and the Caspian Sea remains in the realm of shades of scientific research.

However, this region was an essential reference point for the late antique Roman Emperors as well as for the Sasanids concerning their geostrategic alignment towards the other great empire: As the northern end of the conflict zone between both empires, the area bore a great meaning in the political and military conflicts, on the other hand it possessed a key position in the security of the borders of both empires against the steppe people who settled north of the Caucasus (Huns, Alans, Khazars). To examine the importance of the Transcaucasian region for the two late antique empires and the repercussion of this position for the local development, the proposed study wants to focus exemplarily on the comparatively well documented kingdom of Iberia that shared a relationship of dependency with each empire.

The political and cultural development of Iberia in Late Antiquity, that has been looked upon rather barely respectively uncritically, concerning the evaluation of the source material, by western and oriental traditions, shall be comprehensively examined. On the one hand, the history of Iberia will be analyzed under an imperial perspective as a case study of the role and positioning of a dependent petty state at the borders of the empires. On the other hand, under a local perspective, the consequences of this geopolitical area for the development of the public and social structures of Iberia, the scope of action of the Iberian monarchs and the consolidation of the local kingdom towards the both imperial rulers and the Iberian nobility, as well as the religious and cultural influences on this region by the empires, will be worked out. Thereby, also the relevance of Christendom within the formation of a local identity will be looked upon. Eventually under a third perspective, the importance of the kingdom within the contact zone between steppe nomads and the great empires will be analyzed.

In this study the different types of sources shall be critically evaluated and be looked upon in their own questionability to gain a new overall ranking of the development of Iberia between the 3rd and 7th c. and so to make a contribution to the reconstruction of its history between antiquity and the Middle Ages. Likewise, the study contributes to a better understanding of the role of dependent states between Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity.

Workshop de took place from 07.07. to 09.07.2016 where leading specialists discussed their recent researches in Jena. In 2019 the results were published as a collection of essays Iberien zwischen Rom und Iran. Beiträge zur Geschichte und Kultur Transkaukasiens in der Antike de in the series Oriens et Occidens (Volume 29).

The final monograph Iberia CaucasicaExternal link has been published by the Kohlhammer-Verlag in the series "Forum historische Forschung Antike".

Honours Programme 2020: The armenian Eunuch Chrysaphius and his contemporary gender-specific reflection and his political Importance in the Byzantine Empire

Person in charge: Marcel J. Paul (Course of Studies: History, German, Latin (Teacher Training))

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Timo Stickler

One of the most important political actors in Constantinople in the 5th century was a clear maverick, both in terms of his gender and his geographical origin: the armenian eunuch Chrysaphius was one of the most important manipulators at the court of Theodosius II (408 - 450 A.D.), but he was socially marginalized due to his belonging to the so-called "third sex", his oriental homeland and his little-regarded position as chief chamberlain (praepositus sacri cubiculi) at court. Contemporary authors create a thoroughly negative image of him that is pervaded by stereotypes. The research project aims to use the case of Chrysaphius as an example to illustrate the specific possibilities that eunuchs at the court had and the means they used to assert their interests. At the same time, it aims to show the limits that restricted their power. In addition, the source images will be subjected to an in-depth gender-historical investigation in order to understand the construction of stereotypes about persons of the "third sex“.

Further information concerning the Honours ProgrammeExternal link