Fall, 2009

(jump to schedule)

Dr. Deborah Deliyannis
Office:  Ballantine Hall 708
Office hours:  Wed. 1:30-3:30 or by appointment
Phone:  855-3431
TuTh 11:15-12:05 SW 007
Sect. 7791


Associate Instructor:   Angel Flores-Rodriguez,

Discussion sections:

    Thursday 2:30-3:20    BH 235
    Friday 9:05-9:55        WH 114

    Friday 11:15-12:05    ED 2280
    Friday 12:20-1:10      ED 1204



Between AD 33 and 1400, the people of Europe gradually converted from a variety of other religions to Christianity.  In this course, we will consider both the (scanty) evidence for pre-Christian religions and the narratives of conversion for each region of Europe, focusing on the post-Roman period (i.e. after AD 400).  The focus of the course will be a critical examination of the original written sources and material remains that tell us about the pre-Christian religions of Europe, the conversion of each group, and the impact of Christianity. 





There is one main textbook for the semester, which is available for purchase at the IU Bookstore and on reserve in the main library:

Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity (University of California Press, 1999).


Other readings are assigned as below, and will be accessible via the online syllabus, found via Oncourse or directly at:



Note that several of the readings are copy-right protected, and you must use a password to see them.   You can find the username and password on Oncourse, under "Announcements"





The course will require weekly readings and short exercises on primary sources, participation in discussion sections, and a midterm and final exam.


Attendance at lecture                                                                                        5%

Attendance and participation in weekly discussion sections                           15%

8 exercises (out of 12 assigned) (5% each)                                                      40%

midterm exam                                                                                                  15%

final exam                                                                                                        25%


Attendance will be taken in lecture; your grade will reflect the numerical percentage of the classes you attend.  You will be allowed two free absences (i.e. if you attend all but two classes, you will still have 100%).  If you are sick, please do not come to class - let me know and your absence will be excused.  If you have another kind of excusable absence that can be documented, your absence will be excused and will NOT count as one of your two free absences.


In the discussion classes students are expected not only to learn but also to teach and contribute; discussion will be based on the exercises due in class that day, so you will almost always have something to say.  Your grade will be based both on your numerical attendance percentage AND on the degree of participation.  You will NOT be allowed any free absences from discussion section (but again, if you are sick, your absence will be excused).  More than three unexcused absences from discussion section will result in a "zero" being recorded as the discussion class grade.


A written exercise has been assigned for 12 of the discussion section meetings (no exercise the first week, none the week before the midterm).  Each exercise is based on the assigned primary source readings for that week, and is due in class that day.  You must do 8 out of the 12 exercises assigned, and you will not be allowed to turn exercises in late.  I suggest that you start writing the exercises at the start of the semester (i.e. don't put it off!), so that when unexpected events take place, you'll be caught up.


The exercises are essays, which should be 1-2 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font, 1 inch margins.  "1-2 pages" means more than one page; half of one page will not count and you will receive a 0.  You should make specific reference to the relevant primary source(s), as well as to lectures or material from the textbook to provide a context for the source.  Be sure to answer the assigned question.


Extra credit of 1% on your semester average will be given for each satisfactory (B or higher) exercise turned in above the assigned 8, up to a total of four extra credit points.  Thus, if you turn in 12 satisfactory exercises, you will receive an extra 4% on your semester average.


The midterm exam will consist of identifications and short answer questions.  Half of the final exam will be similar in format, on the second half of the class (i.e. not comprehensive), while the other half will consist of an essay (topic given out in advance) covering material from the entire semester.



Tentative Schedule

Sept. 1    Introduction

Sept. 3    Judaism, Christianity, and paganism in the Roman world

               Fletcher, pp. 1-19

               Primary sources:

                       Pliny on the Christians

               [[No written exercise this week]]



Sept. 8      The conversion of the Roman empire

Sept. 10    Missions to the Germans

               Fletcher, pp. 19-77

               Primary sources: 

                       Eusebius, The Conversion of Constantine

                       Auxentius, selections about Ulfilas

               Exercise:  Here we have the two primary biographical models for medieval conversion:  the converted king and the missionary priest.  What are the essential features of each?  Are they related?  How or how not?



Sept. 15    The Irish

Sept. 17    Irish Christianity

               Fletcher, pp. 78-96

               Primary sources: 

                       Confession of St. Patrick

               Exercise:  This is one of the few personal testimonies that we have from the early Middle Ages; Patrick has written it in response to unspecified charges that someone is bringing against him.  How does he think of his mission?  What does he think of the Irish?  Do we learn anything about Irish paganism from this text?



Sept. 22    The Fall of the Roman Empire

Sept. 24    The conversion of the Franks

               Fletcher, pp. 97-110, 130-159

               Primary sources: 

                       Orosius, on the Sack of Rome  

                       Gregory of Tours, the Conversion of Clovis

               Exercise: Compare and contrast the different stages of Clovis' conversion to Christianity.  Which part of the story would have been most convincing to:  a Frankish warrior?  a Roman living in Gaul?   a peasant woman?


Sept. 29    Britain after the fall of Rome

Oct. 1       The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons

               Fletcher, pp. 110-129, 160-192

               Primary sources: 

                       Bede:  The Conversion of England

               Exercise:  What can we learn about Anglo-Saxon paganism from Bede's accounts?  Given that Bede was a Christian monk, how reliable do you think this information is?



Oct. 6    Missions to the Germans

Oct. 8    Charlemagne and the Germans

               Fletcher, pp. 193-227

               Primary sources: 

                       Willibald:  the Life of St. Boniface, and the Letter from Daniel to Boniface

                       Charlemagne:  Capitulary for Saxony, 775-790

               Exercise: How does violence and force come into the story of the conversion of the Germans?  Does this seem similar or different from earlier sources that we have read?



Oct. 13    Christian organization

Oct. 15    Pagan survivals

               Fletcher, pp. 228-284

               Exercise:  No paper this week; review for midterm




Oct. 22    Challenges to Christianity

               Fletcher, pp. 285-316

               Primary sources: 

                       The Pact of Umar

               Exercise:  How do the Muslim laws in the Pact of Umar compare to the Charlemagne's Capitulary? 



Oct. 27    The origins of the Slavs

Oct. 29    The Slavs and the Bulgars

               Fletcher, pp. 327-368

               Primary sources

                       The responses of Pope Nicholas I to the questions of the Bulgars, AD 866, selections

               Exercise:   These particular selections from the responses of Pope Nicholas have been chosen because they concern how new Christians are supposed to adapt pagan practices.  From these selections, what is the attitude of Christians towards pagan practices supposed to be?



Nov. 3    The Vikings

Nov. 5    The conversion of Scandinavia

               Fletcher, pp. 369-416

               Primary sources: 

                       Explore the Jelling website, especially the page about Harald Bluetooth

                       The Heathen Temples of Uppsala, by Adam of Bremen

               Exercise:  Describe what has been found at Jelling, and how it relates to Christianity and paganism in Scandinavia.



Nov. 10    Russia before conversion

Nov. 12    The conversion of Russia

               Fletcher, pp. 382-86

               Primary sources: 

                       The Christianisation of Russia (988) from the Russian Primary Chronicle

               Exercise:  What elements in this story have we seen before?  What is new?



Nov. 17    Central Europe:  Bohemia and Poland

Nov. 19    Central Europe:  Magyars and Wends

               Fletcher, pp. 417-450

               Primary sources:

                       Selections from The Life of St. Stephen of Hungary

               Exercise:  This is the biography of the first Christian king of Hungary, written 80 years after his death, and after he became a saint.  How do these factors influence the presentation of events in the early years of Stephen's life?



Nov. 24    The Crusades

Nov. 26    NO CLASS - Thanksgiving


               Fletcher, pp. 316-326



Dec. 1    Popular religion

Dec. 3    Church architecture

               Fletcher, pp. 451-482

               Primary sources: 

                       Wulfstan, the so-called "Canons of Edgar" (selections)

               Exercise:  How "Christian" are people in 11th-century England?  Given that Christianity has been established for over 4 centuries, are you surprised by any of the recommendations here?



Dec. 8    The "last pagans"

Dec. 10   Conclusion

               Fletcher, pp. 483-524

               Primary sources: 

                       The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia (selections)

               Exercise:  How are the Livonians and Estonians induced to convert?  What is the motivation of the Christians who are working to convert them (according to the text)?

Final Exam:  5:00-7:00 p.m., Thursday, December 17, in the regular lecture classroom