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Late Antiquity

Late Antiquity is the historical period between 284 AD and 632 AD. Emperor Diocletian came to power in 284 AD, by which time the Roman Empire had grown unwieldy. To overcome the Crisis of the Third Century, Emperor Diocletian divided the empire into two empires – the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire, and the Western Roman Empire. Each of these was ruled by two emperors. The end of Late Antiquity is thought to be in around 632 AD, the year of the death of Prophet Muhammad. Mesopotamia and all of Europe underwent prominent sociocultural and religious changes in Late Antiquity.

Among the most important changes of Mesopotamia and Europe were the religious revolutions. The rise of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were significant in shaping the culture and the history of the era to come. Old pagan religions and rituals underwent a steady decline. Some religions, such as Zoroastrianism, did survive but lost a huge number of followers to the sweep of Christianity. The conversion of Emperor Constantine the Great was a significant event in the spread of the religion. He was instrumental in the rise of the church. By the fourth century, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. Prophet Muhammad was born in 570 AD. Islamic philosophy had started to spread quickly by the end of Late Antiquity.

Decline of the Cities
With the growth of the Roman Empire, a number of urban settlements were developed. The transition into Late Antiquity was marked by a sharp decline in the population and in the collapse of the major cities of the classical world. With the Gothic Wars, the population of Rome fell by more than half, and Constantinople also saw a decline in the number of inhabitants following the plague of 541 AD.

The fall of Antioch to the Persians in 540 AD devastated the city. Most of the major Roman city-states such as Sparta and Corinth were abandoned in favor of fortified settlements. Gaul and many cities of Roman Britain disappeared rapidly.

Historians provide a number of reasons for the decline, including the climatic changes of the sixth century, the outbreak of plagues, and other pandemics. The war of the classical period had no doubt taken its toll, and reconstruction had become unaffordable in Late Antiquity.

Late Antiquity Art and Architecture
The growth of art and culture during Late Antiquity was the precursor to the cultural gush of the Middle Ages. The boost received by mosaics and relief sculpture during this period was significant. In popular art, Greek idealism was replaced by individualistic idealism. The Arch of Constantine, built between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill and dedicated in 213 AD, is a classic example of Late Antiquity spolia. Spolia refers to the reuse of sculptures and decorative material from earlier buildings for new constructions. With the rise of Christianity, Christ and Christian themes and religious art became an important aspect of the culture of Late Antiquity.

Regional Literature
The rise of regional literature in Arabic, Armenian, and the Syrian language defined Late Antiquity. The decline of the use of Latin and classical Greek in popular literature was also marked by a change in style.

Like in art and architecture, Christianity soon became a dominant theme in literature. The growth of Hebrew poetry was the natural consequence of a rise in Jewish culture. Some of the best known Latin poets of Late Antiquity include Claudian, Arator, and Corippus.