2014.10.08: Craig Morley, Rome and the Sasanian Empire

Title: Rome and the Sasanian Empire: Dispelling the Alter Orbis, Cultural and Religious Familiarities

Date, time, location: Wednesday 8th October 2014, 17.30, MB3201

Abstract: It is a popular misconception that an ‘iron-curtain’ relationship existed between the Roman and Sasanian Empires throughout Late Antiquity. This ideal dictates that the entire frontier, from Armenia in the north to the Arabian Desert in the south, between the two Empires was ‘closed’ and the only means of interaction was through military conflict. Indeed it is this idea that has perpetuated the idea that the Sasanian Empire remained an alter orbis (‘other and/or alien world’) in the minds of the Romans; that the two imperial neighbours were completely different to one another. However, this was not the case, and in fact the Roman and Sasanian Empires had far more similarities than differences.

This paper aims to explore the cultural and religious similarities and connections between the Roman and Sasanian Empires in order to dispel the idea of the alter orbis. In this regard, it will be shown that despite the heavy militarisation of the imperial frontier cross-border travel was common-place and had a direct effect on the cultural and religious character of both empires. The relationship between the two ‘state-religions’, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, will also be investigated as will the way in which the two empires viewed one another in relation to their wider ‘foreign-relations’.

Emphasising these aspects of the competitive and conflict-ridden relationship between the Roman and Sasanian Empires in Late Antiquity will be useful in showing that even in the most hostile East-West relationships cultural similarities, and even dependencies, did exist.

Biography: Craig Morley is a final year PhD student at the University of Liverpool. His research on the relationship between the Roman and Sasanian Empires in the fifth century investigates why this was a unique period of peace between the two imperial neighbours in a relationship that was otherwise marked by hostility and antagonism. Craig has given a number of papers on diverse aspects of Roman-Sasanian relations at different universities across Europe. Other research interests include, the Later Roman Empire, Roman foreign relations and the political and imperial history of the Sasanian Empire.

Alongside this PhD research, Craig holds a position of Visiting Lecturer at the University of Chester where he teaches on the Later Roman Empire.