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Our research – University of Reading

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  • World-leading research

    Unraveling the past to understand the future

Our research

Internationally recognised as one of the finest Classics research institutions in the world, we take a groundbreaking approach to the Classical world. We examine the cultures, histories, societies, languages, religions and material remains of the civilisations of the ancient Mediterranean, for a greater understanding of the past and the present. Our world-leading research combines the best of traditional and modern approaches.

Our research sits within the Classics Research Division, which has a proud history stretching back more than 100 years and comprises also the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology. With strong international connections, we collaborate with researchers, students and visiting staff from across the world, and the Department hosts international conferences and runs regular research seminars. If you want to be in a place where exciting new ideas are exchanged and international perspectives are readily available, this is the place to be.

"Within my specific area of research exciting new things keep happening, for example: the discovery of a major Classical settlement in western Thessaly; fresh approaches to the study of ancient federal states; and regional history being pursued in a much more dynamic and imaginative way."

Dr Emma Aston


World-class research

Classics at the University of Reading is ranked:

  • 3rd in the UK for research output*
  • 6th in the UK for research overall*
  • 100% of our research impact has been recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent.**

Members of our staff contribute to prestigious international research networks, and we engage in collaborative research within and beyond the edges of our discipline. We have formal partnerships with universities in Europe, North America and China and reach worldwide audiences through digital scholarship and online courses. We regularly host international conferences and welcome academic visitors from overseas, and we are always open to exploring new international and interdisciplinary collaborations.

*Times Higher Education Institutions Ranked By Subject, 2014, based on its analysis of REF 2014 - Classics.
**Research Excellence Framework, 2014 - Classics.

Research areas

Our staff bring their own exciting and original perspectives to the ancient world. We have expertise in the languages and cultures of Egypt and the Middle East as well as the history, society, and economy of Greece and Rome. We study traditionally neglected areas, such as northern Greece. We explore the impact of Greek political thought on the modern world. We bridge the gap from the world of Classical antiquity to that of early Christianity and Islam. We engage with the reception of ancient Greece and Rome in modern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. We work with material culture and texts on stone and papyrus to interpret the ancient world in new ways for new audiences, in academia and the wider community.

Research students in the Department have the opportunity to work in many different fields, including:

  • Languages, multilingualism, and translation in the ancient world
  • Ancient religions, including ancient Anatolia, Egypt, and early Christianity
  • The ancient material world
  • The classical tradition and reception studies
  • Ancient literature, particularly drama, lyric, and biography
  • Ancient music
  • The ancient economy
  • The transition from the Roman Empire to the Islamic Caliphate

Research Awards

At Reading, you will be joining a research community which is internationally recognised and has received numerous prestigious awards. These include (click here for a fuller list):

  • Professor Ian Rutherford - Research Fellow at Käte Hamburger Kolleg Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe, Bochum, Germany (2018-19); Visiting Senior Fellow at the Research Center for Anatolian Civilisations (ANAMED) (2016-17).
  • Professor Annalisa Marzano - Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship: ''Grafting Glory': New Plants, the Economy and Elite Identity in Ancient Rome'.
  • Dr Arietta Papaconstantinou - Gerda Henkel Foundation Research Scholarship (2015-2016): 'Credit, Debt, and the Transformation of Rural Society in Egypt and Palestine from Constantine to the Abbasids'.
  • Professor Peter Kruschwitz - British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2014-5): 'Poetry of the People'.
  • Professor Katherine Harloe - British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2018-19): 'Winckelmann's Love Letters'.
  • Professor Rachel Mairs - British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2018-19): 'Teach Yourself Arabic: Foreigners Learning Colloquial Arabic, 1850-1945'
  • Professor Eleanor Dickey - Leverhulme Fellowship (2012-14): 'Latin loanwords in ancient Greek'.

Research impact

The research here at Reading has a significant cultural impact, helping society to gain a better understanding both of Classics and of the modern world. We are committed to bringing Classics to life, not only within academia but for diverse audiences in wider society.

Professor Matthew Nicholls' virtual Rome model is a prime example of our research impact. This expansive, multi award-winning digital model, developed by Professor Nicholls, depicts Rome as it stood in 315 AD. This model sheds new light on history's shadows - for example, it can be used to investigate questions of sight lines, illumination and routes through the metropolis.

"I'm really delighted to have got this model to a stage where it's so useful to so many people. The work we do here makes a huge contribution to people's knowledge and understanding of the past, and I'm so glad the world can now join us on this journey of discovery."

Professor Matthew Nicholls

Professor in Classics


Professor Eleanor Dickey's research into ancient education is also having a significant impact. Professor Dickey's study of ancient classroom behaviour revealed a school experience completely different from that of modern children: ancient children began their school day by interrupting the teacher with their arrival, worked individually, and were not required to raise their hands. Eleanor wanted to bring these exciting findings to the attention of the wider public and so began the Reading Ancient Schoolroom, offering schoolchildren the opportunity to experience an ancient school setting for themselves.



Our research strategy

We foster an inclusive research environment and enable our staff to carry out both individual research and research in structured clusters and groups. The Department of Classics is at the heart of Humanities research at Reading and part of the Heritage & Creativity Research Theme, together with eight other Arts & Humanities departments. Our research activity is organised in three research clusters:

  •  ‘Communities and Networks’ looks at the internal make-up of ancient communities and the networks within which they operated. By plotting these interactions, crossing boundaries of ethnicity, state, and identity, we reveal the Classical world in new and expanded configurations. 
  • ‘Disciplinary Interfaces’ challenges conceptual boundaries imposed by previous generations of scholarship and covers four key areas: 1) interactions and continuities between different geographical zones and cultures (e.g., Greece and the East); 2) interactions between ancient languages; 3) generic divisions, interactions and continuities, and 4) chronological continuities (e.g., Byzantium);
  • ‘Legacies’ focuses on the reception of ancient culture both within antiquity and in the modern period, and its contemporary relevance.

 Classics has informed and underpinned many aspects of the Humanities: history, literature and art have all been influenced by the inspiration of the ancient world. As a result, our research clusters cross into other disciplines, and we have strong links to the following organisations:


Contact the department

Get in touch with the Department of Classics if you're interested in joining our research community.

Our Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Jack (John) Hanson, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow

Jack’s research uses recent insights from complex systems theory to shed new light on Greek and Roman urbanism, focusing on the relationships between the sizes of cities and various aspects of the built environment.

His work is based on an emerging collection of theories, known as settlement scaling theory, which suggests a series of formal, mathematical models for how the attributes of settlements change as the sizes of their populations increase or decrease. This approach offers a powerful way of thinking about individual sites, since it allows to construct a series of expectations about how the scale of settlements is related to some of their most important characteristics. Deviations from the expected relationships can be used as a reflection of meaningful differences between the social and economic conditions of sites, including how much they over- or under-perform compared to other settlements, after taking their sizes into account.

Dr Oliver Baldwin, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow

Oliver’s project, Queer Tragedy, explores how Greco-Roman tragedy has been used by queer artists to speak, embody, enact, subvert and expose queerness, which has provided especially fertile readings, performances and understandings of ancient drama since 1969.

Tragedy’s ritual aspects, its Dionysian disturbance of normativity, and its political questioning and gender liminalities have helped many within the queer community to explore what it means to not conform to, or not embody, the prescribed binarisms of heteronormativity.

Through a threefold international perspective of queer theory, queer history and queer performance and their engagement with the plays and characters of Greco-Roman tragedy, Queer Tragedy intends to answer these questions: Why is classical tragedy such a fertile tool for queer theatre? What does a queer reading of it imply? How has tragedy informed the LGBTQI+ community regarding their identity, desire or discourse?

Dr Signe Barfoed, Research Council of Norway Postdoctoral Fellow

Signe researches the culture and society of ancient Greece from the Bronze Age to the early Roman period, and is especially interested in the role of cult, myth, and religion.

Her current postdoctoral project, in collaboration with the Archaeology Department at the University of Oslo, investigates how myth, memory, and rituals interrelated with the creation of civic identity in Kalydon. Currently, she is working on publishing the pottery and dedicatory objects (votives) from the Artemis Laphria sanctuary in Kalydon, which have never previously been studied. The architecture and topography were published in 1948, but since the pottery and votives were never published, a big piece of the puzzle is missing concerning the rituals that took place in the early life of the sanctuary in the Geometric period, and how the ritual behaviour developed and changed throughout the sanctuary's life, until it fell out of use in the late Hellenistic period.

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