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Research in the Department of Classics stretches back more than 100 years. We are renowned for our world-leading insights into the cultures, histories, societies and languages of the ancient Mediterranean, and their importance today.

We combine traditional and modern approaches in our research projects. Our academics bring original, exciting perspectives to the pursuit of knowledge.

Areas of expertise

Examples of the fields we work in include:

  • languages, multilingualism, and translation in the ancient world
  • ancient religions, including 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.

World-class research impact

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.**

 

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

Research clusters

Academics in the Department of Classics carry out research both individually and in structured clusters and groups.

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. 
  • Disciplinary Interfaces – challenges conceptual boundaries imposed by previous generations of scholarship.
  • Legacies – focuses on how ancient culture was received both within antiquity and in the modern period, as well as studying its contemporary relevance.
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

Associate Professor

Award-winning academic community

Our research community is internationally recognised and has received numerous prestigious awards.

  • Dr Emma Aston – Margo Tytus Visiting Fellowship, University of Cincinnati (2021) 
  • Professor Ian Rutherford – Research Fellow, Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Bochum, Germany: "Dynamics in the History of Religions between Asia and Europe" (2018–19)
  • 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 Annalisa Marzano – Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2017–2019): "'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"; ERC Award (2013 ff.): "The Cult of Saints: a Christendom-wide Study of its Origin, Spread and Development"
  • Professor Amy Smith – Visiting Fellow, Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University (2017): "Encountering strangers in Classical Athenian Art".

Interdisciplinary research at the University

Classics has informed and underpinned many aspects of the humanities: history, literature and art have all been influenced and inspired by the ancient world.

We have strong links to a number of research centres and groups at the University, where we collaborate with academics from across the humanities:

International collaboration

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. We reach worldwide audiences through digital scholarship and online courses, and regularly host international conferences and welcome academic visitors from overseas.

We are always open to exploring new international and interdisciplinary collaborations – please contact us for more information.


Postdoctoral research highlights

Investigating the attributes of ancient settlements

Dr Jack (John) Hanson, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, is researching new insights into Greek and Roman urbanism. His work focuses 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 size of their populations increase or decrease.

This approach allows us to create expectations for the characteristics of settlements based on their size. Where settlements don't match these expectations, we have a base from which to explore the socioeconomic reasons why. 

Queer Tragedy

Dr Oliver Baldwin, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, explores how Greco-Roman tragedy has been used by queer artists to speak, embody, enact, subvert and expose queerness in his project Queer Tragedy.

Queer Tragedy takes a threefold international perspective of queer theory, queer history and queer performance, and their engagement with the plays and characters of Greco-Roman tragedy.

The project 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?

Myth, memory and rituals

Dr Signe Barfoed, Research Council of Norway Postdoctoral Fellow, is currently investigating how myth, memory, and rituals interrelated with the creation of civic identity in Kalydon.

Working in collaboration with the Archaeology Department at the University of Oslo, she is 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.

PhD study

Embark on your doctorate in an inspiring research environment where you'll find a supportive academic community. We offer research training to help you succeed. 

Our staff

Our academics have expertise in a wide range of fields within classics which they are passionate about sharing through their teaching and research.

Our research

We're ranked 6th in the UK for research overall* and 100% of our research has been recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent (Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014).

*Times Higher Education Institutions Ranked By Subject, 2014, based on its analysis of REF 2014 – Classics.