Recent Faculty Publications


Dufallo, Basil, 2013.  The Captor's Image: Greek Culture in Roman Ecphrasis (Classical Culture and Society).  Oxford University Press.

An influential view of ecphrasis--the literary description of art objects--chiefly treats it as a way for authors to write about their own texts without appearing to do so, and even insist upon the aesthetic dominance of the literary text over the visual image. However, when considering its use in ancient Roman literature, this interpretation proves insufficient. The Captor's Image argues for the need to see Roman ecphrasis, with its prevalent focus on Hellenic images, as a site of subtle, ongoing competition between Greek and Roman cultures. Through close readings of ecphrases in a wide range of Latin authors--from Plautus, Catullus, and Horace to Vergil, Martial, and Ovid, among others--Dufallo contends that Roman ecphrasis reveals an uncertain receptivity to Greek culture that includes implications for the shifting notions of Roman identity in the Republican and Imperial periods. Individual chapters explore how the simple assumption of a self-asserting ecphrastic text is called into question by comic performance, intentionally inconsistent narrative, satire, Greek religious iconography, the contradictory associations of epic imagery, and the author's subjection to a patron. Visual material such as wall painting, statuary, and drinkware vividly contextualizes the discussion. As the first book-length treatment of artistic ecphrasis at Rome, The Captor's Image resituates a major literary trope within its hybrid cultural context while advancing the idea of ecphrasis as a cultural practice through which the Romans sought to redefine their identity with, and against, Greekness.


Caston, Ruth, 2012.  The Elegiac Passion: Jealousy in Roman Love Elegy (Emotions of the Past). Oxford University Press.

The passions were a topic of widespread interest in antiquity, as has been shown by the recent interest and research in the emotions in Greek and Roman literature. Until now, however, there has been very little focus on love elegy or its relation to contemporary philosophical positions. Yet Roman love elegy depends crucially upon the passions: without love, anger, jealousy, pity, and fear, elegy could not exist at all. The Elegiac Passion provides the first investigation of the ancient representation of jealousy in its Roman context, as well as its significance for Roman love elegy itself. The poems of Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid are built upon the presumed existence of a love triangle involving poet, mistress, and rival: the very structure of elegy thus creates an ideal scenario for the arousal of jealousy.

David Potter Book

Potter, David 2012.  Constantine the Emperor.  Oxford University Press.

This year Christians worldwide will celebrate the 1700th anniversary of Constantine's conversion and victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. No Roman emperor had a greater impact on the modern world than did Constantine. The reason is not simply that he converted to Christianity but that he did so in a way that brought his subjects along after him. Indeed, this major new biography argues that Constantine's conversion is but one feature of a unique administrative style that enabled him to take control of an empire beset by internal rebellions and external threats by Persians and Goths. The vast record of Constantine's administration reveals a government careful in its exercise of power but capable of ruthless, even savage actions. Constantine executed (or drove to suicide) his father-in-law, two brothers-in-law, his eldest son, and his once beloved wife. An unparalleled general throughout his life, even on his deathbed he was planning a major assault on the Sassanian Empire in Persia. Alongside the visionary who believed that his success came from the direct intervention of his God resided an aggressive warrior, a sometimes cruel partner, and an immensely shrewd ruler. These characteristics combined together in a long and remarkable career, which restored the Roman Empire to its former glory.

Becker and Terrenato Bookcover2

Becker, Jeffrey and Nicola Terranto, 2012.  Roman Republican Villas: Architecture, Context and Ideology.  The Papers and Monographs of the American Academy in Rome.

The Roman villa is a classic icon of Western culture, and yet villa can be used to cover a multiplicity of ideas, experiences, and places. In the late Republic and early Imperial periods, villas are inseparable from elite lifestyles, providing a prestigious setting for leisurely and intellectual pursuits. But how did these advanced buildings come about? Roman Republican Villas examines key aspects of early villa culture and architecture, with the goal of understanding the development and deployment of villas in Republican Italy. For instance, where does the "classic" villa architecture originate? How do writers like Cato the Elder or Varro use the villa to their own advantage? How visible are Republican villas in the landscape of central Italy?

Sara Forsdyke BookCover2

Forsdyke, Sara, 2012.  Slaves Tell Tales: And Other Episodes in the Politics of Popular Culture in Ancient Greece.  Princeton University Press.

Most studies of ancient Greek politics focus on formal institutions such as the political assembly and the law courts, and overlook the role that informal social practices played in the regulation of the political order. Sara Forsdyke argues, by contrast, that various forms of popular culture in ancient Greece--including festival revelry, oral storytelling, and popular forms of justice--were a vital medium for political expression and played an important role in the negotiation of relations between elites and masses, as well as masters and slaves, in the Greek city-states. Although these forms of social life are only poorly attested in the sources, Forsdyke suggests that Greek literature reveals traces of popular culture that can be further illuminated by comparison with later historical periods. By looking beyond institutional contexts, moreover, Forsdyke recovers the ways that groups that were excluded from the formal political sphere--especially women and slaves--participated in the process by which society was ordered.

Archaeology and the Cities of Asia Minor in Late Antiquity

Archaeology and the Cities of Asia Minor in Late Antiquity

Dally, Ortwin and Christopher Ratté, editors, 2011. Archaeology and the Cities of Asia in Late Antiquity. Kelsey Museum Publications.

The city was the fundamental social institution of Greek and Roman culture. More than the sack of Rome, the abandonment of provincial towns throughout the Mediterranean world in late antiquity (fourth-seventh centuries A.D.) marks the beginning of the Middle Ages. This volume examines archaeological evidence for this last phase of urban life in Asia Minor, one of the Roman empire¹s most prosperous regions. Based on the proceedings of a symposium co-sponsored by the University of Michigan and the German Archaeological Institute, it brings together studies by an international group of scholars on topics ranging from the public sculpture of Constantinople to the depopulation of the Anatolian countryside in early Byzantine times.

The Life and Work of Francis Willey Kelsey: Archaeology, Antiquity, and the Arts

The Life and Work of Francis Willey Kelsey: Archaeology, Antiquity, and the Arts

Pedley, John Griffiths, 2011. The Life and Work of Francis Willey Kelsey: Archaeology, Antiquity, and the Arts. University of Michigan Press.

President of the Archaeological Institute of America, professor at the University of Michigan from 1889 to 1927, and president of the American Philological Association, Francis Kelsey was crucially involved in the founding or growth of major educational institutions. He came to maturity in a period of great technological change in communications, transportation, and manufacturing. Kelsey took full advantage of such innovations in his ceaseless drive to promote education for all, to further the expansion of knowledge, and to champion the benefits of the study of antiquity.

A vigorous traveler around the United States, Europe, and the Mediterranean, Kelsey strongly believed in the value of personally viewing sites ancient and modern and collecting artifacts that could be used by the new museums and universities that were springing up in the United States. This collecting habit put him in touch with major financiers of the day, including Charles Freer, Andrew Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan, as he sought their help for important projects.

Drawing heavily on Kelsey's daily diaries now held at the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library, John Griffiths Pedley gives us a biography that records the wide-ranging activities of a gifted and energetic scholar whose achievements mirrored the creative and contributive innovations of his contemporary Americans.

State Formation in Italy and Greece: Questioning the Neoevolutionist Paradigm

State Formation in Italy and Greece: Questioning the Neoevolutionist Paradigm

Terrenato, Nicola and Donald Haggies, editors, 2011. State Formation in Italy and Greece: Questioning the Neoevolutionist Paradigm. Oxbow Books.

This volume collects 14 papers on the process of state formation in the Aegean and in Italy. Based on a conference held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003, this collection of essays offers an up-to-date and comprehensive sampler of the current discourse concerning state formation in the central Mediterranean. While comparative approaches to the emergence of political complexity have been applied since the 1950s to Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, Peru, Egypt and many other contexts, Classical Archaeology has not played a very active role in this debate. Here for the first time, state formation processes in the Bronze Age Aegean and in Iron Age Greece and Italy are explicitly juxtaposed, revealing a complex interplay between similar dynamics and differing local factors. Most of the papers in the volume build upon recent theoretical developments in the origins and functioning of early states. Dual process theory, heterarchy, agency theory and weak state theory figure very prominently in the book and offer a new, context-sensitive kind of comparative framework to deal with different cases. Contributors include eminent experts in Etruscan and early Roman archaeology and history (Stoddart, Smith, Ammerman), Aegean archaeology (Pullen, Haggis) and in the emergence of the Greek polis (van der Vliet, Small). A full analytical index further facilitates the cross-referencing of common themes across the geographic scope of the book.

The Victor's Crown: A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium

The Victor's Crown: A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium

Potter, David, 2011. The Victor's Crown: A History of Ancient Sport from Homer to Byzantium. Quercus Publishing.

What is Sport and why do we love it? These two questions drive David Potter’s analysis of the western tradition of competitive athletics from eighth century BC to the sixth century AD. The story of ancient sport offers a paradigm for the tale of sport in our own time.

Incorporating the latest research, The Victor’s Crown opens with an analysis of the way competitive sport emerged in Greece during the eighth century BC, and then how the great festival cycle of Classical Greece came into being during the sixth century BC. Special attention is paid to the experience of spectators and athletes, especially in the violent sports of boxing, wrestling and pancration. We meet the great athletes of the past and discover what it was that made them so great.

The rise of the Roman Empire transformed the sporting world by popularizing new forms of entertainment (chiefly a specialized form of chariot racing, gladiatorial combat and beast hunts). Potter shows us what it was like to be a fan and a competitor, and how to fight like a gladiator. The Victor’s Crown looks at the physiology of conditioning, ancient training techniques and the role of sport in education. The Roman government promoted and organized sport as a central feature of the Roman Empire, as sports provided common cultural currency to the diverse inhabitants of this vast empire.

The Victor’s Crown is not just a history of ancient sport, but also an examination of role sport has played throughout history.

Brill's Companion to Lucan

Brill's Companion to Lucan

Asso, Paolo, editor 2011. Brill's Companion to Lucan. Brill.

Although it was labeled an anti-epic for trumping the celebratory scope of the Roman national epos, Lucan’s Bellum Civile is a hymn to lost republican liberty composed under Nero’s tyrannical empire. Lucan lost his life in a foiled conspiracy to replace the emperor, but his poem survived the wreckage of antiquity and enjoyed uninterrupted readership. The present collection samples the most current approaches to Lucan’s poem, its themes, its dialogue with other texts, its reception in medieval and early modern literature, and its relevance to audiences of all times.

Domestic Space in Classical Antiquity

Domestic Space in Classical Antiquity

Nevett, Lisa, 2010. Domestic Space in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge University Press.

Housing is shaped by culturally-specific expectations about the kinds of architecture and decoration that are appropriate; about how and where different activities should be carried out; and by and with whom. It is those expectations, and the wider social and cultural systems of which they are a part, that are explored in this volume. At the same time, the book as a whole argues two larger points: first, that while houses, households and families have in recent years become increasingly important as objects of inquiry in Greek and Roman contexts, their potential as objects of inquiry has yet to be fully realised; second, that greater weight and independence should be given to material culture as a source for studying ancient history.

An Introduction to Greek Tragedy

An Introduction to Greek Tragedy

Scodel, Ruth, 2010. An Introduction to Greek Tragedy, Cambridge University Press.

This book provides a brief and accessible introduction to Greek tragedy for students and general readers alike. Whether readers are studying Greek culture, performing a Greek tragedy, or simply interested in reading a Greek play, this book will help them to understand and enjoy this challenging and rewarding genre. An Introduction to Greek Tragedy provides background information; helps readers appreciate, enjoy, and engage with the plays themselves; and gives them an idea of the important questions in current scholarship on tragedy. Ruth Scodel seeks to dispel misleading assumptions about tragedy, stressing how open the plays are to different interpretations and reactions. In addition to general background, the book also includes chapters on specific plays, both the most familiar titles and some lesser-known plays – Persians, Helen, and Orestes – in order to convey the variety that the tragedies offer readers.

Sara Ahbel book

Damascius' Problems and Solutions Concerning First Principles

Ahbel-Rappe, Sara, 2010. Damascius' Problems and Solutions Concerning First Principles (Aar Religions in Translation), Oxford University Press, Inc.

Damascius was head of the Neoplatonist academy in Athens when the Emperor Justinian shut its doors forever in 529. His work, Problems and Solutions Concerning First Principles, is the last surviving independent philosophical treatise from the Late Academy. Its survey of Neoplatonist metaphysics, discussion of transcendence, and compendium of late antique theologies, make it unique among all extant works of late antique philosophy. It has never before been translated into English.

The Problems and Solutions exhibits a thorough going critique of Proclean metaphysics, starting with the principle that all that exists proceeds from a single cause, proceeding to critique the Proclean triadic view of procession and reversion, and severely undermining the status of intellectual reversion in establishing being as the intelligible object. Damascius investigates the internal contradictions lurking within the theory of descent as a whole, showing that similarity of cause and effect is vitiated in the case of processions where one order (e.g. intellect) gives rise to an entirely different order (e.g. soul).

Neoplatonism as a speculative metaphysics posits the One as the exotic or extopic explanans for plurality, conceived as immediate, present to hand, and therefore requiring explanation. Damascius shifts the perspective of his metaphysics: he struggles to create a metaphysical discourse that accommodates, insofar as language is sufficient, the ultimate principle of reality. After all, how coherent is a metaphysical system that bases itself on the Ineffable as a first principle? Instead of creating an objective ontology, Damascius writes ever mindful of the limitations of dialectic, and of the pitfalls and snares inherent in the very structure of metaphysical discourse.