Research

Rome, the Forum and Column of the Emperor Trajan (Author's photo, 2016).

I am trained in the languages and literature of Ancient Greece and Rome, and I have worked extensively with the archaeological evidence of Rome, its cities and its empire.

As a historian, I do more than pore over disparate pieces of evidence, though. I push myself to ask the kinds of broad questions about society and culture that are not necessarily limited by what kinds of evidence just happen to be left behind. All of which is to say, I like following ideas where they lead me. And I’m also perfectly okay with dead ends.

The questions that motivate my research are not small. Was there religious extremism in Ancient Rome? How did Christianity become the state religion? And what can the pre-modern world tell us about the development of religious freedom, the struggle for citizenship, and the political fights that accompany it amongst outsider groups? These are some of the deep concerns that animated the people of the past (even if they did think about them using a different vocabulary). For me, though, they are also a helpful reminder that the history of the ancient Mediterranean is more than the sum of its sources.

In my work, I try to look closely and broadly at the same time. My research uses both ancient texts and material culture to document the people of the ancient Mediterranean world and to chart changes over time. I also use anthropological, sociological and theoretical approaches to identity, political ritual, and memory to fill in the gaps, as it were, when the record is spottier than I would have hoped for.

I am trained broadly as a classicist to cover the period of Greece through Rome to the eve of the Middle Ages. My special focus is on Late Antique Italy and the Western Mediterranean. I am especially fascinated by questions about city life and urban experience as it was lived—both inside and outside the Roman Empire—during times of acute change, whether religious, political, or social.