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Prof. Nicholas Purcell


Camden Professor of Ancient History, Faculty of Classics
Fellow, Brasenose College


Brasenose College

Tel No: (01865) 277818

Prof. Nicholas Purcell


I became Camden Professor in 2011, after many years as Tutor in Ancient History at St John's (the Camden Chair is attached to Brasenose College). Overseas, I have held a Chaire d'excellence Pierre de Fermat at the University of Toulouse II Le Mirail, and I gave the Sather Lectures at Berkeley in spring 2012, on 'Venal Histories: buying and selling in the Greek and Roman world'.

Research Keywords:

Roman Social, Economic and Cultural History, City of Rome; Mediterranean Sea and its History

Research Interests:

The Camden Professorship (which was founded in 1622) has traditionally been linked with Roman history, and I am interested in many different aspects of the Roman world from the beginnings in the archaic period to the age of the sack of Rome in AD 410. The consistencies of Roman culture, in their political, governmental, social and economic forms, are of special interest to me, and I have worked on a number of problems of this kind. At present I am working on how the different meanings attributed to the cult of the Capitoline deities worked across Roman culture and society in different periods. My original interests were in the city of Rome and its neighbourhood, and west-central Italy from Etruria to Campania, and in the periods for which the evidence - archaeological, epigraphic, and literary - from those places is most abundant, but I have subsequently worked on the character of social and economic history in much wider settings, especially the Mediterranean basin taken together. The work that I did with Peregrine Horden for The Corrupting Sea is now expanding to situate the Mediterranean in even larger contexts, and one of my present concerns (linked with the interfaculty Oxford Centre for Global History) is how ancient history can be fitted in to answering global historical questions.

All these are capacious and rapidly changing areas of scholarship, and I am keen to work with doctoral students who share my interest in them. I also make the study of the consistencies of Roman imperial power the subject of the seminar which I run every year for the MSt and MPhil courses in Greek and/or Roman History.

Selected Publications:

'Beach, tide and backwash: the place of maritime histories', in The Sea: Thalassography and Historiography in the Twenty-First Century, (Ann Arbor 2013), 84-108.

'Quod enim alterius fuit, id ut fiat meum, necesse est aliquid intercedere' [Varro]. The anthropology of buying and selling in ancient Greece and Rome: an introductory sketch', in Antiquité et anthropologie. Bilans et perspectives, P. Payen and É. Scheid (eds.), (Turnhout 2013), 81-98.

The Kingdom of the Capitol, (University of Michigan Press 2013).

'On the significance of east and west in today's 'Hellenistic' history: reflections on symmetrical worlds, reflecting through world symmetries', in The Hellenistic West, Prag JCW (ed.), (CUP 2012).

'Rivers and the geography of power', Pallas, Vol: 90, (2012), 373-87.

'Romans, Play On!' Rome, city of the Games, in The Blackwell Companion to the City of Rome, (Wiley/Blackwell 2012).

'Thinking about thinking Gods', in Faith in antiquity, Kowalzig B (ed.), (OUP 2012).

'Roman urbanism', in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies, Barchiesi A, Scheidel W (eds.), (OUP 2010), 579-592.

'Inscribed Imperial Roman Gaming Boards', in Ancient board games in perspective, I.L. Finkel (ed.), (London, British Museum Press 2007), 90-97.

'The horti of Rome and the landscape of property', in Res bene gestae: ricerche di storia urbana su Roma antica in onore di Eva Margareta Steinby (Festschrift M. Steinby), (Rome 2007), 361-78.

'Urban spaces and central places: the Roman world', in Classical Archaeology, S. Alcock and R. Osborne (eds.), (Oxford (Blackwell: Blackwell Studies in Global Archaeology 10) 2007), 182-202.

'Orientalizing: five historical questions', in Debating ancient Orientalization: multidisciplinary approaches to change in the ancient Mediterranean, C. Riva and N. Vella (eds.), (Equinox Monographs in Mediterranean Archaeology, London 2006), 21-30.

'The Mediterranean and ''the New Thalassology'' ', Co-author: Peregrine Horden, AHR, Vol: 111.3, (2006), 722-740.

Ch. 14, 'Regions of Antiquity' (78-83) and Ch. 21, 'Landscape' (123-34), in The Edinburgh Companion to Ancient Greece and Rome, (Edinburgh 2006).

'Colonization and Mediterranean History', H.Hurst and S.Owen (eds.), (London (Duckworth) 2005), 115-39.

'Four years of corruption', in Rethinking the Mediterranean, W.V. Harris (ed.), Co-author: Peregrine Horden, (Oxford 2005), 348-75.

'Romans in the Roman world', in K. Galinsky, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus, (Cambridge 2005), 85-105.

'Statics and dynamics: ancient Mediterranean urbanism', in B.Cunliffe and R.Osborne, eds., Mediterranean Urbanization 800-600 B.C., (London (Proceedings of the British Academy 126) 2005), 249-72.

'The ancient Mediterranean: the view from the customs-house', in Rethinking the Mediterranean, W.V. Harris (ed.), (2005), 200-32.

'The boundless sea of unlikeness? On defining the Mediterranean' reprinted, in Mediterranean Paradigms and Classical Antiquity, I. Malkin (ed.), (London 2005).

Hadrian: when Rome ruled the world, Co-author: Danny Danziger, (London (Hodder) 2005).

'Fixity', in and travel in the Mediterranean from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, R. Schlesier and U. Zellmann (eds.), (Münster 2004 (= Reiseliteratur und Kulturanthropologie 1) 2004), 73-83.

'Becoming historical: the Roman case', in David Braund and Christopher Gill, eds., Myth, History and Culture in Republican Rome: Sudies in Honour of T.P.Wiseman , (University of Exeter Press, Exeter 2003), 12-40.

'The way we used to eat: diet, community and history at Rome', AJP, Vol: 124.3, (2003), 329-358.

'The ordo scribarum: a study in the loss of memory', MEFRA, Vol: 113, (2001), 633-74.

'Rome and Italy', in CAH XI², Chapter 12, (Cambridge 2000), 405-43.

The Corrupting Sea: a Study of Mediterranean History, Co-author: P. Horden, (Oxford, B.H. Blackwell 2000), 761, Notes: translated (by Dina Sabethai) as Mesogeios. Thalatta ponirodidaskalos: meleti tis mesogeiakis istorias, Athens (Odysseas) 2004.

'Does Caesar mime?', in The art of ancient spectacle (Studies in the history of art 56, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Symposium Papers XXXIV), B. Bergmann and C. Kondoleon (eds.), (Washington D.C. 1999), 181-193.

'The populace of Rome in late Antiquity: problems of classification and historical description', in The transformations of Vrbs Roma in late antiquity, W.V. Harris (ed.), (Portsmouth RI (JRA SUpp. Series 33) 1999), 135-61.