I read classics at Oxford for my first degree, before moving to the history department at UCL (mostly working in the Institute of Classical Studies) to do my doctorate on the provincialisation of Sicily under the Roman Republic. I intermitted for one year during my doctorate to spend a year in the Institute of Archaeology (UCL) following the MA course in archaeology. My first teaching post was at the University of Leicester, in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, as a lecturer in ancient history. I have worked on excavations in Germany, Italy and Sicily. As a result I am a text-based classicist by training, with a strong grounding in material culture, and I have spent time in classics, history and archaeology departments. My increasing focus on epigraphy, which bridges textual and material culture has been strongly influenced by this career path. I moved to my current post in Oxford in 2005.
My doctorate was on the transformation of Sicily into the first Roman province and understanding Hellenistic and Roman Sicily remains a core focus of my research, alongside wider interests in Roman Republican imperialism and political culture, Hellenistic and Roman epigraphy, and a growing involvement in the digital humanities. Many of these interests come together in one of my current major projects, I.Sicily, building a digital corpus of the inscriptions of ancient Sicily (sicily.classics.ox.ac.uk). The project is a leading example of the application of digital techniques to the publication of inscriptions, and is also developing an extensive network of collaborations with museums and scholars across the island, and I am involved in multiple epigraphic projects on the island, including curation of an exhibition at the Museo Civico di Catania, cataloguing the collection of the Syracuse museum, co-editing the Taormina financial inscriptions, publishing the Egadi rostra inscriptions, and co-curating a new lapidarium at the site of Halaesa. I am also now co-directing an archaeological excavation at the Hellenistic/Roman site of ancient Halaesa in northern Sicily (halaesa.web.ox.ac.uk). I have, additionally, been collaborating for a number of years on a French project to produce a new edition (text, translation, commentary) of Cicero's Verrines.
Beyond Sicily my interests in Roman Republican imperialism have been focused in particular on the phenomenon of 'auxilia externa', the use by Rome of non-Italian soldiers across the Republican empire (which in turn entails a wider engagement in Roman military history); and on the application of data visualisation techniques to the analysis of Roman Republican history (vre.web.ox.ac.uk) in an attempt to challenge the existing narrative framework (part of a broader engagement with the problems of 'Roman imperialism' in general). The co-edited volume 'The Hellenistic West' (Cambridge 2013) exemplifies my wider concerns with Sicilian, Hellenistic and Roman history and challenging established frameworks.
Ancient Sicily, Roman Republic, Roman provinces, Roman imperialism, Hellenistic history, epigraphy, digital humanities.
Undergraduate teaching: primarily papers relating to Roman Republican history (period papers 241-146 BC, 146-46 BC, 46 BC - AD 54; Cicero and Catiline) and I regularly teach the final year class on Cicero: Politics and Thought.
Masters teaching: Roman Republican and hellenistic history, and epigraphy (including digital methods).
PhD supervision: I have supervised and am currently supervising doctoral students in Roman Republican history (including Polybius, republican provinces, and the Roman army) and ancient Sicily (including Agathokles and religious identity in western Sicily) and would welcome students in these areas and others, including epigraphy and in the application of digital humanities to classical studies.
I.Sicily and Crossreads: a digital epigraphic corpus for ancient Sicily
Trinacria, ‘an island outside time’. International Archaeology in Sicily.
This paper presents the I.Sicily and Crossreads projects, which aim to build and exploit a digital corpus of the epigraphic texts of ancient Sicily. The introduction summarises the history of epigraphic corpora for the island. In part two the core elements of the I.Sicily corpus project are outlined and briefly discussed. In part three, the primary areas of focus of the Crossreads project are summarised (historical linguistics, petrographic analysis, and palaeographic study).
Sicily, Digital Humanities, Epigraphy, EpiDoc
The indigenous languages of ancient Sicily
This paper provides a brief synthesis of the evidence and principal points of discussion concerning the indigenous languages of ancient Sicily. Traditionally, three indigenous languages (Sikel, Sikan, and Elymian) are identified in use in Sicily in the period between the seventh and fourth centuries BCE. The evidence is extremely fragmentary, and its study is additionally complicated by the absence of up-to-date systematic collection of the material. The evidence is listed and the key points of linguistic and graphic discussion are presented. The traditional separation of Sikel and Sikan had already been challenged in existing scholarship; this paper suggests, in line with recent work, that the existing assumptions about the separation of Elymian also deserve to be challenged, and that the traditional assumptions about material and/or ethnic cultural boundaries on the island are potentially misleading.
Writing a history of Palermo in the Roman Republic
Palermo nella storia della Sicilia e del Mediterraneo
This paper discusses the problems associated with trying to write the history of the ancient city of Panhormus (modern Palermo) in the last three centuries BC. The written sources are few for this period, and there is no narrative account from antiquity, meaning in turn that it is not possible to write a traditional narrative account today. An alternative approach is required, which attempts to combine the archaeological and numismatic evidence to construct a more contextual type of history.
Sicily, Roman Sicily, Roman history, Roman archaeology, Numismatics
I.Sicily, Open Scholarship, and the Epigraphic Landscape of Hellenistic/Roman Sicily
Ktema: civilisations de l'Orient, de la Grece et de Rome Antiques
This paper presents the development of the I.Sicily digital corpus of the inscriptions of ancient Sicily within the context of current debates about open scholarship. The evolution of the I.Sicily project is situated within the framework of Sicilian epigraphic publication and in turn within the framework of humanities publication practices. The approach of the I.Sicily project to open data practices, and the challenges which these pose, is examined through two case studies: the first offering a brief survey of Sicilian epigraphic culture in antiquity; the second considering the possibilities such datasets and corpora offer for collaborative and progressive research.
Ancient Sicily, Sicily, epigraphy, open scholarship, digital humanities
Restoring ancient text using deep learning: a case study on Greek epigraphy
Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP) 2019
Ancient history relies on disciplines such as epigraphy, the study of ancient
inscribed texts, for evidence of the recorded past. However, these texts,
"inscriptions", are often damaged over the centuries, and illegible parts of
the text must be restored by specialists, known as epigraphists. This work
presents Pythia, the first ancient text restoration model that recovers missing
characters from a damaged text input using deep neural networks. Its
architecture is carefully designed to handle long-term context information, and
deal efficiently with missing or corrupted character and word representations.
To train it, we wrote a non-trivial pipeline to convert PHI, the largest
digital corpus of ancient Greek inscriptions, to machine actionable text, which
we call PHI-ML. On PHI-ML, Pythia's predictions achieve a 30.1% character error
rate, compared to the 57.3% of human epigraphists. Moreover, in 73.5% of cases
the ground-truth sequence was among the Top-20 hypotheses of Pythia, which
effectively demonstrates the impact of this assistive method on the field of
digital epigraphy, and sets the state-of-the-art in ancient text restoration.