Dr Olivia Elder

Academic Background

I did my undergraduate degree in Ancient and Modern History and Masters degree in Roman History at Oxford before moving to Cambridge for my PhD. Following my PhD, I held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Cambridge and the British School at Rome and then a Research Fellowship at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

Research Interests

The main themes of my research are multilingualism, identity, migration and citizenship in the Roman world. In my work, I apply sociolinguistic methods and approaches to historical questions and investigate a range of evidence including inscriptions, letters and graffiti.
I am currently writing a monograph on the relationship between language and Roman identity. In addition, I am working on a collaborative project, together with Myles Lavan, about the meaning of the category ‘Roman’ in antiquity and the ways it diverges from modern usage.


Research Keywords

Roman History; Multilingualism; Sociolinguistics; Identity; Migration; Code-switching in Roman literature; Epigraphy; Epistolography; City of Rome.


I teach a variety of Roman History options to Classics, CAAH and AMH students in both the Faculty and College.
I would welcome enquiries from students interested in researching topics including ancient multilingualism, Roman identity, Cicero’s letters, Roman graffiti and epigraphy.



Selected Publications:

Elder, O. (2022). 'Citizens of the Wor(l)d? Metaphor and the Politics of Roman Language', Journal of Roman Studies 112.

Elder, O. (2022). 'Invisible Hands of History. Finding Slavery in Ancient Evidence'. Omnibus 83: 15–17.

Elder, O. (2020). ‘Population, migration and language in Rome’. In Clackson, J., James, P., McDonald, K., Tagliapietra, L. and Zair, N. (eds.) Migration, mobility and language contact in the ancient Mediterranean. (Cambridge University Press).  

Elder, O. and Mullen, A. (2019). The language of Roman letters: bilingual epistolography from Cicero to Fronto. (Cambridge University Press).
Accompanying online open-access, searchable database: https://csrl.classics.cam.ac.uk