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. 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

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).