Professor Rhiannon Ash

Research Interests

My primary area of research is in Latin prose literature of the imperial era, above all the Roman historian Tacitus. My first monograph, Ordering Anarchy: Armies and Leaders in Tacitus' Histories (London and Ann Arbor, Michigan 1999) explored the creative and subtle ways in which Tacitus characterises the four armies who participated in the explosive civil wars of AD68-69, as well as considering his representation of the four emperors, Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian. This is a period uniquely rich in parallel sources: comparison with the biographies of Plutarch and Suetonius, and with the epitomised historical narrative of Cassius Dio, enables us to see how Tacitus handles the historical tradition about a complex period and confronts in a balanced way biased sources who tended to favour the victor in the civil war, Vespasian.  
In addition, I am interested in the ways in which the distinctive syntax and vocabulary of Tacitus' Latin contributes to his historical interpretation of events. I have been able to pursue this and other questions of interpretation in a detailed way through my commentaries on Tacitus Histories II (Cambridge 2007) and Tacitus Annals 15 (Cambridge 2018). I think that it is crucial that Classics should be an accessible subject. To that end I co-authored a general handbook with Dr Alison Sharrock (Manchester University), Fifty Key Classical Authors (Routledge 2002) and I also published a book for children, Mystery History of the Roman Colosseum (Aladdin 1997). My other areas of interest include ancient epistles, Greek and Roman biography, battle narratives, Cicero, Sallust, Livy, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger, on which I have written various articles over the years. My next project will be a monograph offering close readings of passages from Pliny the Elder Natural History book nine (on fish) as a launchpad to explore more widely various intriguing aspects of social and cultural history under the Roman empire. Some preliminary thinking about  one aspect of this project formed the focal point of my keynote lecture ('Tiberius in Space: Proxemics and the Portrayal of the Princeps') which I delivered at the University of Queensland (July 2017) where I was honoured to be invited to visit as the R.D. Milns Visiting Professor.

Research Keywords
Latin Imperial Prose Authors, Tacitus, Roman Historiography.

Latin Literature options for Mods and Greats, especially authors and topics relating to the imperial period and Roman historiography, and the Tacitus and Tiberius special subject for Mods.

Selected Publication: