Vanda Strachan

I work primarily on Roman cultural history and am particularly interested in how ideas shape behaviour and how this, in turn, can affect a society’s historical trajectory. These interests currently manifest in my DPhil project which considers the role of lightning in Roman history. 

Lightning was as terrifying as it was confusing in the ancient world. Both a powerful, unpredictable meteorological phenomenon and a communication of the divine will, it straddled the worlds of nature, politics, and religion in Roman society in profound and sometimes disastrous ways. It mediated relationships between the mortal and divine, policed human behaviour, defined political power structures, presided over decision-making and outcomes, warned of trouble, aided in battle, and became part of Roman identity and self-definition. My thesis focuses on the fraught dialogue Roman society was continually having with itself as it shaped and reshaped itself conceptually around this force of nature as it moved from monarchy to republic to principate and from the traditional religions of Rome to Christianity.