Graduate Seminars

Each year, the Department offers a range of seminars for graduate students in Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, and Religious Studies. The following pages offer an overview of past and present graduate student seminars.

2018-19 Graduate Seminars

Term 1

CNRS 500A: Christians in Greco-Roman Cities
Instructor: G. Anthony Keddie
Tuesdays 2-5pm

This course will take up a major current in recent scholarship on Early Christianity by studying the earliest Christian (New Testament, patristic, apocryphal, etc.) writings as products of and reactions to particular urban milieux in the Roman East. This course will focus on a selection of important cities for the spread of Early Christianity including Tiberias and Sepphoris (Galilee); Antioch on the Orontes; Ephesus; Philippi; Thessalonica; and, Corinth. Students will learn methods for illuminating ancient texts, practices, and social interactions through analysis of the archaeological remains of these cities (especially art, architecture, and epigraphy). There will be a special thematic focus on the intersections of religion with class, labor, and socioeconomic stratification in cities of the Graeco-Roman East and in Early Christianity.

CNRS 503A: Mystery Religions
Instructor: Robert Cousland
Monday, Friday 10:30am-12pm

Although so-called mystery religions were pervasive in the ancient Mediterranean world, their precise nature and character continue to challenge scholars. This course sets out to examine the mysteries in light of ongoing scholarly research. The course will focus on various ancient mysteries and their characteristics. Depending on the interests of the students, the class may examine the Eleusinian mysteries, the mysteries of Samothrace, the Dionysiac mysteries, Orphism, the cult of the mother goddess, the mysteries of Isis, Mithraism, and Christianity as a type of mystery religion.

GREK 501B: Greek Prose, Xenophon’s Symposium
Instructor: Jonathan Vickers
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 2pm-3pm

In this course we will read Xenophon’s Symposium. The emphasis in class will be on translation, and special attention will be given to grammar and syntax. We will also discuss the text itself as a socio-cultural artifact, and its relationship to a range of topics (e.g.: women in Greece, slavery, philosophy, sympotic entertainment, sympotic literature, Xenophon’s Socrates, erotics, etc.). Scholarly articles will be regularly assigned as secondary reading. Students will present a final paper and presentation at the end of the course.

LATN 502A: Latin Verse Epistles
Instructor: Matthew Hoskin
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9am-10am

The verse epistle is a genre of literature that is thought-provoking and fascinating, as it ties into itself real settings and poetic constructs; here, truth and fiction meet in moments of pure artifice. This course will be a diachronic exploration of the Latin verse epistle. We shall be studying a selection of verse epistles from Horace’s Epistulae, Book I, Ovid’s Epistulae ex Ponto Book I and Heroides, the exchange between Ausonius and Paulinus of Nola in Late Antiquity, and the fifth-century epistles of Sidonius Apollinaris. We shall investigate these Latin texts not only as discrete poems but as instances of potential communication as well. How does the verse form affect reality? How does epistolography affect verse, whether fictionalised or not? How does the wider real audience of the epistles as poems affect their composition? Does it matter, e.g., if Augustus read Ovid’s letters or not? These are questions that will arise alongside the close reading of the Latin text.

NEST 506: Early Cities of the Ancient Near East
Instructor: Lisa Cooper
Monday, Friday 2:30pm-4pm

This course will focus on the origins and development of the earliest cities in the ancient Near East, particularly those that emerged in Greater Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BCE. Such cities include, for example, the ancient urban complexes of Uruk and Ur in southern Iraq, Brak and Hamoukar in Syria, and Susa in south-western Iran. The course will consider theoretical perspectives on the origins of cities and the rise of complex cities. It will then probe the physical manifestations of the development of urban complexes, evidenced through transformations in settlement and landscape patterns, urban planning and the use of space, art, artifacts and architecture. Lastly, the course hopes to take a cross-cultural approach, highlighting salient social, religious and political institutions of ancient Near Eastern cities and comparing them to similar institutions documented at other cities from the ancient world, including those from China and Mesoamerica. The course is not only intended to augment the students’ knowledge of approaches associated with the study of urbanism in the ancient world, it also aims to enhance their written, oral, and digital skills through in-class oral presentations, discussions of assigned readings, short written reports and the creation of an “Ancient Cities” website to which students will contribute posts of researched and/or critiqued materials. The course has no prerequisites, although background in the archaeology or history of the ancient Mediterranean world and the Near East, or in anthropological archaeology, will be advantageous.

Term 2

CLST 512A: The Provincialization of Roman Africa: Processes, Practices, and Power
Instructor: Matthew McCarty
Tuesday, 2pm-5pm

This course will explore the impact of Roman hegemony and the networks created by empire on the provinces of North Africa. Key themes will include cultural change from theoretical archaeological perspectives and the nexus of problems around “Romanization”; globalization models and the ancient world; social and economic transformations; and the historiography of Roman provincial archaeology.

CNRS 503C: The Greek City (600-300 BCE)
Instructor: Nigel Kennell
Thursday, 11am-2pm

The city (polis) played a central role in all aspects of Greek life and culture. It shaped and was shaped by historical trends over many centuries. In this course we will examine the polis through the longue durée, from the archaic period to the beginning of late antiquity. City-state formation, the role of cults and festivals, the evolution of institutions and their stresses, both internal and external, will be continuing themes. In addition, we will consider the physical infrastructure of a city: walls, streets, temples and shrines, and defensive fortifications. In the second part of the course, particular attention will be paid to the Hellenistic city’s role in the east after Alexander as a focal point for “Hellenicity” in a varied, multi-cultural environment. Participants will gain an understanding of the many diverse elements that interacted to ensure the almost millennium-long survival, despite the Roman conquest, of this unique political, religious, and social unit.

GREK 502A: Greek Verse, Theocritus
Instructor: Matthew Hoskin
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 1pm-2pm

This course will explore the poetry of Theocritus, the most famous and influential Hellenistc bucolic poet. His poetry is worth of consideration in and of itself and takes on new interest in light of his influence upon Vergil’s Eclogues. Besides the versified vision of the pastoral life Theocritus provides, this course will delve into Theocritus’ own poetological statements, urban mimes, and panegyric. Moreover, students are expected to gain a familiarity of the reception of Theocritus in Vergil through a reading of Eclogues in English translation. This course will introduce students to the vibrancy of Hellenistic poetry, introduce important concepts of intertextuality and allusion, and raise the question of the relationship between poetics and politics. Moreover, we will consider what it means for an ancient male poet to compose verse in a female voice in Idyll 2.

LATN 501A: Apuleius’ Apology: The Trial of a Warlock
Instructor: Siobhan McElduff
Tuesday, Thursday 9:30am-11am

In the middle of the second century CE the town of Sabratha, in what is now modern Libya, saw the trial of the philosopher and orator Apuleius on a charge of witchcraft, for supposedly enchanting his new wife, Pudentilla, into love with him. An outsider to the community, he faced the death penalty if he lost his case before the Roman governor, and had to plead for his life in a town controlled by his well-connected opponents (who – rather awkwardly – included his step-son). In this course we will read portions of his defence speech in Latin, along with related texts in English translation to understand Apuleius’ trial, strategy, and success in portraying himself as a true Roman, and his opponents as barely literate and moronic provincials motivated by hate and envy of him and Pudentilla’s happiness.

Latin text: Apuleius, Apology, edited by Vincent Hunink (available as a free download provided by the author at

Assorted other readings in English translation, including portions of Apuleius’ Metamorphoses.

NEST 505: Literature of Ancient Egypt or the Ancient Near East
Instructor: Willis Monroe
Monday, Friday 3pm-4:30pm

Topic TBA