Classics research themes

Current Research in Classics is organised around four main themes in the study of ancient Greece and Rome: 

  • drama
  • historical and fictional narrative
  • politics
  • receptions of classical antiquity.  

Cross-cutting issues include the interpretative challenges posed by fragmentary texts, in which the subject area has particularly wide experience (comedy, historiography, oratory).


(School themes: Enlightenment and Engagement/Public Humanities; Imagination and Society)

The subject has particular strengths in the study of comedy, Greek and Roman, using a full range of methodologies from traditional philology to theoretical investigation. Major publications are Costas Panayotakis' edition and commentary on the writer of Roman mime, Decimus Laberius (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Isabel Ruffell's study of the theory and practice of anti-realism in Greek comedy (Oxford University Press, 2011), along with numerous articles on all aspects of ancient comedy. Dr Panayotakis is further working on an edition with commentary of the sententiae of the mime writer Publilius Syrus and of the fragments of Atellane farce. Panayotakis and Ruffell collaborate on a number of projects, including a conference on Popular Comedy and an international project on Plautus.

Ruffell is also working in the field of Greek tragedy, with his Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound out in 2012 and a panel (co-organised with Dr Lisa Hau) on tragedy and historiography's constructions of the past at the 2012 Celtic Conference in Classics.

Historical and Fictional Narrative

(School themes: Enlightenment and Engagement; Imagination and Society)

Matthew Fox and Lisa Hau lead the subject's interests in historiography. Fox's major publications are studies of Roman Historical Myths (Oxford University Press, 1996) and of Cicero's Philosophy of History (Oxford University Press, 2007). Hellenistic historiography is a particular current focus, with Hau's monograph, entitled History as Teacher: Moral Didacticism in Greek Historiography, in preparation and a very successful recent conference in Glasgow, ‘Diodorus Siculus: Shared Myths, World Community, and Universal History’ (2011), the proceedings of which will be published with Peeters, Leuven. A panel on ‘Pluralising the Past: Truth, Fiction and Belief in Tragedy and Historiography’ was part of the 2012 Celtic Conference in Classics in Bordeaux, and large-scale narratological project on the Greek historians is in preparation.

Fictional and satirical narrative has been a longstanding interest of Dr Panayotakis, intersecting with work on drama. His book, Theatrum Arbitri: Theatrical Elements in the Satyrica of Petronius (Brill, 1995) has been followed by a series of articles, and he is currently working on a commentary on ‘Dinner at Trimalchio’s’ from Petronius' Satyrica.

Reception of classical antiquity

(School themes: Scotland and Scottish Culture; Enlightenment and Engagement/Public Humanities)

The subject has a wide interest in the reception of antiquity, from the Renaissance through to contemporary theatre. Luke Houghton has already published a number of papers on the afterlives of Augustan Poetry, particularly in the Renaissance, and is preparing a major monograph on Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue: a cultural history is in preparation. Together with Dr Marco Sgarbi (University of Verona), he organised a conference on Virgil and Renaissance Culture / Virgilio e la cultura del Rinascimento, at the Accademia Nazionale Virgiliana in Mantua in October 2012. This followed a conference on the reception of Horace, proceedings published in 2009 with Cambridge University Press (co-edited with Professor Maria Wyke, UCL).

Matthew Fox has been investigating the evolution of Classics as a discipline in the early eighteenth century, and looking at the boundaries between history of scholarship and reception studies, in particular during the Enlightenment.

Neo-Latin poetry in Scotland and in Britain more widely is another focus, developing the interests of Emeritus Professor Roger Green, who published the proceedings of a conference on George Buchanan (with Philip Ford, Classical Press of Wales, 2009). Neo-Latin poetry in the British Isles is a collection of essays edited by Dr Houghton and Professor Gesine Manuwald (UCL) (2012). Together with Dr Steven Reid in History, Dr Houghton is exploring the Latin culture of Jacobean Scotland. The classical tradition in Scotland more widely is an ongoing interest of both Dr Houghton and Professor Fox, with a number of research and cultural projects slated for the coming years.

Finally, the reception of ancient drama has been a dimension of Professor Ruffell's recent output, including studies of the expurgation of comic texts and on the (primarily) extra-dramatic reception history of Prometheus Bound, in addition to his contribution as a practitioner with translation work.


(School themes: Enlightenment and Engagement/Public Humanities; Imagination and Society)

Catherine Steel's authoritative work on Roman oratory, particularly Cicero (Cicero: Rhetoric and Empire, Oxford University Press, 2002;  Reading Cicero, Duckworth, 2005), and her forthcoming history of the late Republic (Edinburgh University Press) have led into two current major research projects on politics and communication in the Roman Republic.

  1. SPQR: the Roman Senate in the 21st century is supported by a British Academy mid-career fellowship to develop a series of articles on the Roman Senate, leading to a monograph on The Senate of Republican Rome, and hosted a symposium in Glasgow in September 2012, ‘The Legacy of the Roman Senate’
  2. The Fragments of the Roman Republican Orators is a five-year European Research Council project to edit, translate and comment on the surviving fragments of oratory in the Roman Republic: for further details see the FRRO Project page.

Political engagement is also central to Matthew Fox's work on dialogue. He is preparing the ground for a multi-disciplinary project on the hermeneutics of dialogue, authority and models of justice. Politics, ancient and modern, are also central to Isabel Ruffell's work on Greek drama, both comedy and tragedy.