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Professor Catharine Edwards

MA, PhD (University of Cambridge)
Professor of Classics and Ancient History

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room 3.03
28 Russell Square

Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7631 6267


  • Catharine Edwards was made Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck in 2006. She came to Birkbeck in 2001, having previously been a Reader in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Bristol (where she was also for three years a research fellow in association with a Leverhulme-funded research project on Receptions of Rome in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries). She works on Roman cultural history and Latin prose literature (particularly the Younger Seneca), as well as having interests in the reception of Classical antiquity in later periods.

Research and Teaching

  • Introduction
    My work focuses on the cultural history of the Roman world, particularly Rome in the early principate, as well as aspects of its reception in later centuries. The complex literary strategies of Roman texts are an intrinsic part of that world’s fabric. Literary texts articulate, for instance, the preoccupation of upper-class Romans of the last days of the republic and the principate with suicide as a potentially noble course of action – but they also need to be seen as fuelling that preoccupation, perhaps even playing a contributory role in the decision of some individuals to take their own lives. I am interested in the ways in which conceptions of gender and other aspects of personal and social identity operate through, and are inflected by, language.
  • Research interests
  • The younger Seneca, especially his Letters
  • Roman cultural history under the principate
  • Responses to the city of Rome in antiquity and later periods
  • Classical receptions
  • Subjectivity, gender, self-construction
  • Teaching
  • I convene the MA Classical Civilisation/Classics and teach on a number of modules at both undergraduate and MA level, usually including:
  • ‘From republic to empire: Roman history’ (undergraduate Group 1)
  • ‘Approaches to Classics’ (undergraduate core)
  • ‘Journeys to the underworld: myth and literature in Greco-Roman antiquity’ (undergraduate Group 2)
  • ‘The empire of letters: correspondence in the Roman world’ (undergraduate Group 3)
  • ‘Introduction to classical culture’ (MA core)
  • ‘Responses to Rome in the nineteenth century’ (MA option)
  • ‘The politics of culture in Neronian Rome’ (MA option
  • PhD supervision
  • I am supervising or have recently supervised dissertations on the following areas:
  • Greece and Rome at the Crystal palace Sydenham, 1854-1936
  • C17th English visitors to the Greece and Asia Minor
  • Imitatio and intertextuality in sixteenth-century English receptions of classical Latin love elegy
  • Horace and Juvenal in early eighteenth-century satire
  • Virgil Aeneid books 5 and 6
  • The reception of Roman Scotland during the period of the Scottish enlightenment


  • Books
  • Death in ancient Rome (Yale University Press, 2007)
  • Edited with Greg Woolf, Rome the Cosmopolis (Cambridge University Press 2002)
  • Translation of Suetonius: Lives of the Caesars (Oxford World’s Classics 2000)
  • Edited, Roman presences: receptions of Rome in European culture 1789-1945 (Cambridge University Press 1999)
  • Writing Rome: textual approaches to the city (CUP 1996)
  • Edited with Michael Liversidge, Imagining Rome: British artists and Rome in the nineteenth century (Merrell Holberton, 1996)
  • The politics of immorality in ancient Rome (CUP 1993)
  • Articles and chapters
  • ‘On not being in Rome: exile and displacement in Seneca’s prose’ in The production of space in Latin literature (OUP) eds. W.Fitzgerald and E.Spentzou (forthcoming 2018)
  • Gibbon and the city of Rome’ in The Cambridge companion to Edward Gibbon (CUP) eds. K. O’Brien and Brian Young (forthcoming)
  • ‘The romance of Roman error: encountering antiquity in Hawthorne's The Marble Faun ‘ in Roman error ed. Basil Dufallo (OUP) (2017)
  • ‘Seneca and the quest for distinction in Nero’s golden age‘ in The Cambridge companion to the age of Nero (CUP) eds. S.Bartsch, K.Freudenburg, C.Littlewood (2017)
  • ‘Absent presence in Seneca’s Epistles: philosophy and friendship’ 41-53 in S.Bartsch and A.Schiesaro The Cambridge companion to Seneca (CUP 2015)
  • ‘Death and time’ Brill companion to Seneca eds.G.Damschen and A.Heil (Brill, 2014)
  • ‘Tacitus and the city in ruins’ in Cambridge companion to the city of Rome ed.P.Erdkamp (CUP, 2013)
  • ‘The Return to Rome: desire and loss in Stäel’s Corinne’ in T.Saunders et al. eds., Romans and Romantics (Oxford 2012) pp.183-202
  • ‘Imagining ruins in ancient Rome’ in European Review of History / Revue Européenne d'histoire Vol.18, nos.5-6, (special issue ‘Antiquity and the ruin’) pp.645-61
  • ‘Slavery, freedom and the self in Seneca’s Letters’ pp. 139-59 Seneca and the self eds. S.Bartsch and D.Wray (Cambridge 2009)
  • ‘Possessing Rome: the politics of ruins in Roma capitale’ pp.345-359 in A companion to Classical Receptions eds. L.Hardwick and C.Stray (Oxford 2008)
  • 'Seneca's aging body' in Andrew Hopkins and Maria Wyke eds. Roman bodies (London 2005)
  • ‘Epistolography’ for Blackwell companion to Latin literature ed. S.Harrison (Blackwell 2005)
  • ‘Incorporating the alien: the art of conquest’ in Edwards and Woolf eds. Rome the Cosmopolis (2003)
  • Response to S.Bartsch Eros and the Roman philosopher’ in Erotikon: essays on eros ancient and modern eds. S.Bartsch and T.Bartsherer, University of Chicago Press (2003)
  • 'Acting and self-actualisation in Neronian Rome' in P.E.Easterling and E.M.Hall eds. Greek and Roman actors (CUP 2002)
  • 'Translating empire? Macaulay's Rome' pp.70-87 in C.Edwards ed. Roman Presences: receptions of Rome in European culture, 1789-1945 (CUP 1999)
  • 'The suffering body: philosophy and pain in Seneca's Letters' pp.252-268 in James I.Porter ed. Constructions of the Classical Body (Michigan UP 1999)
  • 'L'imaginaire de l'image de Rome' pp.235-45 in Florence Dupont ed. Images romaines (Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 1998)
  • 'Unspeakable professions: public performance and prostitution' pp.66-95 in M.Skinner and J.Hallett eds. Roman Sexualities (Princeton 1997)
  • 'Self-scrutiny and self-transformation in Seneca's Letters' Greece & Rome 44 (April 1997) 23-38 [reprinted in J.Fitch ed. Oxford readings in classical studies: Seneca 2008]
  • 'The Roads to Rome' in exhibition catalogue Imagining Rome: British artists and Rome in the nineteenth century (Merrell Holberton, 1996)
  • 'Beware of imitations: acting and the subversion of imperial identity' pp.83-97 in J.Elsner and J.Masters eds. Reflections of Nero (Duckworth 1994)


Professional membership

  • Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies (member of the editorial board for Journal of Roman Studies 2009-2014)
  • Classical Reception Studies Network (member of the editorial board for Classical Receptions Journal)
  • Classical Association
  • Member of the Classics sub-panel for REF 2014

Current activities

  • I am nearing completion of my edition of selected letters of Seneca for the Cambridge University Press Greek and Latin Classics series. A project still at an early stage is an exploration of accounts of travel to Rome in a range of texts (including fiction) written in the long nineteenth century.

Honours and awards

  • President of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies
  • Leverhulme Research Fellowship 2015-16
  • Chancellor's Medal, University of Cambridge (1985)


  • Don Fowler memorial lecture, Oxford (May 2015) 'The philosopher as epic hero: Augustan poetry in Seneca's Letters'
  • Boeckh lecture, Humboldt University, Berlin (June 2016) 'Visualising death in Seneca's Letters'