Department of Classics

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Mark Bradley

Associate Professor of Ancient History, Faculty of Arts



My main research interests are in the visual and intellectual culture of imperial Rome, and my work has been particularly concerned with exploring cultural differences in perception, aesthetics and sensibilities. My first book Colour and Meaning in Ancient Rome was published with Cambridge University Press in November 2009, and was longlisted for the 2011 Warwick Prize for Writing. I am also the author of several articles in the field of Roman visual culture (particularly the role of colour and form on marble sculpture), and am currently developing (along with Shane Butler, UCLA, now Bristol) a series of volumes on 'The Senses in Antiquity' for Acumen Publishing. The first of these, on the theme of 'Synaesthesia', will be published in summer 2013, and I am currently editing the second volume on Smell and the Ancient Senses, which will be published early in 2014.

I also have interests in the reception of the ancient world in modern European culture, and I am editor of Classics and Imperialism in the British Empire (2010, Oxford University Press), a collection of essays examining the interactive relationship between classical ideas and British imperialism from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century.

As well as pursuing further research on each of these topics, I am also engaged in a long-term research project on the theme of pollution in pre-Christian Roman society, religion and culture, a topic on which I already have a number of articles. I am editor of a volume titled Rome, Pollution and Propriety: Dirt, Disease and Hygiene in the Eternal City from Antiquity to Modernity (2012, Cambridge University Press), which is based on a conference held at the British School at Rome in June 2007. I am currently working on a book on Foul Bodies in Ancient Rome, which sets out to understand how Romans of the early Empire formulated and mobilized disgust as a response to bodies that were perceived to be 'out of place' in civilized society. My first foray into this field, a study of obesity in Roman art, was published in Papers of the British School at Rome in 2011.

Administration: I have acted as Postgraduate Recruitment Officer for the Department of Classics for several years. I have also acted as the Department's Undergraduate Admissions Officer and am currently Director of Postgraduate Studies for the School of Humanities. From August 2013, I am Head of Taught Postgraduate Courses for the Faculty of Arts.

I am a member of the British School at Rome's Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters, and Editor of the Papers of the British School at Rome. I am also a member of the Classical Association Journals Board, which oversees Classical Quarterly, Classical Review and Greece & Rome.

Expertise Summary

My teaching at Undergraduate and Masters level engages principally with ancient history and visual culture, particularly that of late Republican and early Imperial Rome. I have convened modules on Roman religion and early Rome, as well as the role of Classics in modern popular culture. In 2012, I taught a new module on 'Colour and culture in the Mediterranean world', which is based on the work of my first book and explores the role and significance of colour perception in Greco-Roman culture. I have also convened and taught key first-year and second-year modules on the Roman world, classics and popular culture, and the Extended Source Study. I am also trained in advanced Latin and Greek language and literature and have taught both at all levels.

I also have skills in the interpretation of visual culture (alongside literary and linguistic material) and have published articles on the interpretation of coloured marbles in early imperial Rome and the significance of paint on ancient marble sculpture, as well as my book on the role and significance of colour in ancient Rome. I am referee for the 'Copenhagen Polychromy Network Project', an initiative based at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek at Copenhagen to further the study and reconstruction of paint traces on classical sculpture. I am also Director of Nottingham University's Urban Culture Network, and was founder of a collaborative project between the Departments of Classics and Archaeology at Nottingham and the School of Ancient History and Archaeology at Leicester on the theme of 'Mediterranean Identities: Culture, History and Archaeology' (MICHA), the first conference of which was held in March 2010. I am also a member of the Nottingham Institute for Research in Visual Culture (NIRVC).

PhD Supervision

I am able to supervise research students in most areas of Republican or early imperial Roman social, cultural and political history, on Roman religion, as well as aspects of ancient perception, and certain themes within the reception of classical antiquity in modern European culture. I am currently supervising one research student on the Roman Republican censorship. I have previously supervised four research students who completed their PhDs on 'Pollution in Roman religion' (awarded 2011), 'Roman female suicide' (awarded 2011), 'Approaches to healing in Roman Egypt' (awarded 2011) and 'Clothing and society in late antiquity' (awarded 2013).

I am also extensively involved in Outreach and Knowledge Transfer activities. I have been responsible for designing online Activities in Classical Studies for the national Young, Gifted and Talented programme. These Activities, together with short movies and suggested responses, can be viewed on the YGT website. I was also Treasurer for the Nottingham Branch of the Classical Association from 2008 to 2012. I have also appeared as academic consultant for the making of the 1960s Doctor Who: The Romans, released on DVD in 2009. I was also Lead Consultant for a BBC4 series on religion in the city of Rome from paganism to Christianity (Rome: a History of the Eternal City), presented by Simon Sebag Montefiore and aired in December 2012; the episode in which I was interviewed can be viewed here.

Teaching Summary

I have wide-ranging experience teaching in most areas of Classics, but I specialise in teaching the history, society and culture of the Roman world, with particular emphasis on the city of Rome. At… read more

Research Summary

Now that I have completed my research on colour and perception in ancient Rome and on the relationship between Classics and British imperialism, I am concentrating on a major new project on concepts… read more

I have wide-ranging experience teaching in most areas of Classics, but I specialise in teaching the history, society and culture of the Roman world, with particular emphasis on the city of Rome. At undergraduate level I have convened and taught large modules on Religion and the Romans, Early Rome: Myth, History and Archaeology, The Fall of the Roman Republic and and I have also taught the first-year module ​Colour and Culture in the Mediterranean World, as well as Classics and Popular Culture. At MA level, I have taught aspects of Greek and Roman politics and empire and imperialism, as well as classes connected to my areas of research. I also teach Latin and Greek at all levels.

PhD Supervision

I have taught five research students on a range of topics (Roman female suicide, pollution in Roman religion, medicine and healing in Roman Egypt, the Roman Republican censorship, and clothing in late-antique Roman society). I am happy to discuss ideas and proposals with other potential research students.

Current Research

Now that I have completed my research on colour and perception in ancient Rome and on the relationship between Classics and British imperialism, I am concentrating on a major new project on concepts of dirt and pollution in pre-Christian Roman society, religion and culture.

This interdisciplinary project will examine the significance of pollution and cleanliness in the literature, philosophy, religion, art and material culture of pre-Christian Roman Italy (c. 200 B.C - A.D. 250). Dirt, disease and pollution and the ways they are represented and policed have long been recognised by historians and anthropologists to occupy a central position in the formulation of cultural identity. In recent years, scholarship in a variety of disciplines has begun to scrutinise the less palatable features of the archaeology, history and society of Rome, and yet there has been no comprehensive academic study of ancient Roman approaches to dirt, pollution and purification (as there has been for Greece: Parker (1983) Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion). Studies of Roman dirt and hygiene (e.g. Scobie's classic 1986 article on sanitation) have on the whole approached the subject from the perspective of modern attitudes to pollution and say little about how the Romans themselves formulated and policed dirt. In addition, ancient Rome remains to be properly integrated into anthropological studies of pollution: Douglas' seminal Purity and Danger (1966) discussed Rome as an example of a 'primitive' society that ritualised a set of basic human responses to dirt. The challenge that remains is to develop a more sophisticated analysis of the evidence and to situate approaches to pollution in ancient Rome more broadly within cultural anthropology and the history of ideas.

The aim of this project, then, is to identify the defining characteristics, functions and discourses of pollution in pre-Christian Roman society in such realms as disease and medicine, death and burial, sexuality, prostitution, personal hygiene and morality, criminality, waste disposal and urban cleansing and renovation. It will also study the means by which that pollution was policed and controlled. By combining literary and visual material on pollution, this project will integrate areas of academic enquiry that are normally separated in scholarly research. I will exploit the theoretical models laid down by Douglas and subsequent anthropologists concerning the relationship between dirt and culture. In doing so, my aim is to evaluate the applicability of these models to Rome, as well as using Rome as a test study for evaluating the models themselves. To what extent is dirt constructed and negotiated by culture, as Mary Douglas maintained? If dirt is dis-order/ 'matter out of place', how useful is it as an index of order or social and cultural system? What do Roman approaches to dirt tell us about contemporary value systems? To address these questions, the project will consider a wide range of material (archaeology, topography, epigraphy, religion, ritual, philosophy, rhetoric, historiography, satire, etc.) and will be concerned both with identifying underlying cultural patterns, and exploring the individual registers (funerary ritual, criminal punishment, invective and satire, personal hygiene, etc.) in which discourses of contamination and purification are most visible.

Future Research

Foul bodies in ancient Rome

This project sets out to understand how Romans of the early Empire formulated and mobilized disgust as a response to bodies that were perceived to be 'out of place' in civilized society. The study of emotions in the classical world has received some comprehensive scholarly attention in recent years, and classical scholars have in recent decades begun to recognise the pervasive significance of pollution in Greco-Roman religion, society and culture, but these two areas of scholarly research have normally been kept distinct. Twenty-first century scholarship in anthropology and sociology has positioned 'disgust' as a critical factor in the value judgments of human society and its organization of customs, laws and hierarchies. Furthermore, recent work - both in academic and popular circles - has scrutinized the relationship between dirt ('matter-out-of-place'), disgust (reactions to that dirt) and civilization, and has questioned how far disgust is a universally shared emotion driven by common human values, and how far it is influenced, shaped and regulated by culture. Since Mary Douglas, scholars in a range of disciplines have steered the study of pollution specifically on to the human body: it is there, in the blood, flesh and bodily excretions, that communities calibrate the language and imagery of dirt, whether it be criminal behaviour, a city in ruins, political corruption or perceived racial threats. This research project, then, unites all these various threads - emotions, pollution, religion, law and medicine - and examines a rich body of evidence from the literature, rhetoric and art of early imperial Rome to explore the classification and evaluation of foul bodies in contemporary society and culture: the monstrous bodies of Roman myth and fiction; consumptive bodies; deformed bodies; bodies used in obscene ways; criminals; and bodies that are aged, diseased or dead. It examines ancient medical discussions of the ideal and non-ideal body, approaches to hygiene and sanitation, and the use of the senses - eyes, noses, ears - to identify and evaluate foul bodies, as well as bodies that are foul by association (origin/ race, occupation, environment and community, behaviour). It also considers the integration of these various discourses within contemporary religious and political life. Finally, it examines the legacy of pagan bodies in the early Church from late antiquity through to Renaissance Italy, and in doing so considers the contribution made by ancient Rome and cultural memories of the pagan past to concepts of the deviant body in later western thought.

I have already published a substantial article on one aspect of this project: 'Obesity, corpulence and emaciation in Roman art', in Papers of the British School at Rome 79 (2011): 1-41, and I am currently writing an article on 'Roman noses', which examines representations of noses and approaches to smelling in ancient thought, literature and art.

Department of Classics

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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