I was born and raised in Wakefield in West Yorkshire, and went to school at Batley Grammar School where I developed interests in ancient history and Latin. I was awarded a place to study Classics at King's College, Cambridge, where I completed my B.A., M.Phil and PhD between 1995 and 2004. I wrote my doctoral thesis on 'Concepts of Colour in Ancient Rome' under the supervision of Mary Beard, to whom I owe a great deal for my interests and inspiration in Roman history and culture. During my PhD, I was appointed to a two-year Faculty Lectureship in Ancient History in the Faculty of Classics at Cambridge, and shortly after I completed the PhD in Spring 2004 I was appointed to my position at Nottingham.
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, Johns Hopkins) a series of volumes on 'The Senses in Antiquity' for Routledge. The first of these, on the theme of 'Synaesthesia', was published in summer 2013, and I edited the second instalment on Smell and the Ancient Senses, which was published in December 2014. I am also writing a journal article on the theme of 'Roman noses', partly exploring Roman approaches to smell, and partly examining the relationship between nose size/ shape and character/ behaviour in ancient thought. Connected to my research on the senses, I recently co-organised (with Adeline Grand-Clément at the University of Toulouse) a conference on 'Incense and divinity', which was held partly at the British School at Rome and partly at the École française de Rome on 23-24 June 2017.
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, and I have recently published a blog on 'Diagnosing deviance: aversion, obscenity and the senses in classical antiquity' for 'Disgust Week', run by the Centre for the History of Emotions at QMUL. I am also collaborating on a major project on 'Effaced from History: Facial Difference and its Impact from Antiquity to the Present Day', which received a Wellcome Trust Seed Award in 2015/16, in order to develop an ambitious cross-disciplinary project involving synergies between leading scholars from six UK universities and working alongside the charity Changing Faces.
I am currently Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and the Student Experience for the Faculty of Arts.
In the past, I have acted as Postgraduate Recruitment Officer and Undergraduate Admissions Officer for the Department of Classics. I was Director of Postgraduate Studies for the School of Humanities (both PGT and PGR) from 2012-2015, and Head of Taught Postgraduate Courses for the Faculty of Arts from 2013-2015.
Throughout my career, I have been warmly supported by the British School at Rome, where I have carried out a great deal of my research and to which I owe a great debt. From 2011-2017 I was a member of the BSR's Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters, and Editor of the Papers of the British School at Rome. I have also been a member of the Classical Association Journals Board, which oversees Classical Quarterly, Classical Review and Greece & Rome.
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, as well as a module on Studying Classical Scholarship. 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 have been 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. From 2011-2014, I was also Director of Nottingham University's Urban Culture Network, and in 2014 co-organised a major cross-displinary conference on 'Urban Mapping: Approaches to Cartography in the Arts and Sciences'. I was also 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).
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 seven research students on the following topics: trees in the history and culture of Roman Italy, the senses and the female body in ancient Rome; the reception of ancient Rome in colonial and early national America; a comparative study of colour in Classical Greek, Hebrew and Akkadian; religious imagery on Phoenician civic coinage; Greco-Roman artistic influences in the nineteenth-century industrial cities of Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool; and experiential approaches to Archaic Delphi. 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), 'Clothing and society in late antiquity' (awarded 2013), and the Roman Republican censorship (awarded 2018).
Media and Outreach
I have made a number of appearances on television and radio. I 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. I was also a consultant and talking head for a BBC1 documentary titled 'Rome's Invisible City', presented by Alexander Armstrong and Michael Scott, which was aired in June 2015. I have also appeared on Radio 4's 'Front Row' and ABC's 'The Body Sphere', talking about colour in the ancient world.
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. I was also Treasurer for the Nottingham Branch of the Classical Association from 2008 to 2012.
I am currently Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and the Student Experience for the Faculty of Arts: in this role I chair the Arts Faculty Education and Student Experience Board, sit on the… read more
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.
I am also one of six Principal Investigators on a project on 'Effaced from History? Facial Disfigurement and its Impact from Antiquity to the Present Day', which received Wellcome Trust seed funding in 2015/16, and is being developed into a major project across the next three years. This project examines how facial disfigurement has shocked and fascinated observers, and shaped the lives of those living with disfigurements, across the history of Europe from antiquity onwards. 'Disfigurement' refers to the effect that any trauma or medical condition, or its treatment, has on facial appearance, making it look unusual, scarred, or impairing its functionality. It includes birthmarks, clefts and cranio-facial syndromes, scarring from accidents, burns, violence, warfare and disease; eye or skin conditions; and facial paralysis. The project interrogates representations of, and emotional responses to, disfigurement, asking how it disables, and what socio-cultural practices have perpetuated that process. It approaches these research questions through three core themes:
- Language: what linguistic categories have been used to describe facial disfigurement in the past and present?
- Visibility: how (in)visible were/are people with disfigurements? When does curiosity become intrusive staring? Does the proliferation of accessible images normalise or marginalise different faces?
- Materiality: what material evidence survives documenting the lives of those with facial disfigurement, and what items (masks, headgear, cosmetics and prosthetics) have been used in changing appearance.
The literature and material culture of Greco-Roman antiquity provide extensive evidence of deliberate, accidental and congenital disfigurement, ancient prejudices towards it, as well as remedial strategies and coping mechanisms, but the study of the face and facial anomalies is relatively new territory in classical scholarship, and can contribute a great deal to understanding the cultural and emotional history of one of most under-recognised disabilities in the twenty first century.
BRADLEY, M., 2017. La couleur comme expérience synesthésique dans l’Antiquité: (adapted and translated from Bradley (2013) 'Colour as synaesthetic experience in antiquity') Mythos: Rivista di Storia delle Religioni. (In Press.)
BRADLEY, M., ed., 2015. Smell and the Ancient Senses Routledge.
BRADLEY, M., 2015. Review of R. Goldman (2013, ed.) Color Terms in Social and Cultural Context in Rome Journal of Roman Studies. 381-2