Professor Rhiannon Ash

Tutor in Classics, Professor of Roman Historiography

My primary area of research is in Latin prose literature of the imperial era, above all the Roman historian Tacitus. My first monograph, Ordering Anarchy: Armies and Leaders in Tacitus' Histories (London and Ann Arbor, Michigan 1999) explored the creative and subtle ways in which Tacitus characterises the four armies who participated in the explosive civil wars of AD68-69, as well as considering his representation of the four emperors, Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian. This is a period uniquely rich in parallel sources: comparison with the biographies of Plutarch and Suetonius, and with the epitomised historical narrative of Cassius Dio, enables us to see how Tacitus handles the historical tradition about a complex period and confronts in a balanced way biased sources who tended to favour the victor in the civil war, Vespasian.

In addition, I am interested in the ways in which the distinctive syntax and vocabulary of Tacitus' Latin contributes to his historical interpretation of events. I have been able to pursue this and other questions of interpretation in a detailed way through my commentaries on Tacitus Histories II (Cambridge 2007) and Tacitus Annals XV (Cambridge 2018). I think that it is crucial that Classics should be an accessible subject. To that end I co-authored a general handbook with Dr Alison Sharrock (Manchester University), Fifty Key Classical Authors (Routledge 2002) and I also published a book for children, Mystery History of the Roman Colosseum (Aladdin 1997). My other areas of interest include ancient epistles, Greek and Roman biography, battle narratives, Cicero, Sallust, Livy, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger, on which I have written various articles over the years. My next project will be a monograph offering close readings of passages from Pliny the Elder Natural History book nine (on fish) as a launchpad to explore more widely various intriguing aspects of social and cultural history under the Roman empire. Some preliminary thinking about  one aspect of this project formed the focal point of my keynote lecture ('Tiberius in Space: Proxemics and the Portrayal of the Princeps') which I delivered at the University of Queensland (July 2017) where I was honoured to be invited to visit as the RD Milns Visiting Professor.


Latin Literature options for Mods and Greats, especially authors and topics relating to the imperial period.


Tacitus Annals XV (Cambridge University Press 2018).

‘Rhetoric and Roman Historiography’, in M. MacDonald (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Rhetorical Studies (Oxford University Press 2017), 195-204.

'Tacitus and the Poets: In Nemora et Lucos … Secedendum est (Dialogus 9.6)?', 13-35 in P. Mitsis and I. Ziogas (eds), Wordplay and Powerplay in Latin Poetry (De Gruyter 2016).

'Drip-Feed Invective: Pliny, Self-Fashioning, and the Regulus Letters', in A. Marmodoro and J. Hill (eds), The Author's Voice in Classical Antiquity (Oxford University Press 2016).

'Never Say Die! Assassinating Emperors in Suetonius Lives of the Caesars', in K. De Temmerman and K. Demoen (eds.), Fictional Lives. Ancient Biography and Fictionality, (Cambridge University Press 2016).

'At the End of the Rainbow: Nero and Dido's Gold (Tacitus Annals 16.1-3)', 269-84 in R. Ash, J. Mossman and F. Titchener (eds), Fame and Infamy: Essays on Characterization in Greek and Roman Biography and Historiography (Oxford University Press 2015).

‘Shadow-Boxing in the East: The Spectacle of Romano-Parthian Conflict in Tacitus’, 139-56 in V. Hope and A. Bakogianni (eds.), War as Spectacle (Bloomsbury, London 2015)

'Fractured Vision: Josephus and Tacitus on Triumph and Civil War', in R. Rees and J. Madsen J (eds.) Double Vision (Brill 2014).

‘Act like a German! Tacitus’ Germania and National Characterisation in the Historical Works’, 183-98 in O. Devillers (ed.), Les opera minora de Tacite: étapes pour l’écriture de l’Histoire (éditions Ausonius 2014)

‘Tacitean Fusion: Tiberius the Satirist?’, 433-47 in T.D. Papanghelis, S.J. Harrison, and S. Frangoulidis (eds), Generic Interfaces in Latin Literature: Encounters, Interactions, and Transformations (De Gruyter 2013)

'War Came in Disarray...' (Thebaid 7.616): Statius and the Depiction of Battle', in C. Newlands and W. Dominik (eds), Blackwell Companion to Statius  (Blackwell 2012).

'Women in Imperial Roman Literature',442-52 in S. James, S. Dillon (eds), A Companion to Women in the Ancient World (Blackwell 2012).

Oxford Readings in Tacitus (edited volume, includes an introductory chapter by R. Ash), R. Ash (ed.) (Oxford University Press 2012).

'Pliny the Elder's Attitude to Warfare', 1-19 in R.K. Gibson and R. Morello (eds), Pliny the Elder Themes and Contexts (Brill 2011).

'Fighting Talk: Dillius Vocula's Last Stand (Tacitus Histories 4.58)', 211-31 in D. Pausch (ed), Stimmen der Geschichte: Funktionen von Reden in der antiken Historiographie (De Gruyter 2010).

'Rhoxolani Blues (Tacitus Histories 1.79): Virgil's Scythian Ethnography Revisited', 141-54 in J.F. Miller and A.J. Woodman (eds), Latin Historiography and Poetry in the Early Empire (Brill 2010).

'Tarda Moles Ciuilis Belli: The Weight of the Past in Tacitus' Histories', in Citizens of Discord: Rome and its Civil Wars, 119-31 in B.W. Breed, C. Damon, and A. Rossi(eds.), (Oxford University Press 2010).

'The Great Escape: Tacitus on the Mutiny of the Usipi (Agricola 28)', in Ancient Historiography and its Contexts: Studies in Honour of A.J. Woodman, 275-93 in C.S. Kraus, J. Marincola, and C. Pelling (eds.), (Oxford University Press 2010).

'Fission and Fusion: Shifting Roman Identities in Tacitus' Histories', 85-99 in A.J. Woodman (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Tacitus (Cambridge University Press 2009).

Tacitus: The Histories (Penguin 2009).