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Professor Rhiannon Ash

Tutor in Classics, Professor of Roman Historiography


Greek and Latin Literature


My primary area of research is in Latin prose literature of the imperial era, above all the Roman historian Tacitus. My monograph, Ordering Anarchy: Armies and Leaders in Tacitus' Histories (London and Ann Arbor, Michigan 1999) explores the creative and subtle ways in which Tacitus characterises the four armies who participated in the explosive civil wars of 68-69, 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 in my commentary, Tacitus Histories II (Cambridge 2007). I think that it is important that Classics should be an accessible subject and to that end I co-authored a general handbook with Dr Alison Sharrock (Manchester University), Fifty Key Classical Authors (Routledge 2002). I am currently working on Oxford Readings in Tacitus and revising the Penguin translation of the Histories. I am also co-editor of the Classics journal, Classical Quarterly. My other areas of interest include ancient epistles, Greek and Roman biography, battle narratives, and Pliny the Elder, on which I have written various articles.

Teaching Interests

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

Photo: courtesy Professor Ash