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Research in Ancient History

  • Jennifer Hicks

Jennifer Hicks


Running the Empires: The administrative transition from Achaemenid to Seleukid rule

Biography: I studied Ancient History at UCL as an undergraduate and Masters student, focusing on the history, archaeology and languages of the Near East in the first millennium B.C.E., and particularly on the Achaemenid empire and Hellenistic kingdoms. My BA thesis explored the changing relationship of foreign rulers with the akitu (New Year) festival of Babylon between the Neo-Assyrian and Seleukid periods, while my MA thesis investigated the system of granting large estates to members of the Achaemenid elite, examining the hierarchies of command and complexities of interaction between ostensibly private and official spheres. I was awarded the Faculty of Historical and Social Sciences Scholarship and Medal, and mention on the Dean’s List, for my undergraduate degree, as well as AHRC funding and a UCL Global Excellence Scholarship for my Masters studies.

Thesis: I am now working on my PhD thesis, provisionally titled ‘Running the Empires: The administrative transition from Achaemenid to Seleukid rule’, as a Wolfson Scholar for History, under the supervision of Dr Riet van Bremen. My work seeks to juxtapose and combine the various Greek, Akkadian, Aramaic and archaeological sources in order to better understand the early administrative development of the Seleukid empire. I am interested in understanding imperial administration, as interaction, and the officials not as a collection of titles but as a network of individuals. I aim to investigate the hinge period between the mature Achaemenid and Seleukid states in terms of processes; not seeking simply to highlight differences (and similarities) between the two, but to understand the complex series of events and decisions which occurred between the mid fourth and mid third centuries. I hope to recognise the earlier roots of Seleukid institutions, but nonetheless to analyse the early Seleukid state on its own terms, as a new exciting, and functioning, entity, rather than merely as a collection of changes and continuities.

I am the Student Representative on the committee of the British Association for Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology, and am very involved with outreach work for the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, as well as a keen supporter of the Friends of the Petrie Museum.

  • Sushma Jansari

Jansari Sushma


West meets East: Seleucid and Ptolemaic contact with the Mauryan dynasty, c.323–246 BC.

Brief Biography: I studied Ancient History at UCL as a BA and MA student before embarking on my PhD part-time. My particular research interests lie in East-West contact, and my Master’s dissertation focused on the transmission of medical knowledge to the Roman world alongside spices traded across the Indian Ocean from India. I work in the British Museum’s Department of Asia as the Tabor Foundation Research Assistant.

Thesis abstract: The aftermath of Alexander III of Macedon’s death saw the development of contact between the Seleucid, Ptolemaic and Mauryan dynasties that was based on an equal footing rather than between conqueror and conquered, leading to a very different type and quality of relationship that lasted, in the case of the Seleucids and Mauryans, for three generations. While most of the references to the relationships studied here are found in Greco-Roman sources, evidence from South Asia is key to adding context. This is the first time each moment of contact between all the rulers and the ambassadors involved (Megasthenes, Deimachus and Dionysius are known to us by name) has been explored in one overarching and detailed study that also makes full use of sources from eastern and western traditions.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Benet Salway

  • Roel Konijnendijk


Ideology and Pragmatism in Greek Military Thought, 490-338 BC

Biography: I completed both my BA in History and my MA in Ancient History at Leiden University in the Netherlands, specialising in Classical Greek military history. An exchange programme during the second year of my MA first brought me to UCL. The programme also put me in touch with professor Hans van Wees, who encouraged me to apply for PhD; two years of travel and work have brought me back to London and to studying the wars of the Greeks.

Thesis abstract: What were the limits of Greek war? Were they determined - as is widely assumed - by ideological conventions, or were more down-to-earth factors at play? Military thought and ideology has long been considered an essential product of Greek city-state culture as a whole. My intention is to use military treatises and narrative accounts to reconstruct what the Greeks of the Classical period thought possible and acceptable, and how this reflected the tension between their moral ideals and the bitter realities of war.

First supervisor: Prof. Hans van Wees

  • Sureshkumar Muthukumaran



An Ecology of Trade: Tropical Cultivars, Commensals and Fauna between the Near East and South Asia in the 1st Millennium BC

Biography: Following a two-year stint with the Singapore Armed Forces, I undertook a BA in History at UCL with my final-year thesis focusing on commercial interaction between polities in the Near East and South Asia from the 8th to the 4th centuries BC. I graduated with a First Class honours and received mention on the Dean’s List (2011). I subsequently completed a MSt in Greek history at the University of Oxford where I laboured on Hellenistic interactions with South Asia among other projects including mountain-coast interactions in Rough Cilicia and pre-Fracastorian theories of contagion.

Thesis abstract: My paper endeavours to offer a mélange between history and environmental archaeology by investigating the botanical transfers through maritime and overland routes between the Near East, Mediterranean and South Asia from the age of Assyrian ascendancy to the Hellenistic period (c. 8th-2nd centuries BC) with the aim of assessing the economic, ecological and social impact of this phenomenon. Like the ‘Columbian exchange’ of the early modern period which saw a profusion of New World crops irrevocably altering the palate and landscapes of the Old World, the gradualised process of crop and faunal exchange (including rice, cotton, cucumbers, citrus varieties, poultry and ornamental birds) between South Asia, the Near East and the Mediterranean in the 1st millennium BC marks a watershed in global connectivity. The sources for this highly interdisciplinary study of ecological circuits in antiquity are dispersed in a great many tongues including Akkadian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Tamil and the Prakrits.

Primary Supervisor: Karen Radner

  • Elspeth Rowell



Concepts of equality in the Attic Orators

Biography: I originally completed my BA in Ancient and Modern History at St Hilda's College, Oxford, in which I focused on Ancient Greek history and in particular on the democratization of Athens' past in the Funeral Orations. I then moved to UCL for an MA in Ancient History and am now currently working on an MPhil/PhD, looking at how the Attic Orators expressed ideas about equality.

Thesis abstract: My thesis aims to explore some of the complex ways in which Athenians could view themselves and their fellow-citizens as "equals", and looks at the evidence of the Attic Orators. While some excellent work has been done on, for example, the fiction that Athenian juries were all (equally) wealthy, or the legal inequality that was permitted via charis, there is more to be done. We need to distinguish and deploy more nuanced and complex ideas about "equality" in order to understand how the Athenians thought about themselves, both in different areas of life and in reality vs. the 'imagined community'. Isocrates says that there are “two recognised kinds of equality” (Isoc.7.21), one democratic and one oligarchic, but it is actually possible to distinguish a plethora of interconnected types and, surprisingly, find them being used at different times in the democratic context of the speeches of the orators.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Hans van Wees

  • Edwin Shaw


Sallust on the Roman Past: Chronologically Digressive Material in the Bella and Historiae

Biography: Having completed my BA in Classics in the Greek & Latin Department at UCL in the summer of 2010, I subsequently crossed the road to the History department to do my MA and now PhD. My MA dissertation, on the subject of "Gloria and Fama in Sallust's Bellum Catilinae" was written under the supervision of Dr Valentina Arena, who now also supervises my PhD thesis along with Dr Gesine Manuwald of the Greek & Latin Department.

For the year 2012-3 I will be one of the co-convenors of the ICS Postgraduate Work-in-progress Seminar.

Thesis Abstract: My thesis looks at Sallust's digressions, and specifically at the ways in which he engages with Roman history outside of the stated themes of his works. As an author of such thematically and chronologically unified works, the passages in which Sallust treats Roman history both before and after the subject of the narrative as a whole are important. I aim to treat the digressions in both a literary and a historical sense, examining the literary purposes they serve as what they can tell us about the literary and intellectual contexts of Sallust's period, and about his historiography more generally.

Supervisor: Dr Valentina Arena

  • Roderick White



Locus Classicus: origin branding in Roman luxury markets, 100BC to AD130

Biography: After a degree in ‘greats’ from Oxford, I spent some 40 years working in advertising for companies in what is now the WPP Group. Towards the end of this period, I became editor of Admap, an intelligent monthly covering the field of marketing communications. I am married to a teacher, and have two sons, one the director of brand marketing for UBS in Zurich, and the other a lecturer in International Politics at Victoria university, Wellington.

Abstract: The study of brands in the ancient world is relatively new. The Romans regularly attributed places of origin to the ‘best’ of various commodities, a process today known as origin branding (think of champagne, Cheddar cheese, etc). While there are more conventionally-branded product categories in the Roman world, mostly ceramics, these are not usually the subject of literary comment. My thesis uses case studies, embracing literary references and archaeology, of luxury products – ivory, silk, wines and decorative bronze – to explore how these brands were communicated among the Roman elite, using insights from modern branding theory to understand the process.

Supervisor: Dr Benet Salway.

Page last modified on 24 apr 13 10:08 by Joanna Fryer