Department Newsletter - Nuntius

Department of Classical Studies 2019-2020

The Department of Classical Studies has seen another successful academic year. While our time together on campus was cut short, we are proud of all the hard work, the dedication, and the passion that our students, faculty, and community showed in the face of such trying times. 

7 graduates in the MA program from Fall 2019, Spring 2020, and Summer 2020!

Kathleen Dailey
Michael Hall
Michael Lundberg
Jennifer Marks
Elizabeth Randolph
Alexa Rose

3 undergraduate majors!

Sunny Akobirshoeva
Jacob Diaz
Brenden Morrissey

6 undergraduate minors!

Anna Bartusis
Sofia Grandsard
Abby McCabe
Willa Moen
William Peltier
Zoe Rose

All of us in the Department of Classical Studies wish you nothing but success wherever you go! We’d also like to highlight some of specific student achievements from this year!

Pursuing a PhD is a path of passion, dedication, and hard-work. Best of luck to all of our recently accepted students:

Angela Hurley '18, PhD Classics, University of Southern California
Jennifer Marks '20, PhD Classics, Johns Hopkins University
Justin Soares '19, PhD Anthropology, University of Iowa
Savannah Bishop '19, PhD Maritime Archaeology, Koç University

Additionally, this academic year has seen many of our students awarded a number of honors and prizes!

The Esther Goldman Prize for Excellence in Classical Art, Archaeology, and Ancient History to Jacob Diaz

Graduate School of Arts and Science Outstanding Teaching Fellow Award to Nicole Constantine

Departmental Award for Teaching Excellence to Nicole Constantine, Michelle Heeman, and Alexa Rose

Ancient Greek and Roman Studies Summer Fellowships to Matthew Gabalski, Claire Khokar, Michelle Heeman, Nicole Constantine, Elizabeth Randolph, and Jennifer Marks 



Throughout this past year, we’ve been fortunate to both host and attend a number of events, speakers, and conferences as a department:

"Twitterstoria: Memes, pop-culture, social media, and how pop-historians can work with academia to help ancient history find a mass audience." with Mike Cole

Summer Research and Excavation Symposium

Archaeology Day

"The Weaponization of Ancient Sexuality in Aeschines' 'Against Timachus'" with Dr. Daniel Libatique

"Paths to Public History: Getting Started in the Museum Field" with Trevor Brandt

"Behind These Baleful Eyes: Narratology, Gender, and the Gaze in Greek and Near Eastern Myth" with Dr. Matthew Newman

"Resistance, Persistence, Indigeneity: Ritual Practices and Daily Life in the Balearic Islands During Classical Antiquity" with Dr. Alex Smith

"All Roads Lead to Road: Mortuary Landscapes Along the Via Appia" with Dr. Liana Brent


Faculty Updates:

Note from Joel P. Christensen, Chair,

I think that we likely lack the language and perspective to fully describe and appreciate the major changes and challenges we have faced this year. From the displacement and danger of COVID-19 in the middle of the Spring semester to the visceral reminder of our American legacy of white supremacy and racism in police killings and the protest movement that has arisen to support Black Lives Matter, this year has revealed so much about our world that needs our attention that it is hard to know what to do first. I have joked, probably too often, that this experience is truly an apocalypse in the sense of the original Ancient Greek, that it is uncovering and revealing to us truths we should have known all along.

Our University has met these challenges remarkably well, and I say this from the vantage point of a Department Chair who, as Chair of the Faculty Senate, has taken part in the COVID-19 Task Force. From the beginning we have tried to make decisions that align with our core values and social mission, carefully attempting to ensure that we are not leaving any members of our community out. This means that we’ve been slower to make announcements than some institutions, but we have been deliberate and practiced shared governance in a way that more schools should emulate.

Certainly, we have not been perfect. Years from now, we will look back on 2020 as an inflection point, and I deeply hope it will be one where we found the strength and courage to move in new directions, to take our broader challenges like racism, inequality, and climate change head on. I know this probably all seems rather ambitious commentary from a Classical Studies Department, but we all believe that it is our duty to make our classrooms, institutions, and world better places as we can.

The work of the department has continued in the confusion and frenzy of this semester. Our academic administrator, David DeVore, has been magnificent in keeping people together, in making sure that we gather (virtually) regularly, and create opportunities over the summer to stay in touch and stay intellectually engaged. We hold departmental coffee hours every other week and have summer reading groups on at least four different subjects ongoing weekly. Please do reach out if you want to hear more.

We are going to be continuing a mostly virtual series of events in the fall, maintaining the coffee hours and having guest lectures at zoom in place of our conventional gatherings. In the Spring, we will be hosting a major conference as part of the Race B4 Race series to bring together scholars of Early Modern Studies, Medieval Studies, and Classical Studies to discuss racism in our disciplines and strategies for working on issues of race.

This year we are also welcoming two new faculty members to our Department: Darlene Brooks-Hedstrom will be joining us as a joint hire with Near Eastern and Judaic Studies as the Myra and Robert Kraft and Jacob Hiatt Associate Professor in Christian Studies. Jillian Stinchcomb will also join us as a Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Hebrew Bible and Cross-Cultural Mediterranean Textual Traditions, also in partnership with Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. We are really excited to welcome both Dar and Jill to our community. Reach out and welcome them if you get a chance.

On a personal note, I published a book called Homer’s Thebes this year with my long-time collaborator Elton T.E. Barker and my long-term project on psychology and the Odyssey will be out this December from Cornell University Press (The Many-Minded Man: The "Odyssey," Psychology, and the Therapy of Epic). Both of these projects were made possible by University research funds, but their completion was ensured by our Departmental gift fund used to hire students to help work on bibliographies and indices.

We have worked hard this year to support our undergraduate and graduate students with research funds and employment opportunities during the year and over the summer. As ypi will see from the rest of the newsletter, we have graduate students and undergraduate students doing exciting and worthwhile work in the digital humanities lab and the Classical Artifact Research Collection. All of this is possible thanks to our friends and alumni who support us.

Please know that I am always happy to talk about our Department and the work our colleagues and students are doing. I hope to see you at some of our coffee hours and virtual lectures.

Joel P. Christensen

Chair, Classical Studies

Mandel Center for the Humanities, MS 092
Brandeis University, P.O. Box 9110
415 South Street
Waltham, MA 02453-9110 USA
FAX: 781-736-2184

Note from Professor Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, Kevy and Hortense Kaiserman Endowed Chair in the HumanitiesProfessor Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow

Well, this was a historic year for me!  I returned from a splendid one-year of sabbatical at the 

American Academy in Rome last June, 2019, and immediately in July, 2019, I became Head of the Division of the Humanities.  I had served as chair of the Department of Classical Studies for 15 years before I left for Rome, and we now have the best possible chair we could have in Professor Joel Christensen.  My year as Head has been hard work, often challenging, sometimes fun, but, after Covid 19 struck, more perplexing and stressful than ever.  My colleagues have been great, and we are getting through these difficult times together.  


I was a Traveling Lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of American (University of Buffalo last fall, University of Texas at Austin and Trinity University in San Antonio in February), and I gave a lecture at the St. Stephen’s International High School in Rome in connection with the Royal Netherlands Institute last December on my new work about the five senses and the Roman city.  Amazingly on that trip, I was all over Naples, Rome, and Milan just before the whole of northern Italy went silent under the bane of the coronavirus.  I was lucky, to say the least, as I have stayed healthy for the whole of the spring semester. And this spring, I taught my final full classes of my 35-year Brandeis career, both of which ended up online—intermediate Latin and Pompeii:  Life in the Shadow of Vesuvius.  (I will remain Head of the Division for two more years, then retire, not from academia or the life of the mind, but from Brandeis.)   


Right now, I am at home in Newton, as we all are, trying to finish some book manuscripts and two articles, about which I’ll tell you more in another newsletter.  I am also gardening up a storm of flowers, vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, celery, peas, chard), and a whole array of herbs (rosemary, chives, oregano, thyme, French tarragon, and various kinds of parsley).  The archaeologist in me does not know how to stop digging in the dirt in the summer!  I wish you all a lovely summer, and hope we can be together again in person in the fall.  Warmest congratulations to all our graduates of 2020!


Professor Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow

May 26, 2020

Note from Caitlin GillespieProfessor Caitlin Gillespie

My second year at Brandeis was certainly eventful! My daughter Cecilia joined the world on June 1, 2019, and life has never been busier or more joyous. While on family leave in the fall term, I gave talks in Worcester, Chicago, and Philadelphia on women's movements in the early Roman Empire, public scholarship, and teaching Race and Ethnicity in the Ancient World. My family and I spent time at the American Academy in Rome and in the ancient town of Capua, within throwing distance of its famed amphitheater. Two articles made it to print, one in Latomus on the connection between Livia and Concordia, and the other in Helios on the intersection between gender and status in the Stoic opposition to the emperor Nero. My return to teaching in the winter term introduced new challenges, as the Latin students adapted to learning online. I'm proud of the resilience of our students and want to thank them for bringing their positive energy to this unique learning environment. As we move into summer, I'll be working on a new book project on women's resistance movements in first century Rome, as told by the historian Tacitus. I'm happy to report that I've received a Provost Research Grant to assist in this work. I'm so glad to be a part of this community and look forward to continuing our coffee hours and reading groups as we maintain our distance, together.

Note from Alexandra Ratzlaff

The semester may have ended in a way no one could have anticipated, but this year was also full of numerous new projects and wonderful experiences. I had the pleasure to teach several well-established courses such as Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece and of Rome; Archaeological Ethics, Law, and Cultural Heritage. These were excellent classes where students deeply engaged with great conversations and fun, interactive class projects. This year also offered me the opportunity to teach new classes. The spring semester was my first time teaching Greek History at Brandeis, which was a wonderful experience with great class discussions, and even reenacting hoplite warfare (with no causalities!). Another new course that I was supported to reimagine was Ancient Technologies/Modern Innovations. This was an exciting new class in which we combined the study of technology and innovation in the ancient world, with modern applications in studying the past. This exploration included making and testing Roman hydraulic concrete, a visit to the MFA conservation lab, learning about modern methods in digital imaging and drone photography, as well as many aspects of building and technology in the ancient world.

As the co-director of the CLARC (Classical Studies Artifact Research Collection), our interns worked on developing new artifact displays, learning photography and digital imaging techniques, artifact conservation, and completion of the digital catalogue. The Brandeis Techne Group at Autodesk, in which I am the Project Lead, continued working on our beta version of the SCAPP-bot (Single-Camera Automated Photogrammetry Platform). Graduate student Nicole Constantine produced a 3D digital scan of the plaster cast Assyrian relief and printed a life-size version on the BigRep 3D printer at Autodesk. Since the quarantine, our team has concentrated our efforts on new digital imaging methodologies. Working with different equipment and levels of expertise, we aim to develop best practice methods for digital imaging. We are posting video blog updates of our work on social media and our website. 

During the past academic year, several of my projects went to publication. A chapter entitled “Roman Daily Life” in the edited volume Social Archaeology of the Holy Land, four chapters in the upcoming excavation volume Kabri II to be released in August, and a paper entitled “The art and architecture of the Caesarea Mithraeum, reconstructing evidence for cult ritual”, in the conference volume Archaeologies of Mithraism. I also presented a paper entitled “The Roman Cemetery at Dor in Context” at the Archaeological Institute of America’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Along with alumna Erin Brantmayer (MA 2018) now a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas, Austin, we presented a poster at the American Schools of Oriental Research Annual Meeting in San Diego, from our Brandeis Techne Group detailing our research on digital imaging in archaeology.

Following a successful excavation season last summer at Tel Kabri (Israel), I spent the fall planning to direct a new expedition to the coastal Hellenistic-Byzantine site on the Mediterranean coast. With the advent of the current situation, these plans are on hold for at least the next year. Instead of excavating my team of current graduate students and Brandeis alumni in various Ph.D. programs are engaging together in a weekly Archaeological Reading Group throughout the summer.

Note from David DeVore, Academic Administrator

As we close on the end of my first full year as the academic administrator for the department, I find myself at a bit of a loss at how to express my gratitude for being a member of our community. Settling into a new role is always a learning experience so I’d like to thank my colleagues, peers, and of course our students, for their patience and willingness to help as I still learn the ropes of the role. I cannot think of another time or place where I have been as warmly welcomed and as ennobled to live and work as a colleague, a collaborator, and as myself.

Together, the department has had a massively successful year, even in the face of such change and uncertainty. At the start of the academic year, we remodeled our departmental office into a cross-functional, community-driven space that is open to all. Being able to engage in open, undirected discussion with our peers, friends, faculty, and students is essential to the academic experience and our sense of community. Also, towards expanding our community, we strove to bring in engaging speakers and guest lecturers. We were able to host a number of well-attended events over the year including Myke Cole, Dr. Daniel Libatique, Trevor Brandt, Dr. Matthew Newman, Dr. Alex Smith, and Dr. Liana Brent! We hosted our annual Archaeology Day, our Summer Excavation and Research Symposium, and had an entire week dedicated to both academic and non-academic professional development. Off campus, we attended the New England Ancient Historians Symposium in the fall semester. Even as we transitioned into digital formats in the face of this global pandemic, we held coffee hours, movie nights, and ran a music share to keep us motivated and upbeat.

We are currently living through such uncertain, strange, and often terrifying times but I’ve found a tremendous amount of hope and joy in our community. I am so very excited for the next incoming cohort of graduate and undergraduate students who will be joining Brandeis and the department for the first time and I am elated to welcome them into our community!