Rhetoric and reception

We research the ways in which ancient individuals, groups and communities communicated ideas, view points and knowledge in order to persuade their contemporaries and succeeding generations, and how the ancient world has been communicated and understood in later historical periods.

We are particularly interested in communication across various media (public speech, literary texts, visual representations, coins and monumental inscriptions), which show the impact of persuasive strategies on the immediate and longer-term recipients, including the modern reception of the ancient world. Our reception specialists focus on projects which significantly develop our understanding of the ancient world through its later reception.


  • Henriette van der Blom is a specialist in Roman oratory and rhetoric across the republican and imperial periods, and the founding director of the Network for Oratory and Politics
  • Leslie Brubaker has a particular interest in the rhetorical relationship between text and image, and the ways in which gender is communicated in the Byzantine period.
  • Philip Burton works on the development of Christian Latin discourse and how modern novelists, poets, translators, and others have reinvented the ancient world.
  • Hannah Cornwell focuses on the communicative aspects of peace, diplomacy and negotiations in the Roman world.
  • Ailsa Hunt works, among other things, on the ancient meanings of central words and concepts and the ways in which modern (mis-)conceptions have influenced modern thinking about Roman religion.
  • Gideon Nisbet is an expert in ancient epigrams and in classical reception in nineteenth century literature, in modern translations and in popular culture.
  • Leire Olabarria works on the reception of ancient Egypt in some aspects of popular culture, such as heavy metal music and science fiction literature.
  • Diana Spencer is particularly interested in language and etymology as expressions of and influences on experience and memory.
  • Elena Theodorakopoulos works on poetic communication in the Roman republic and principate and the reception of classical culture and literature in modern film and literature.
  • Dimitris Tziovas researches the modern reception of Greek antiquity and Byzantium across literary studies, critical theory, translation, film, diaspora and cultural studies.

Major publications


  • Anti-political-establishment ideology in Athenian democracy (led by Matteo Barbato, funded by Leverhulme).
  • Network for Oratory and Politics (led by Henriette van der Blom). This network has housed the Crisis of Rhetoric project (led by Henriette van der Blom and funded by the AHRC).
  • Spaces for Diplomacy in the Roman World (led by Hannah Cornwell, funded by Leverhulme).
  • Crisis Greece: Culture, Identity and the West (led by Dimitrios Tziovas, funded by Leverhulme).
  • The cultural politics of the Greek crisis (led by Dimitrios Tziovas, funded by AHRC)


Find out more



Peace and diplomacy in the Roman World - Hannah Cornwell
Cicero and current research into Roman republican oratory - Henriette van der Blom