Dr Henriette van der Blom

Dr Henriette van der Blom

Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Reader in Ancient History

Contact details

Dept of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am an ancient historian specialised in the history and political life of the Roman Republic. My research focuses on republican politics in the City of Rome, Roman oratory, all aspects of Cicero, and Roman approaches to the past. I have a strong interest in political oratory across historical periods – including current British political speech – and am the founding director of the Network for Oratory and Politics.


  • BA in History and Latin, University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • Cand.mag. (MA) in History and Latin, University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • MSt in Greek/Roman History, University of Oxford
  • DPhil in Ancient History, University of Oxford


I have been fortunate to experience a number of great universities and academic institutions such as the University of Copenhagen (where I was an undergraduate and graduate student in the then Department of History and Department of Latin and Greek), Brasenose College, Oxford (as a Master’s and doctoral student), Merton College and St John’s College, Oxford (as Lecturer in Ancient History), Wolfson College, Oxford (as Research Fellow), and the University of Glasgow (as Research Fellow and then Lecturer in Classics). I have been at the University of Birmingham since September 2016.


I enjoy teaching all aspects of Roman history.

My courses include:

First year projects: 
  • A dangerous plot: the Catilinarian Conspiracy in late Roman Republican context
Y2 and Y3 modules:
  • Rhetoric at Rome
  • Republican Rome: From the Gracchi to Caesar
  • Republican and Imperial Rome
  • The Age of Cicero
  • Understanding Ancient Societies
  • The End of the Roman Republic and the Age of Augustus
  • (De)constructing the Romans

I have supervised a large number of undergraduate dissertations on topics ranging from Cicero’s letters and speeches to the reception of Nero 

Postgraduate modules:
  • Research and Scholarship
  • The City in the Greco-Roman World
  • Ideas, Ideals and Ideologies

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome proposals for supervision in any aspect of Roman History, especially political life in the Roman republic or any aspect of Roman/Latin oratory and rhetoric, including Cicero.

I have supervised PhD students working on an anonymous rhetorical work from the Roman republican period, the Rhetorica ad Herennium, on ‘Roman’ speeches in the work of the Greek historian Dio Cassius, on popular power in the late Roman Republic, on communicative failure in Latin epic, on Sallust's Cicero compared with Luke's St Paul, and on Cicero's De Senectute. I have also supervised a number of Master’s students (MA and MRes) on a range of Roman history topics.

I currently supervise the following PhD and research students:

Tim Morrison, ‘A study of Cicero’s De senectute’ (supervising with Dr Elena Theodorakopoulos, UoB).

Tim Elliott, 'People, Power, and Politics: Populism and the Roman Republic (82-27 BC)' (supervising with Dr Mark Wenman, Politics, UoB).

Tyler Broome, 'Informal Diplomacy in Ancient Rome: An Analysis of Negotiation in Cicero's Letters' (supervising with Dr Asaf Siniver, Politics, UoB).

Jurriaan Gouw, 'Understanding power and post-truth politics in the age of Nerva and Trajan' (supervising with Professor Alison Cooley, University of Warwick).

Find out more - our PhD Classics and Ancient History  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


I specialise in the political life and oratorical culture of the Roman republic and early Empire, especially the political history of the late Roman republic, all aspects of Cicero, oratory and rhetoric, the reception of republican orators and oratory, fragmentary evidence, exempla and cultural memory.

My first book, Cicero’s Role Models, explores Cicero’s rhetorical and political strategy as a newcomer in Roman republican politics. It argues that Cicero advertised himself as follower of chosen models of behaviour from the past – his role models or exempla – in order to promote his public persona and political influence.

My second book, Oratory and Political Career in the Late Roman Republic, investigates the relationship between oratory and political career in the Roman republic. Through close study of speech fragments and testimonies, I analyse how far the oratorical profile and performances of politicians such as Pompey, Caesar, Cato the Younger and others define and restrict their political actions and agendas, and, ultimately, their political influence and careers. In relation to this project, I co-organised an international conference on Oratory and Political Career in the Roman Republic (Oxford, 2010) from which an edited volume appeared: C. Steel & H. van der Blom (eds) (2013), Community and Communication: Oratory and Politics in Republican Rome, Oxford University Press.

I am in the early stages of writing a book on the reception of Roman republican orators and oratory in the Roman imperial period, with a focus on Valerius Maximus. Valerius' Facta et dicta memorabilia contains an astounding number of anecdotes containing speech but this rich material is poorly understood. My project aims transform the ways in which we can use this material and thereby provide new insights into Roman republican public speech, the early imperial reception of republican oratory, and its long-term legacy in the cultures of rhetoric in the Western world.

I am the founding director of the Network for Oratory and Politics (NOP), an interdisciplinary research network on the relationship between oratory and politics. The aim of the Network for Oratory and Politics is to facilitate research into and discussion of political oratory across historical periods and regions in order to broaden up the study of political speech and reach out to non-academic communities. It does so by connecting academics with political practitioners of public speech such as politicians, speech writers and the general public in an exchange of knowledge and ideas. The Network has received funding from The Royal Society of Edinburgh and the AHRC. For more information, visit the website for Network for Oratory and Politics

Another research project, funded by the AHRC (2017-19) and entitled The Crisis of Rhetoric, has taken the ideas of the Network for Oratory and Politics further: I led a project group of political scientists, linguists, historians, classicists and rhetoricians to analyse what is going wrong in current British political communication. We involved politicians, speech writers, civil servants and political journalists in our research to remedy the faulty communication.

The Crisis of Rhetoric project led to a collaboration with the award-winning theatre company Dash Arts on a new project Speech! Speech! Dramatising Rhetorical Citizenship, to train people in the art of speechwriting and speech delivery through workshops and public performances, and develop models for such training that outlast the life of the project. Our research is leading to Our Public House, Dash Arts’ state-of-the-nation theatre production, inspired by our workshop participants and our work to empower their speech. There are podcasts and a video on the Our Public House website which offers more information about this project.

I was co-investigator on an international and interdisciplinary research project into the leadership through letters by Cicero, St Paul and Seneca, funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark, entitled Epistolary Visions of Transformational Leadership and running 2018-23. The major outcome of this project is a comparative volume analysing select letters of Cicero, Paul and Seneca through the modern leadership Transformational Leadership theory, and is entitled Cicero, Paul and Seneca as Transformational Leaders in their Letter Writing: Comparative Readings.

Together with Professor Harvey Yunis, I co-edit the first volume of a new Cambridge History of Rhetoric (5 vols, edited by P. Mack and R. Copeland) which focuses on the ancient world from the third millennium BC to AD 350. The volume is due to come out in 2026.

I am a member of the editorial and advisory boards of the Fragments of the Roman Republican Orators project (University of Glasgow) which will provide a new edition with commentary and translation of the fragments of the non-Ciceronian Roman orators of the republican period. Alongside this edition, I co-edited with Professor Catherine Steel and Dr Christa Grey a conference volume entitled Institutions and Ideology in Republican Rome: speech, audience and decision (Cambridge University Press, 2018). For more information, visit the website for the Fragments of the Roman Republican Orators.

I sit on the editorial boards of the journals Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte and Journal of Roman Studies, as well as on three book series. I sit on the scientific committee of the Society for the Friends of Cicero, and I have served on the Council for the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies and on the Council for the Classical Association (UK).

Other activities

Major grants

  • £94,023 (Arts and Humanities Research Council): project ‘Speech! Speech! Dramatising Rhetorical Citizenship’ (PI), 2023.
  • 5,900,673 DKK ~ ca. £700,000 (Independent Research Fund Denmark): project ‘Epistolary Visions of Transformational Leadership (EVTL): Cicero - Paul – Seneca’ (Co-PI), 2018-21.
  • £34,444 (Arts and Humanities Research Council): project ‘The Crisis of Rhetoric’ (PI), 2017-19.
  • £19,929 (Royal Society of Edinburgh): Network for Oratory and Politics (PI), 2015-17.
  • £125,000 (Carlsberg Foundation, Denmark): A New Brutus. Oratory and Political Career in the Roman Republic (PI), 2008-12.
  •  £14,400 (John Fell OUP Fund, the Pelham Fund at the University of Oxford, the Strategic Research Fund at University of Glasgow and the Carlsberg Foundation, Denmark): international conference Oratory and Politics in the Roman Republic (PI), 2010.

Recorded events


Highlight publications

van der Blom, H 2010, Cicero’s Role Models: The Political Strategy of a Newcomer. Oxford University Press.

van der Blom, H 2016, Oratory and Political Career in the Late Roman Republic. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107280281

van der Blom, H & Steel, C (eds) 2013, Community and Communication: Oratory and Politics in Republican Rome. Oxford University Press.

van der Blom, H 2020, The reception of Octavian’s oratory and public communication in the imperial period. in F Pina Polo (ed.), The Triumviral Period: Civil War, Political Crisis and Socioeconomic Transformations. Libera Res Publica, Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza, pp. 249-79.

van der Blom, H 2017, Caesar's Orations. in L Grillo & C Krebs (eds), The Cambridge Companion to the Writings of Julius Caesar. Cambridge University Press, pp. 193-205. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139151160.014

Recent publications


Becker, E-M, van der Blom, H, Egelhaaf-Gaiser, U & Mortensen, JPB 2024, Cicero, Paul and Seneca as Transformational Leaders in their Letter Writing: Comparative Readings. Epistula – Studies on Ancient Letter Writing, vol. 2, De Gruyter.

Baines, J (ed.), van der Blom, H, Rood, T (ed.) & Chen, S (ed.) 2019, Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World. Equinox Publishing. <https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/historical-consciousness/>

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

van der Blom, H 2024, Cicero’s humanitas? Valerius Maximus on Cicero’s defences of enemies in the 50s BC. in L Jansen & C Pieper (eds), Mediating Cicero from the 50s BCE. Bloomsbury.

van der Blom, H 2024, Female oratory in the republic. in C Rosillo-López & S Lacorte (eds), Cives Romanae: Roman Women as Citizens during the Republic. Libera Res Publica, no. 12, Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza, pp. 179-204. https://doi.org/10.26754/uz.978-84-1340-804-0

van der Blom, H 2023, The alternative story: Contemporary invective responses to Cicero. in P Geitner, D Pausch, C Schwameis & R Wierzcholowski (eds), Ciceronian Invectives: Emotions, Configurations, and Reactions. Emotions in Antiquity, Mohr Siebeck, pp. 125-179. <https://www.mohrsiebeck.com/en/book/ciceronian-invectives-9783161610356>

van der Blom, H 2022, Leadership through letters: Cicero and Cassius' correspondence in 44-43 BC. in RM Frolov & C Burden-Strevens (eds), Leadership and Initiative in Late Republican and Early Imperial Rome. Mnemosyne, Supplements, History and Archaeology of Classical Antiquity, vol. 453, Brill, pp. 271–294. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004511408_011

van der Blom, H 2022, Quintilian on Cicero's deliberative oratory. in F Romana Berno & G La Bua (eds), Portraying Cicero in Literature, Culture, and Politics: From Ancient to Modern Times. CICERO, vol. 4, De Gruyter, pp. 247-266. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110748703-015

van der Blom, H 2021, Caesar the orator in retrospect. in TA Hass & R Raja (eds), Caesar's Past and Posterity's Caesar. Brepols Publishers, pp. 95-110. <http://www.brepols.net/Pages/ShowProduct.aspx?prod_id=IS-9782503591308-1>

van der Blom, H 2021, Novitas between republic and empire. in M Nebelin & C Tiersch (eds), Semantische Kämpfe zwischen Republik und Prinzipat?: Kontinuität und Transformation der politischen Sprache in Rom. 1 edn, Historische Semantik, vol. 31, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, pp. 457-478. <https://www.vandenhoeck-ruprecht-verlage.com/themen-entdecken/altertumswissenschaft/alte-geschichte/52638/semantische-kaempfe-zwischen-republik-und-prinzipat>

van der Blom, H 2020, Bildung durch exempla: Ciceros Gebrauch von Vorbildern in der römischen Bildungskultur. in P Kuhlmann & V Marchetti (eds), Cicero im Rahmen der römischen Bildungskultur. Mohr Siebeck.

van der Blom, H 2020, Cæsar og Cicero i Rom: politik, retorik og litteratur. in TA Hass & S Saxkjær Grove (eds), Cæsar: Manden og myten. Aarhus University Press.

van der Blom, H 2020, Res publica, libertas and free speech in retrospect: Republican oratory in Tacitus’ Dialogus. in C Balmaceda (ed.), Libertas and Res Publica in the Roman Republic. Brill, pp. 216-37.

van der Blom, H 2019, Bellum civile in Cicero: terminology and self-fashioning. in The Historiography of Late Republican Civil War. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands, pp. 111-136. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004409521_007

van der Blom, H 2019, Roman republican history in imperial rhetorical exercises. in J Baines, S Chen, H van der Blom & T Rood (eds), Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World. Equinox Publishing, pp. 359-375. https://doi.org/10.1558/equinox.33740

Conference article

van der Blom, H 2023, 'Cicero and political trees', Ciceroniana Online: A Journal of Roman Thought, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 377-401. https://doi.org/10.13135/2532-5353/9340

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