Duncan MacRae

Assistant Professor of Classics
B.A. Classics 2007 Trinity College Dublin
Ph.D. Ancient History 2013 Harvard University
Research Interests: 
Roman cultural history, religion in antiquity, intellectual history
duncanmacrae [at] berkeley [dot] edu
Office / Location: 
7213 Dwinelle

I study the religious and intellectual history of the Roman Republic and Early Empire. My first book, Legible Religion, was published in May 2016. It argues that learned books that were written in the first century BCE by intellectuals like Varro, Cicero, Nigidius Figulus and a cast of Roman elites played an important role in the formation of the concept of “Roman religion”. As well as providing the first history of Roman study of their traditional religion, I also address a much broader historical question of how we can understand the role of text in religion without relying on the concept of Scripture.

The topic of my first book has led me to pursue several lines of research. I am working on the history of ancient “antiquarianism”, on the pluralistic religious culture of Roman Italy and on the question of Roman rationality. Like many ancient historians, I take a mix of empirical and theoretical approaches to my subject matter. I am particularly interested in the potential of cross-cultural comparison to help us understand antiquity: I pursued such comparison in Legible Religion, by putting the rabbinic Mishnah alongside late Republican Roman literature.

I am also participating faculty in the Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology. I am a faculty affiliate of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion and the Mario Del Chiaro Center for Ancient Italian Studies.

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