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.edu
Office / Location: 
7213 Dwinelle
Office Hours: 
Fall 2019: Mon 3pm; Wed 9am (Classics 121, Latin 100)

I study Roman history from the period of the late Republic to Late Antiquity, particularly the entangled histories of religion and intellectual life. I find myself particularly preoccupied by questions of religious change, the sociology of knowledge, and, increasingly, problems of historical knowledge and meaning. These interests have led me to also write on the history of Judaism in antiquity and the history of ideas in early modernity.

My main current book project is tentatively titled Roman Futures: An Essay in Cultural History. Against standard accounts that assume that Roman culture (and all pre-modern cultures) worked only with an attenuated sense of the future, I am interested in how Romans devoted great energy to the calculation and imagination of time-to-come and the wider cultural consequences of these forms of prediction and anticipation. Religion is a big part of this story, but so are economics and "science".

My first book, Legible Religion, was published by Harvard University Press 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 books on 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. I continue to work on the religious and intellectual history of the Roman world and the history of antiquarianism. I am committed to the idea that Roman history should involve deep engagement with both the textual and material evidence; Latin epigraphy, which is both, is a particular interest.

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, the Mario Del Chiaro Center for Ancient Italian Studies and the Institute of European Studies.