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 relationship between ideas and social institutions, and the sociology of knowledge. These interests have led me to also write on the history of Judaism in antiquity and the history of ideas in early modernity.
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.
My main current book project is tentatively titled The Roman Future: A 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”. I also 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.