Robert Knapp

Professor emeritus
B.A. 1968 History and Spanish Central Michigan University
Ph.D. Ancient History 1973 University of Pennsylvania
Research Interests: 
Roman History, Culture, and Literature; Michigan local history
510 658-6547
rcknapp [at]
Office / Location: 
Cafe Milano, 2522 Bancroft Way
Office Hours: 
Fall 2018: W 12:30-1:30P

ROBERT KNAPP was raised in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. He earned his B.A degree in 1968 from Central Michigan University, majoring in History and Spanish. In 1973 he completed his Ph.D. in Ancient History at the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation under the direction of Robert E. A. Palmer was on the Roman experience in the Spanish peninsula, 218-100 B.C. After a brief stint in the Classics Department at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and another in the History Department at the University of Utah, he settled into the Classics Department at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1974. He remained there, advancing eventually to the rank of Professor. In addition to his teaching and research, he served in numerous administrative posts including chairman of the Classics Department and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, a dean in the College of Letters and Science, and chairman of the Berkeley faculty Senate. He retired 2006.

While at Berkeley he won the Letters and Science Outstanding Undergraduate Advising Award (2002) for his commitment to undergraduate education and the Berkeley Citation (2006) for his thirty years of service to the University. In 2012 he was named the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at his alma mater, Central Michigan University.

Special interests include teaching of Latin, researching a wide variety of topics related to his first love, Roman Spain, and, most recently, a focus on Roman social history, especially the story of ordinary men and women in Romano-Greek antiquity. In addition, and far from the ancient world, he enjoys researching the local history of Clare, Michigan, where he is restoring the log home originally built by his great-grandfather in 1888.

Knapp lives with his wife, Carolyn, in Oakland, California, but visits Michigan often.

Select Publications: 

Besides numerous academic articles, Knapp has written a wide range of books.

Aspects of the Roman Experience in Iberia, 206-100 B.C. (1980) is his revised dissertation. It incorporates a wide spectrum of sources to present a coherent picture of how the Romans first became involved in warfare on the Iberian peninsula and then, over the next hundred years, how their continuing presence formed the foundation upon which the prosperous and important Roman provinces developed there.

Roman Córdoba (2011) is the first full-length treatment of one of the most important cities of Roman Spain.

Latin Inscriptions from Central Spain (1992) collects, published, and studies inscriptions on stone from the Spanish provinces of Madrid, Avila, and Segovia.

Finis Rei Publicae: Eyewitnesses to the End of the Roman Republic (with Pamela Vaughn) (1999) is a textbook for third semester Latin students. It focuses on the period of the conflict between Caesar and Pompey for control of the Roman state. Using Caesar's Civil War as a text, the book brings students to appreciate not only Latin prose, but the stylistic and propagandistic accomplishments of Caesar.

Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (editor for Iberia) (2000). The Barrington Atlas was a collaborative project of many scholars. Knapp contributed to the work on the Iberian peninsula and coordinated the research for the entire area.

Nemea III: The Coins (with John Mac Isaac) (2004). In this thorough treatment of the thousands of coins found in the University of California, Berkeley, excavations at Nemea, Greece, Knapp not only publishes the classical coins, he also contributes to a firmer understanding of how the study of coinage can help develop a fuller picture of how an archaeological site developed and was organized.

Invisible Romans (2011) tells the story of ordinary men and women in the Roman Empire. It has been translated into German (Römer im Schatten der Geschichte: Gladiatoren, Prostituierte, Soldaten, Männer und Frauen im Römischen Reich), Spanish (Los Olvidados de Roma), Japanese, and Korean (Rome’s 99%).

Clare 1865-1940 (2012) recounts the story of a small Michigan town as it emerged from the white pine wilderness to become an oil capital of Michigan.

Mystery Man. Gangsters, Oil, and Murder in Michigan (2013). Isaiah Leebove and Jack Livingston were two characters whose different but equally fascinating life trajectories ended in murder in the barroom of Clare's famous Doherty Hotel.

The Dawn of Christianity. People and Gods in a Time of Magic and Miracles (2017) finds the origins of Christianity in the intertwined supernatural and human worlds of ordinary Jews and polytheists (pagans).

In progress

Small Town Main Street. McEwan Street, the heart of Clare, Michigan, is a case study in changes an American small town business districts underwent during the first century of its existence.