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Annual Research Theme

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The Department’s Annual Research Theme encourages the exploration of innovative subjects emerging at the intersection of two or more members of research staff working in relatively diverse areas, and aims to be an engine for creating new agendas through fresh subdisciplinary collaborations. We normally reserve a number of slots from the Department’s Research Seminar for the theme, and provide funding for a dedicated international conference. The Research Theme is ultimately directed towards publication, often in association with postdoctoral researchers, visitors and graduate students. A series of edited collections has appeared with OUP, CUP, de Gruyter and Brill.


Annual Research Theme 2023/24: Syriac Studies

Organisers: Karl Dahm, Ted Kaizer, Mara Nicosia, Alberto Rigolio

The 2023/24 Departmental Research Theme is Syriac Studies. In the broader context of ongoing academic conversations about the scope our field, we intend to explore the contribution of Syriac to this subject. We also aim to further establish our department within the scholarly landscape of Syriac Studies in the UK and internationally, through a conference and a series of seminar papers that focus on important aspects of the history of Syriac studies as an academic discipline, and on the intersections of Classics and Syriac.

The Departmental Theme builds upon recent grant successes at the intersection of Classics and Syriac Studies (Karl Dahm: Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, Jacob Lollar: British Academy International Fellowship; Mara Nicosia: British Academy Newton International Fellowship; Alberto Rigolio: British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship) and builds upon existing departmental and faculty expertise in this area. We believe that our department is uniquely placed to reflect collectively on the contribution that Syriac (and, more broadly, Aramaic) can bring to Classics and Ancient History, and it can lead the way across our academic field internationally.

Image: Manchester, John Rylands Library MS 60, Antony of Tagrit’s Treatise on Rhetoric, 1895. Copyright of The University of Manchester.

Conference: Syriac Studies in the UK: Past, Present, Future (Durham, 21-23 March, 2024).

This conference is designed as a venue to reflect collectively on the history of Syriac Studies within UK academia, as well as a forward-looking venue of exchange and dialogue, with the participation of early-career researchers and advanced PhD students from across the country and internationally. It will provide the opportunity for invited speakers to present and reflect on the history of the discipline in relation to UK academia (for instance, on notable British scholars and their academic contribution, entanglements of Syriac studies and UK history, or specific manuscript collections in the UK), and for early-career and mid-career researchers to discuss their current or future work in a supporting academic environment.


These seminars take place in hybrid form, at 1-2pm (UK time), and include:

28 Feb, 2024: Emilie Villey (Paris) Astronomy and Geography in Cyprus in the 7th century AD. New data from Syriac sources

24 April, 2024: Lea Niccolai (Cambridge): The Syriac Julian

8 May, 2024: Salam Rassi (Edinburgh) Praise Poetry Addressed to (Living) Individuals: A Neglected Genre of Syriac Literature

Details about each event are advertised through the Departmental website and social communication channels (X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). For any further question, please contact


Selected previous Research Themes

Portrayals of ‘Intellectuals’ in the Ancient World (2021/22)

Download the programme here Portrayals of Intellectuals programme

This seminar series dealt with aspects such as the construction of authority, (self-)presentation, forms of knowledge, the social and ethical implications of learnedness, and the constitution of networks. The following questions were be addressed: What constitutes an “intellectual” in antiquity? To what extent can ancient intellectuals be understood as public figures? How much of their knowledge do they share with others and for what purposes? How much do they directly or indirectly contribute to the functioning of society? Were some of them classified as ‘champions’, ‘pioneers’, ‘heroes’, ‘legends’ or ‘dissidents’ (to use some of the terms applied by Misztal 2007)? What about criticism and mockery of intellectuals, especially in genres such as comedy, satire and epigram (e.g. Socrates in Aristophanes’ Clouds)? In what way is their status mirrored by linguistic and stylistic characteristics (e.g. the use of languages for special purposes) and rhetorical elements? How are patronage and the existence of schools of thought related to intellectual figures, and how much scholarly independence can ancient thinkers claim for themselves? What about the geographical dimension, i.e. the occurrence of intellectuals in certain spaces or regions? What kind of impact did ancient figures of intellectuals have on later periods?  

Contact Thorsten Fögen: or Phillip Horky: for more information

Conferences, Events and Workshops

Programmes and details for our conferences, events and workshops will be posted in this area and on our events calendar.

You can download details of our previous conferences, events and workshops can be downloaded from this link:  Conferences, Events and Workshops Classics & Ancient History


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Research and Work-in-Progress Seminars

The department holds a seminar each Wednesday during termtime. The seminars are held in hybrid format or via Zoom.

For the current seminar schedule and details of how to join in person or online, please visit our seminars page.

You can download a list of previous events via this link Department of Classics and Ancient History University of Durham Research Seminar Full Programme 2020-2021


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