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Professor Edmund Richardson


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Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History103 Dun Cow Lane 
Member of the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies  


I’m interested in how people relate to the past - and the fragility and wonder of those relationships.

My research is on cultural history and the afterlives of the ancient world: from medieval tales of Alexander the Great (where he visits the land of giant spiders and courts the Queen of the Amazons), to Greek drama on the Broadway stage. I'm fascinated by characters on the edges of many histories: the prophet who couldn’t get the end of the world right. The headmaster who bludgeoned his wife to death, then sat wearily back down to his Latin. The con-artist turned famous archaeologist.

I was named one of the AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinkers for 2016-17 - one of ten academics selected to work with the BBC to develop programs based on their research. I've broadcast on everything from Victorian ghost-hunters to the search for Alexander the Great's tomb. I'm always more than happy to speak to schools and other external groups - about topics from Alexander the Great's lost cities to Victorian con-artists. You can read an interview with the AHRC about my work here, and one with the Guardian here.

I'm a member of the Durham Centre for Classical Reception, which aims to promote the interdisciplinary study of the afterlives of ancient Greece and Rome.

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, interested in topics related to Classical Reception. I'm currently working with:

  • Seren Nolan, one of the Durham Leverhulme Doctoral Scholars, as her primary PhD supervisor for a project on the image of the Roman matrona in the long eighteenth century.
  • Maddalena Ruini, as her primary PhD supervisor, on a project which uses Gladstone's (in)famous Homeric scholarship to explore the role of time and history in nineteenth century Britain.
  • Emily Dunn, as her second PhD supervisor on a project which explores the uncanny intersections between cremation and the ancient world, in the nineteenth century.
  • Thomas Couldridge, as his second PhD supervisor on a project entitled 'A Sculptural Renaissance: Competing Classicisms in Visual Culture of the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, c. 1870-1920'.

Before joining the Department as a Lecturer in 2013, I was Hannah Seeger Davis Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Princeton, in the Program in Hellenic Studies (2009-10), Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Durham (2010-12) and Lecturer at the University of Leeds (2012-13). I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge (2008).

Cambridge University Press published my first book, Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels & Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity, as the inaugural title in their new Classics After Antiquity series. Victorian Britain set out to make the ancient world its own - and this is the story of how it failed. It is the story of the embittered classical prodigy who turned to gin and opium, the general who longed to be an Homeric hero - and the virtuoso forger who tricked the greatest scholars of the age. Classical Victorians was longlisted for the Criticos Prize in 2013 - reviews include Common Knowledge, Notes & QueriesJournal of Hellenic Studies and Journal of Roman Studies.

Bloomsbury published my edited volume, Classics in Extremis, in late 2018. Classics in Extremis reimagines classical reception. Its protagonists are 'marginal' figures who resisted that definition in the strongest terms. Its contributors explore some of the most remarkable, hard-fought and unsettling claims ever made on the ancient world, and argue for a decentered model of classical reception: where the 'marginal' shapes the 'central' as much as vice versa – and where the most unlikely appropriations of antiquity often have the greatest impact. 

My latest book, Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City, unravels how the city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains, in Afghanistan, was discovered by the unlikliest person imaginable: Charles Masson, an ordinary working-class boy from London, turned deserter, pilgrim, spy, doctor, archaeologist and highly respected scholar. On the way into one of history's most extraordinary stories, Masson would take tea with kings, travel with holy men and become the master of a hundred disguises; he would see things no westerner had glimpsed before and few have glimpsed since. Masson discovered tens of thousands of pieces of Afghan history. He would be offered his own kingdom; he would change the world, and the world would destroy him.

Research interests

  • Classical Reception Studies
  • Tragedy and Performance
  • Alexander the Great
  • Historiography


Authored book

  • Richardson, E. (2021). Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City. Bloomsbury.
  • Richardson, E. (2013). Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels and Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter in book

Edited book

  • Richardson, E. (2018). Classics in Extremis: The Edges of Classical Reception. Bloomsbury.

Journal Article

  • Richardson, E. (2013). Review of G.S. Aldrete, A. Aldrete, The Long Shadow of Antiquity. What Have the Greeks and Romans Done for Us? (London and New York: Continuum, 2012). The Classical Review 63(02): 615.
  • Richardson, E. (2013). Mr Masson and the lost cities: a Victorian journey to the edges of remembrance. Classical Receptions Journal 5(1): 84-105.
  • Richardson, E. (2012). Nothing’s Lost Forever. Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 20(2): 19-48.
  • Richardson, E. (2010). Review of W. Cook & J. Tatum, African American writers and classical tradition (Chicago, 2010). Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2010.08.63).
  • Richardson, E. (2010). Review of J. M. Gutierrez Arranz, The Cycle of Troy in Geoffrey Chaucer: Tradition and "Moralitee" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009). Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2010.05.29).
  • Richardson, E. (2005). Re-living the apocalypse: Robinson Jeffers' Medea. International Journal of the Classical Tradition 11(3): 369-382.
  • Richardson, E. (2003). A Conjugal Lesson: Robert Brough’s Medea and the discourses of mid-Victorian Britain. Ramus 32(1): 57-83.

Supervision students