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Dr Eris Williams Reed

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Member of the Centre for the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean and the Near East  


My research focuses on the different ways that ancient communities perceived and interacted with the environment. This interest was nurtured as an undergraduate in the Department of Archaeology (BA, 2012, Durham) and consolidated as a graduate in the Department of Classics and Ancient History (MA, 2013, Durham). My doctoral research centred on the relationship between water and religious life in the Roman Near East and utilised a diverse evidence-base of literature, epigraphy, archaeology and environmental data. I successfully defended my thesis in December 2018. 

In 2018/19, I am a Teaching Assistant for two Level 1 undergraduate modules, Monuments and Memory in the Age of Augustus and Remembering Athens. I also work as a Research Coordinator in the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture, and as an Impact Assistant for two projects: Story of Phi: Restricted Books and Living Poets: A New Approach to Ancient Poetry. I am the Postgraduate Disability Liaison Officer for the Women's Classical Committee

Water and Religious Life in the Roman Near East: Gods, Spaces and Patterns of Worship

My thesis examined the relationship between water and religious life in the Roman Near East. It analysed the ways in which religious communities engaged with water in the characterisation of gods, the organisation of sacred spaces and the development of patterns of worship. These three themes – gods, spaces and patterns of worship – constituted the core chapters of the thesis. The study demonstrated that the religious communities of the Roman Near East engaged critically with water in the development of their traditions and practices, and that the nature of this engagement was directly influenced by local environmental conditions. Previous scholarship has consistently marginalised the importance of water in religious life across the Roman Near East. This disregard began with the classification of water as a primitive layer of religion and continued with either indifference to the nuances of the local environment or unquestioning acceptance of water’s presence in the religious sphere. As a result, by neglecting to explore the nuances with which the relationship between water and religious life manifested, we have overlooked the many ways in which the religious communities of the Roman Near East interacted with the varied bodies of water that formed their local environment. To address this marginalisation, this study elevated water and its particular environmental dimensions to the forefront of discussion. It achieved this by utilising environmental data in order to determine the local nuances of the region’s diverse landscapes, as well as drawing on a range of material – including literature, religious architecture, inscriptions, sculpture and mosaics, and coinage – from which we might seek to understand religious life in the Roman Near East. This study concluded that the relationship between water and religious life in the Roman Near East emerges as one that is fundamentally grounded in local variety.



‘Religious Life’ with Ewins, A. in Kaizer, T. ed. A Companion to the Hellenistic and Roman Near East. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World. Malden, MA


'Sacred landscapes and their gods: Baal Saphon and Zeus Kasios on Jebel Aqra, Turkey' in Hauessler, R. and Chiai, G.F. eds. Sacred Landscapes: Creation, Manipulation, Transformation. Oxford

Academic Awards

2013 - 2016: AHRC Doctoral Scholarship

2011/12: Undergraduate Dissertation Award


2017/18 - Conference Participation: Celtic Conference in Classics, St Andrew’s: £300

2016/17 - Conference Participation: Talking Religion, Oxford: £175

2015/16 - Conference Organisation: Water and Religious Life in the Roman and Late Antique Near East, Durham: £2150

2014/15 - Research Visit, Israel: £900 | Conference Participation: Classical Association Conference, Bristol: £350 | Research Visit, Oxford: £300

2013/14 - Research Visit, Jordan: £750

2012/13 - Research Visit, Musée du Louvre, Paris: £350

Conference Presentations

2018. 'Ecology and religious life in the Roman Near East: methodologies, applications and future directions' Approaching Landscape in the Classical Tradition: Celtic Conference in Classics (St Andrews)

2017. 'Ecological approaches to religious life - cases from the Roman Near East' Talking Religion: discussing religious materiality (Oxford)

2016. 'Ecological approaches to religious continuity: pagans, Jews and Christians at Banias' Water and Religious Life in the Roman and Late Antique Near East (Durham)

2016. '"The Ever-Weeping Mountain": characterising Baal and Zeus on Jebel Aqra' British Association of Near Eastern Archaeology (Lampeter)

2015. 'Risk and seafaring: an ecological approach to religious life in Caesarea Maritima' Classical Association Conference (Bristol)

Research groups

  • Postgraduate students