The Roman Society

Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies


Events Programme 

M.V. Taylor Lecture

Tuesday 6 February, 2024, 6.00pm
Room G22/26 Senate House
Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta (Princeton): 338 BCE and the Transformation of Ancient Afro-Eurasia


Joint Event with the Hellenic Society

Tuesday 26 March, 2024, 5.30pm
Room G22/26, Senate House
Changing Attitudes to the Olympic Games
Paul Cartledge (Cambridge): Was there an ancient Hellenic 'Olympic Ideal'?
Tom Scanlon (University of California): Cynisca, breaker of Olympic gender barriers or political pawn?
Shushma Malik (Cambridge): Nero’s Olympic failures and why they matter
Mike Armstrong, Alex Donnachie, Danny Miller: The Hellenic Games: An Immersive Family Show


Joint event with the Hellenic Society and the Society of Antiquaries
Thursday 9 May, 2024, 1-2pm
Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly W1J 0BE and online
Professor David Mattingly (Leicester): Talking to the Ancestors: Iron Age Painted Tombs of the Wadi Draa, Morocco

The Iron Age peoples of the Sahara remain poorly studied archaeologically, so we have little to counteract the dismissive views of desert communities found in the ancient sources, where they tend to be characterized as barbarians and nomads. The Oasis Civilisations project in southern Morocco has been investigating the Iron Age and Medieval inhabitants of an important desert valley, the Wadi Draa. This lecture will present a stunning archaeological discovery of tombs with painted annexes, featuring both geometric designs and human figures.  These pictures open a fresh window on the late Iron Age population and their relationship with the Roman empire to their north. They allow us to compare and qualify the accounts of Greco-Roman writers so as to present a more complex and richer picture of these people, their clothing, lifestyle and beliefs. The lecture will also link to the new data to themes in my recent book on Africa in the Roman Empire.

To book, please visit the Society of Antiquaries website:


AGM and Colloquium: New Discoveries at Pompeii

Date to be confirmed
Room tbc
(speakers tbc)


Joint event with the Hellenic Society and the Society of Antiquaries
Thursday 3 October, 2024, 5-6pm
Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly W1J 0BE and online
Dr Elizabeth Key Fowden: The Evliyan Marbles: Ottoman viewers of Athenian Antiquities

Long treated as a fantastical storyteller, the Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi has been taken more seriously in recent years as an attentive interpreter of Athenian antiquities. Evliya belongs to the handful of writers who saw the Parthenon intact as a mosque before Morosini’s bombardment in 1687. In Evliya’s account the City of Sages, as Athens was known in Arabic and Ottoman, is alive with ancient Greek philosophers whom he imagines to be in telepathic communication with the philosophers of Golden Age Baghdad. His enthusiastic descriptions of figural art disappoint any expectations of Islamic iconophobia. Two later Ottoman descriptions of Athens also linger on the city’s wonders – it had, after all, become a tourist destination for Ottomans too by the eighteenth century. A generation after Evliya, an Athenian cleric named Mahmud Efendi in his History of the City of Sages makes inventive use of ancient history drawn from Greek sources combined with autopsy and Muslim practice in order to make sense of the ancient buildings, above all the citadel mosque. As rarely studied evidence of early modern engagement with Greek antiquity, these accounts allow us to bring Ottoman viewers too into our assessment of the universal resonance of Athens.

Elizabeth Key Fowden is a cultural historian interested in the places where Hellenism and Islam meet. Her forthcoming book The Parthenon Mosque explores Ottoman engagement with ancient Greek culture. At the University of Cambridge her research has been supported by both the Faculty of Classics and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies. This bridging of Greece and the Middle East at Cambridge has taken various forms, including her role as Senior Researcher in the ERC Advanced Grant ‘Impact of the Ancient City’ with Andrew Wallace-Hadrill (PI); as co-PI with Tim Whitmarsh in the interdisciplinary project ‘Greece between Europe and Asia: regionality, religion, and culture’; as organiser with Lily Farhoud and Claudia Tobin of the exhibition and symposium Jerusalem in exile: Artist’s books by Kamal Boullata at the West Court Gallery, Jesus College; and organiser with Deniz Türker of the international curators’ symposium Eastern Mediterranean Embroideries, at the Mohammed Ali Research Center in Kavala, as a prolegomenon to the 2023 Fitzwilliam Exhibition Mediterranean Embroideries for which she produced, together with Marianna Koromila, the accompanying online film.

To book, please visit the Society of Antiquaries website:


Joint event with the Society of Antiquaries
Thursday 31 October, 2024, 5-6pm
Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly W1J 0BE and online
Dr Nicola Terrenato: Urban borehole surveys and the origins of the Roman Forum

The debate on the early phases of the Roman Forum goes back to the origins of urban archaeology in Rome, in the days of Giacomo Boni’s excavations in the early 1900s. Understanding how and when the first piazza was created has always—and rightly—be considered as a crucial step to reconstruct the urban formation in Rome and in central Italy more generally. Lacking palaces and large temples, the beginning of early Italian urbanism can be detected primarily from the creation of public spaces in the center of the settlement, like the Forum in Rome.

Since the 1990s, the dominant theory for Rome has envisioned that the Forum valley had always been seasonally flooded, thus requiring mitigation to be turned into a public piazza. Such mitigation would have happened between the 8th and the 7th century and would have required thousands of cubic meters of intentional infill. This massive project would have marked the first major collective effort on the part of the early Romans to turn their settlement into a city. Recent hydrogeological data from a vast borehole survey in the neighboring Forum Boarium (and other adjoining valleys), however, has been calling into question the accepted reconstruction. After a careful and methodologically innovative work to create a three-dimensional model of the entire stratigraphy, a starkly different new picture is coming into focus.

We now know that the environment of early Roman valleys changed radically in the course of the 6th century BCE, probably as a result of human impacts along the broader river basin. Over the course of only a few decades, meters of sediment were deposited, the Tiber riverbed moved and was raised, and the Tiberine island emerged for the first time. The earliest Forum gravel floors lie on top of this sequence, providing a much later date for the creation of the first piazza than previously believed. This re-dating of the Roman Forum has major implication for our understanding of early urbanism in central Italy. Evidence from other sites converges to show that budding cities in this region invested in public spaces only at a fairly advanced stage of their development, centuries after their first occupation.

Nicola Terrenato is the Esther B. Van Deman Collegiate Professor of Roman Studies and the director of the Kelsey Museum at the University of Michigan. He directs the Gabii Project and the Sant’Omobono Project, and conducts research in the Forum Boarium, at the Regia and on the Quirinal in Rome. His research focuses on early Rome, the Roman conquest and the formation of states and empires. He recently published Early Roman Expansion, CUP 2019, which won the 2021 AIA Wiseman Book Award.

To book, please visit the Society of Antiquaries website:

Details of past events can be found here.

Visit the Roman Society's YouTube channel to browse videos of past lectures.


Click here to see upcoming lectures hosted jointly with Classical Association.


The Roman Society
Senate House
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU

Telephone: 020 7862 8727


The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies (The Roman Society) is a registered charity in the UK.

Charity Registration Number: 210644
Company Registration Number: 114442