• Alexis Castor
Associate Professor of Classics
Classics

Biography

I teach three different types of history courses in the Classics department: 100-level ancient history courses on the History of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Ancient Mesopotamia; intermediate ancient Greek courses; and 400-level advanced ancient history seminars. Each class has a different focus, but all blend textual and archaeological evidence in our study of the past.

In my introductory history courses, we investigate the cultural history of the diverse societies in the Near East, Greece and Rome. Within a chronological framework, students learn how these civilizations selected – and sometimes deposed – leaders and how those men governed. We also explore the way of life in the ancient world, considering religious practices, professions, urban and rural life, disease, childhood, entertainment and other daily concerns. We read historical texts, poetry, official records, lawsuits, drinking songs and a range of other written sources that survive. In addition, we also evaluate archeological evidence from the graves, temples, and houses in order to investigate ancient social structures. While students learn the major contributions of Greek, Roman and Near Eastern societies to world history, we always return to the key questions:  How complete is the surviving evidence? What areas of society do different types of evidence document? What does the evidence ignore?

Classical Greek prose, specifically the funeral orations given for the Athenian war casualties, is the focus of my intermediate ancient Greek courses. The funeral orations allow us to see how the Athenians identified themselves in comparison to other Greeks, even as they were fighting them in civil wars.

I organize my advanced ancient history seminars around specific topics such as Alexander the Great, Caesars’ Wives: Imperial Roman Women, and 5th-century B.C. Athens. These small, discussion-centered classes allow us to debate issues like: How did Roman empresses influence politics during the Roman Empire? What did the Classical city of Athens look like?.

For a general audience, I have created a course on the history of ancient Mesopotamia for The Teaching Company. See http://go.fandm.edu/mesopotamia, “Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia.”



 

Research

My research interests focus on how Greek and Etruscan elite classes in general, and women in particular, used jewelry to express their status. Gold earrings, necklaces and bracelets represented real wealth in the ancient world, and men and women wore jewelry on specific occasions to show off their own social position in the community, particularly in religious and funerary rituals.


Publications

Grave Garb: Archaic and Classical Macedonian Funerary Costume,” in C. Colburn and M. Heyn, eds., Reading a Dynamic Canvas: Adornment in the Ancient Mediterranean World (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008) 115-145.
 
Protecting Athena’s Children: Amulets in Classical Athens,” in C. C. Mattusch, A.A. Donohue and A. Brauer, eds. Common Ground: Archaeology, Art, Science, and Humanities. Acta of the XVIth International Congress of Classical Archaeology 2003 (Oxbow Books, 2006) 625-626.
 
Archaic Greek Earrings: An Interim Survey,Archäologischer Anzeiger (2008) 1-34.
 
Jewelry,” in M. Gagarin and E. Fantham, eds., Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome, vol. 4 (Oxford University Press, 2010) 120-122.
 
I was fortunate to study and publish the Etruscan jewelry hoard discovered in 2003 at the site of Poggio Colla. This extraordinary discovery of gold jewelry in a sacred context allowed me to investigate the use of jewelry as votive offerings, particularly in moments of communal stress. See:
 
An Early Hellenistic Jewelry Hoard from Poggio Colla,” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 54 (2009) 245-262.
 

One of the Etruscan earring types included in the hoard, the horseshoe earring, prompted me to study this typically Etruscan form, which appears also in artistic representations of elite women. See:

“Etruscan Horseshoe Earrings: Exploring a Native Jewelry Type,” Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung 116 (2010) 159-204.
 

The use of jewelry in representations of Etruscan women and men contributes significantly, I believe, to the identities they displayed to viewers and is an area of my ongoing research.

 

"Etruscan jewelry and identity,” in A Companion to the Etruscans (Blackwell) edited by S. Bell and A. Carpino (forth. 2014).

 
Similar questions about how jewelry can be used to create and enhance social and political identity will be addressed in my current study on Late Classical and Hellenistic Herakles knot and lion-head jewelry in Macedonia: “Herakles knots and lion heads: Court jewelry in Argead Macedonia” (in prep.)
 
I am preparing a monograph-length study that investigates the ways that men and women wore jewelry in Greece and Italy, More Than Glitter: Jewelry in Greece and Italy (1st millennium B.C.E)






 

Presentations

“Etruscan Jewelry and Identity” Invited colloquium participant: “New Approaches and Insights on Etruscan Art and Culture,” Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting, Seattle, 2013

“Gilding the Lily: Animals and Gold in Persian and Hellenistic Jewelry.”                                   
AIA Annual Meeting, Anaheim, January 2010
 
“Reconsidering Girls’ Jewelry: The Archaeological Evidence from Late Classical and Hellenistic Greece,” Girls in Antiquity.
Berlin, October 2010
 
“All that Glitters: Jewelry and Identity in the Mediterranean.”
University of Pennsylvania Classics Colloquium (2011)