• Alexis Castor
Associate Professor of Classics, Department Chair of Classics



Office: GOE106



I am a social historian of the ancient Mediterranean and I focus particularly on Greece and Etruria. My main research area is how jewelry and adornment, as elements of dress worn every day, helped the wearer to visualize their social identities. Since men and women, boys and girls, wore jewelry to show their personal wealth, gender, and as protective talismans to ward off illness or other disasters, study of jewelry affords me the opportunity to study people in all social classes. I bring this interest in the daily workings of the ancient world to all of my classes.

I teach three different types of history courses in the Classics department: 100-level and 200-level ancient history courses on ancient Greece or Rome, and thematic topics that include Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World or Ancient Law and Order; 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  history courses, we focus on the interconnections of Greece and Rome and  the three continents that touch the Mediterranean:  Asia, Africa, and Europe. Within a chronological framework, students learn how these cultures 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, private letters, drinking songs and a range of other written sources that survive. In addition, we evaluate archeological evidence from the graves, temples, and houses in order to investigate ancient social structures. 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 is the focus of my intermediate ancient Greek courses. We study selections of ancient texts that focus either on descriptions of the Greeks and Persians or Athenian funeral orations .

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.E. 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.



My research studies 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.  I am preparing a monograph-length study that investigates the ways that men and women wore jewelry in Greece and Italy, Jewelry in Greece and Eturia (900-200 BCE):  A Social History.


“Macedonian Lionesses: A New Paradigm for Female Jewelry Use (c. 325-275 BC)” Journal of Greek Archaeology, 2 (2017) 

“Surface Tensions on Etruscan and Greek Gold Jewelry,” in M. Cifarelli and L. Gawlinski, eds. (2017) “What Shall I Say of Clothes?” Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to the Study of Dress in Antiquity, pp. 83-100. (AIA Publications)

“Etruscan Jewelry and Identity” in S. Bell and A. Carpino, eds. (2016) The Blackwell Companion to the Etruscans. pp. 275-292. (Wiley-Blackwell) 

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

 “Late Classical Representations of Jewelry:  Identifying Costume Trends in Etrusco-Italic Art” Etruscan Studies, vol. 13, (2010) 31-48.

“An Early Hellenistic Jewelry Hoard from Poggio Colla,” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 54 (2009) 245-262.

“Archaic Greek Earrings: An Interim Survey,” Archäologischer Anzeiger 2008: 1-34.

“Grave Garb: Archaic and Classical Macedonian Funerary Costume,” in C. Colburn and M. Heyn, eds. (2008) Reading a Dynamic Canvas: Adornment in the Ancient Mediterranean World, pp. 115-145. (Cambridge Scholars Press)        

 “Protecting Athena’s Children: Amulets in Classical Athens.” C. C. Mattusch, A.A. Donohue and A. Brauer, eds. (2006) Common Ground: Archaeology, Art, Science, and Humanities. Acta of the XVIth International Congress of Classical Archaeology 2003, pp. 625-626. (Oxbow Books)


  •  "Seeing Jewelry in Classical and Hellenistic Vase-Painting," Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting, Boston, 2018
  • "Looking at Lionesses: Macedonian Courts and Jewelry," Bard Graduate Center, 2018
  • "The Narrative of Adornment: Hellenistic Jewelry on Attic Black-Glaze," Greek Vases as Medium of Communication, International Symposium, Vienna, 2017
  • "Male Ornaments East and West," Material Connections and Cultural Exchange -- The Case of Etruria and Anatolia, International Workshop, Rome, 2016
  • "More Than Glitter: Jewelry in Ancient Greece and Etruria," AIA National Lecturer, 2016-2017
  • “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)