• Alexis Castor
Professor of Classics, Department Chair of Classics

717-358-7151

nyrkvf.pnfgbe@snaqz.rqh

Office: GOE106

Pedagogy

 

I am a social historian of the ancient Mediterranean. My main research area considers how jewelry and adornment, as elements of dress worn every day, allowed wearers to create their social identities. Since men and women, boys and girls, wore jewelry, this topic 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 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 – or deposed – their leaders and how those men governed. We also explore the way of life in the ancient world, considering religious practices, professions, citizenship, racial interactions, 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 graves, temples, and houses in order to investigate ancient social structures. We always return to the key questions:  What areas of society do different types of evidence document? What groups does the evidence ignore? I never want my students to think that the Greeks and Romans are “just like us,” but rather to understand that these ancient cultures faced similar challenges to those we face today and that they responded to them according to their specific cultural values. This, in turn, allows us to reflect on our own society.

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 Great Courses.

 

Research

My book project, Jewelry in Greece and Etruria: A Social History (c. 900-200 BCE), offers a comparative study of how Greeks and Etruscans wore and used jewelry. Why these two cultures in particular? The Etruscans were the most significant importers of fine Greek pottery and interacted a great deal with the Greeks. Etruscan historical traditions cite immigrant Greek kings. But they are linguistically and culturally distinct, and neither culture dominated the other. Thus, their cultural practices can help to highlight distinctions in jewelry use that would not be evident by study of either society on its own. This is the first comprehensive study to trace how jewelry functioned in the daily dress and life of Greeks and Etruscans. My focus on the wearers, rather than those who made jewelry or the art-historical stylistic developments, is a novel approach in the study of ancient jewelry.

 

My full academic CV can be accessed here

Recent Publications

In prep. "Bejeweled Vases: Perceiving Jewelry in Classical and Hellenistic Art" 

"Male Ornaments, East and West" in Material Connections and Cultural Exchange in Etruria and Anatolia (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press)

“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) 

 

Recent Presentations

 I was invited to be a national lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America in 2016 and I continue to speak to audiences in chapters throughout the United States.
  •  "Seeing Jewelry in Classical and Hellenistic Vase-Painting," Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting, Boston, 2018
  • "Jewelry as Women's Wealth," Campbell Art History Lecture, University of Akron, 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
  • "The Princess Bride: Wedding and Jewelry in Classical Greece," Virginia Tech University, 2016