Classical & Archaeological Studies


profile image for Professor Ray Laurence

Professor Ray Laurence

Professor of Roman History and Archaeology

Classical & Archaeological Studies

Office: CNW160


After completing his PhD, Ray taught Roman history in four Universities (in the same week!) as a part-time sessional teacher (Durham, Manchester, Lancaster and Newcastle) before moving on to a temporary and then permanent appointment as a lecturer at the University of Reading.

Over 13 years in Reading, he taught Roman History and contributed to courses on the Classical Tradition. This included the development of the teaching of the City of Rome to both undergraduates and postgraduates. In 2005, he moved to the University of Birmingham - where he taught courses on Pompeii; Roman Italy; and contributed to the multi-disciplinary module on Cities.

He has been appointed as Chair of the Canterbury Heritage Partnership, which has been established by Canterbury City Council with a view to the development of plans relating to the future of Museums in Canterbury (including the Roman Museum) and the Coastal district (including Herne Bay Museum).

Ray has supervised PhD students to completion on a variety of topics in Roman History, Roman Archaeology and the Reception of Antiquity. He particularly welcomes PhD applicants who wish to work in his areas of research expertise in Roman Social History and Roman Archaeology.

back to top


Academic Areas: Roman History, Roman Archaeology, Classics, Classical Tradition, Cultural Heritage.

Pompeii was the subject of Ray's first book, Roman Pompeii: Space and Society. An updated second edition was published in 2007. His second book on Pompeii, Pompeii: The Living City, was awarded the Longman-History Today New Generation Prize in 2006. More recently in collaboration with Renata Garraffoni (Federal University of Parana, Brazil), he has been involved in a study of he spatial distribution of graffiti in Pompeii.

The City in the Roman Empire has been the focus of Ray's research from PhD to the present. The culmination of this research is The City in the Roman West (CUP, 2010) written with Simon Esmonde Cleary and Gareth Sears. A new focus of research in this area is the discussion of movement as a defining feature of urbanism with David Newsome Ray is editing a volume of papers: Pompeii, Ostia and Rome: Movement and Space (OUP, 2011).

Political Geography and Economic History: Roads and the Human Landscape was the focus of his research as British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow, which produced the monograph The Roads of Roman Italy: Mobility and Cultural Change (1999). He was involved in with geo-scientists to develop a thorough understanding of the supply of road stone within the vicinity of Rome.

Age and Ageing in Antiquity has been a focus of my research for more than a decade. This work has brought a new focus to Roman social history marked in 2002 by the publication with Mary Harlow of Growing Up and Growing Old in Ancient Rome: A Life Course Approach. This was followed by the publication with Mary Harlow of Age and Ageing in the Roman Empire. Currently, Ray is working with Mary on a book on Roman Adulthood.

The Family and Childhood in Antiquity has been an area of expertise that arises from my work on age and ageing. Ray was commissioned to complete the edited volume: The Cultural History of Childhood and the Family volume 1: Antiquity (Berg, 2010) drawing on a range of international colleagues. Currently with colleagues from the Universities of Birmingham and Gothenburg, Ray is working to establish a European Network for the study of the Family, Gender and Age in Antiquity.

Cultural Heritage and Classical Reception has been a key area of interest with publications on the role of tourism in the development of cultural heritage in Italy (1922-1980), and in discussion of the on-going debate within archaeology of how we characterize cultural change in the Roman empire.

back to top



Laurence, R. (2012) Roman Archaeology for Historians, Routledge: London

Laurence, R. and Newsome, D. (2011) Rome, Ostia and Pompeii: Movement and Space, Oxford University Press: Oxford(444pp).

Laurence R and Strömberg, A. (2011) The Family in the Greco-Roman World, Continuum: London, (194pp)

Laurence, R., Esmonde Cleary, S., Sears, G. (2010) The City in the Roman West c. 250 BC - c. AD 250, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

Harlow, M. and Laurence R (2010) The Cultural History of Childhood and the Family Volume 1: Antiquity, Berg: Oxford

Laurence, R. (2009) Roman Passions: A History of Pleasure in Imperial Rome, Continuum: New York

Laurence, R. (2008) The Roman Empire (The Traveller's Guide to the Ancient World: Rome and Its Environs), David & Charles: London

Harlow, M. & Laurence, R. (2007) Age and Ageing in the Roman Empire, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 65: Portsmouth RI

Laurence, R. (2007) Roman Pompeii: Space and Society, 2nd edition, Routledge: London

Laurence, R. & Butterworth, A. (2005) Pompeii: The Living City, Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London. Awarded the Longman-History Today New Generation Prize 2006

Laurence R. & Harlow M. (2002) Growing Up and Growing Old in Ancient Rome: A Life Course Approach, Routledge: London

Laurence R. & Adams C. (2001) Travel and Geography in the Roman Empire, Routledge: London

Laurence R. (1999) The Roads of Roman Italy: Mobility and Cultural Change, Routledge: London

Laurence R. & Berry J. (1998) Cultural Identity in the Roman Empire, Routledge: London

Laurence R. & Wallace-Hadrill A. (1997) Domestic Space in the Roman World: Pompeii and Beyond, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series no.22: Portsmouth RI

Laurence R. (1994) Roman Pompeii: Space and Society, Routledge: London (158pp). Awarded Routledge Ancient History Prize 1994

Chapters in Books and Articles in Journals

Harlow, M. Laurence R. (2012) ‘Viewing the ‘old’: recording and respecting the elderly at Rome’, in Christian Krötzl & Katariina Mustakallio On Old Age: Approaching Death in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Brepolis: 3-23

Laurence, R. and Trifilò, F. (2011), ‘Vixit Plus Minus. Commemorating the Age of the Dead – Towards a Familial Roman Life Course?’ in Harlow, M. and Larsson Lovén, L. and Harlow, M. (eds.), The Family in the Imperial and Late Antique Roman World, Continuum: London,  pp.23-40

Harlow, M. And Laurence, R. (2010) ‘De Amicitia: The Role of Age’ in K. Mustakallio and C. Krötzl (eds) De Amicitia.  Friendship and Social Networks in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Rome.

Black, S., Browning, J.L., Laurence, R. (2009) 'From Quarry to Road: The Supply of Basalt for Road Paving in the Tiber Valley, in F. Coarelli and H. Patterson (eds) Mercator Placidissimus - The Tiber Valley in Antiquity, Rome: 705-30

Laurence, R. (2008) 'The Longue Durée of Childhood?' Journal of Roman Archaeology 21: 410-15

Laurence, R. (2008) 'City Traffic and the Archaeology of Roman Streets' in D. Mertens Stadtverkehr in der antiken Welt. Internationales Kolloquium zur 175-Jahrfeier des Deutschen Archäologischen Insituts Rom (Palilia 13), Rome: 87-106

Harlow, M. & Laurence, R. (2008) 'The Representation of Age in the Roman Empire: Towards a Life Course Approach', in P.P. Funari, R.S.Garraffoni and B. Letalien (eds) New Perspectives on the Ancient World (BAR International Series 1782), Oxford: 205-212

Harlow, M., Laurence, R., Vuolanto, V. (2007) 'Past, Present and Future in the Study of Roman Childhood', in S. Crawford and G. Shepherd Approaches to Childhood in the Past, 5-14, Archaeopress: Oxford

Laurence, R. (2006) 'Tourism and Romanità: a New Vision of Pompeii (1924-1942)', in Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum (A special issue of Ancient History: Resources for Teachers 35.1

Laurence, R. (2005) 'Health and the Life Course at Herculaneum and Pompeii', in H. King (ed.) Health in Antiquity, 83-96, Routledge: London

Laurence, R. (2004) 'The Economic Exploitation of Geological Resources in the Tiber Valley: road building', in H. Patterson (ed.) Bridging the Tiber: Approaches to Regional Archaeology in the Middle Tiber Valley, 285-96, British School at Rome: London

Laurence, R. (2004) 'Milestones, Communication, and Political Stability', in L. Ellis and F.L. Kidner (eds) Travel, Communication and Geography in Late Antiquity, 38-49, Ashgate: Aldershot

Laurence, R. (2004) 'The Uneasy Dialogue between Ancient History and Archaeology', in E. Sauer (ed) Archaeology and Ancient History, 99-113 Routledge: London

Laurence, R. (2002) 'The Roman Urban Revolution', in E. Lo Cascio (ed.) Modalità insediative e strutture agrarie nell'Italia meridionale in età romana, Edipuglia: Bari 591-609

Laurence, R. (2001) 'Roman Narratives: The Writing of Archaeogical Discourse - A View from Britain?' Archaeological Dialogues 8: 90-122

Laurence R. (2000) 'The Image of the Roman City', Cambridge Archaeological Journal 10.2: 346-8

Laurence R. (2000) 'Metaphors, Monuments, and Texts: the Life Course in Roman Culture', World Archaeology 31: 442-55

Laurence R. & Paterson J. (1999) 'Power and Laughter: Imperial Dicta', Papers of the British School at Rome 67: 183-97

Laurence R. (1999) 'Tourism, Town Planning and Romanitas: Rimini's Roman Heritage', in M. Biddiss & M. Wyke (eds.) Uses and Abuses of Antiquity: 187-205, Peter Lang: London

Laurence R. (1997) 'Writing the Roman Metropolis', in H. Parkins (ed.) Roman Urbanism: Beyond the consumer model, 1-20, Routledge: London

Laurence R. (1994) 'Rumour and Communication in Roman Politics', Greece and Rome 61, 62-74

Laurence R. (1994) 'Modern Ideology and the Creation of Ancient Town Planning' European Review of History/Revue Europeenne d'Histoire 1, 9-18

back to top


back to top


Engagement with the wider public through the media

Ray has been directly involved in the development of scripts for TV docu-dramas. He worked with the TV production company Shine to develop two programmes in the innovative SkyOne series When in Rome. The brief Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels meets Rome produced the first TV programme on Augustan Rome with an edge to it.

With Alex Butterworth, he worked as a consultant on The Private Lives of Pompeii made by Illuminations TV - a collaboration that was extended to produce the book with Alex: Pompeii: The Living City duly awarded the Longman History Today New Generation for the book most likely to inspire young adults to study history.

He has also appeared in a number of TV programmes that continue to be repeated and across a variety of networks of the world. He has been dubbed into numerous languages including: Russian, Portuguese, and Italian (with a Milanese accent!).

Some programmes:

  • National Geographic: Rome Unwrapped, 2010.
  • PBS: Pompeii, January 2007.
  • National Geographic: Pompeii, January 2007.
  • National Geographic: Ancient Mega-Structures - The Colosseum, February 2007.
  • Discovery: Roman Vice, January 2006.
  • Channel 4: The Worst Christmas Jobs in History, December 2005.
  • SkyOne: Series of 6 Programmes When in Rome, June-August 2005.
  • Channel 4: Tony Robinson's Romans - Nero, October 2003.
  • Channel 4: Tony Robinson's Romans - Julius Caesar, September 2003.
  • Channel 4: The Private Lives of Pompeii, October 2002.
  • Channel 4: Secrets of the Dead: The Destruction of Pompeii, February 2001.
  • BBC2: Open Minds: The Roman Forum May 2000, repeated May 2001.

Ray is also an author of popular books, most recently The Travellers Guide to the Ancient World: Rome and Its Environs (The Roman Empire) and articles in magazines such as History Today; BBC History; Ad Familiares and Omnibus.

back to top


  • British Academy Small Research Grant (£5,000) 2010 for 3d Laser Scanning of Graffiti in the Villa of San Marco at Stabiae in conjunction with the IBM VISTA Centre (University of Birmingham), the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Project, and the Soprintendenza Archaeologica di Napoli-Pompei. The fieldwork for the project will take place in May 2010.

  • British Academy Visiting Research Fellowship (£12,000) 2008-09 for a 3 month visit of Prof. Renata Garraffoni from the Federal University of Parana (Brazil) to the UK. Ray collaborated with Renata on the spatial distribution of graffiti in Pompeii, principally those graffiti associated with children and gladiators. The results were presented at the Roman Archaeology Conference at the University of Michigan in 2009.

  • Leverhulme Trust Major Grant (£129,000) 2009-2012 for 'Age and Imperialism: Acculturation and Communications in the Western Mediterranean' (Ref. F/00 094/BB). This grant funds the construction of a data-base of all Latin inscriptions that mention age at death. Subsequently, the analysis of regional patterns and networks of inscriptions will be analysed with a view to establishing the role of communications in the use of age in commemorative epigraphy.

  • The Classical Association and the Institute of Classical Studies awarded grants (totalling £1400) to support the conference Oikos to Familia: The family in the ancient Greco-Roman society. Framing the disicpline in the 21st century in Gothenburg in November 2009.
back to top


Investigating Chronological Age in the Roman Empire

The roads leading from Roman cities were lined by tombs and cemeteries for the dead. These were locations where the living remembered their loved ones and set up inscriptions to commemorate their names and other matters concerning their identity in life. Unlike modern cemeteries in the UK, the age at death was not always included in memorials. When the age at death, even down to the months and days of a person's life, is included, it provides us with an insight into how chronological age was used in the Roman Empire.

It has for long been recognized that the inclusion of age in these memorials was far from standard, with considerable variation and we should not use the evidence to re-construct the ages of the living populations of the Roman Empire. Chronological age is included more often in inscriptions to commemorate children in Italy, whereas in modern Tunisia we find age recorded more frequently on the tombs of those over the age of sixty. However, the overall pattern has never been systematically evaluated to observe local, regional and global patterns in the use of chronological age.

Our approach to this problem is rather different to those of the past. We will be examining the overall distribution of the range of chronological age at specific archaeological sites with a view to characterising with reference to two population models, one for a population that reproduces itself from generation to generation, and another that we would associate with an epidemic of the proportion of the Black Death in Medieval Europe. This methodology highlights patterns of convergence within the data, and also considers whether the recurring epidemic or sequence of epidemics known as the Great Plague of the late second century AD might have an effect on the ages recorded.

The use of chronological age, like any other attribute of Roman culture, has a distribution pattern or variation over the geographical area of the Roman Empire. To understand this variation effectively, we will utilized a powerful computer based system that allows for the analysis of distribution patterns in relation to the network of communications: sea, rivers and roads. This system will also make the data available over the internet for others to study at the end of the project; in three years time, readers of this article will be able to conduct their own analysis of the data. The system will be able to isolate variables such as gender, membership of the military, date, and so on. The project as a whole will, for the first time, provide the means to access these variations and present a full interpretation in a book: Age and Communications in the Roman Empire.

The Family in Antiquity Network (1000 BCE to 1000 CE): Identifying Continuity and Change

Studies of the family in antiquity have been uneven: much more research has focussed on Rome (200 BCE to 200 CE) than on Archaic, Classical or Hellenistic Greece, or on Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. The current project (funded by the Swedish Foundation for International Collaboration in Higher Education) will examine continuity and change over a longer chronological period (800 BCE to 1000 CE). One of our primary aims is to overcome the dangers that periodisation brings to current studies. Many of the scholars working in this area are isolated, working in one particular period or in a particular discipline, and having few opportunities for discussion of their own research with others studying the same phenomenon in a different culture or chronological period. It is this realisation that underpins the decision to establish a network of scholars and to focus the objectives of the network on the wider discussion of continuities and change across a period of two millennia. The initiative seeks to fulfil the following aims:

  1. To initiate international collaboration between established researchers working on the family in antiquity;
  2. To promote the involvement of postgraduate students in the activities of the network, including the possibilities of student placements in foreign Universities, and collaboration in the supervision of postgraduate studetns;
  3. To establish an interdisciplinary dialogue between researchers working within specific academic disciplines, chronological periods or focussed on specific types of evidence;
  4. To establish the patterns of continuity and change within the family in antiquity and to explain the impact of historical, cultural, economic, religious and political change upon the family as a social institution;
  5. To produce a collaborative, multi-authored volume: The Family in Antiquity 1000 BCE to 1000 CE: Identifying Continuity and Change.

Postgraduate students are very much part of the network and benefit from the existence of the extant postgraduate web-based network focussed on the life course (, as well as being integrated into the workshops held in association with the development of the network. Workshops are due to be held in Birmingham and Gothenburg in 2010 and 2011.

Ray is a member of the core group of scholars organizing this initiative. Others in the group are: Mary Harlow (Birmingham); Lena Larsson Lovén (Gothenburg); and Agneta Strömberg (Gothenburg). It builds on earlier collaboration between these scholars that included the Oikos to Familia Conference held in November 2009 (

back to top

TED-Ed Cartoons

Ray Laurence has completed work on two TED-Ed cartoons: 'A Glimpse of Teenage Life in Ancient Rome' and 'Four Sisters in Ancient Rome'. The cartoons were produced in collaboration with Cognitive Media, based in Folkestone, and has resulted in both the University and Cognitive Media being shortlisted for a Canterbury Culture Award in the category 'Commercial Collaboration'.

Short Talks

A Broken Goddess Figurine from a Roman burial in St Dunstan’s (3 April 2013)

The penultimate talk in the University of Kent’s recently launched series of free lunchtime talks at the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge in Canterbury city centre examined Roman artefacts from St Dunstan's.

back to top

Classical & Archaeological Studies, School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

Enquiries: +44 (0)1227 827159 or contact Classical & Archaeological Studies

Last Updated: 20/12/2013