Dr Kelli Rudolph

Lecturer in Classics and Philosophy


Dr Kelli Rudolph studied Classics at Princeton, where she received her BA in 2002, and at Cambridge where she was awarded an MPhil in 2003. After a year at Columbia University, she returned to Cambridge where she completed a PhD on ancient atomism in 2009. 

Before joining the Classical and Archaeological Studies Department at the University of Kent, Kelli was an Assistant Professor at Grand Valley State University and concurrently held a postdoctoral research fellowship at Oxford University.

Research interests

Kelli has broad interests in the ancient intellectual tradition. She specialises in the study of ancient philosophy and science, especially issues related to ancient physics and epistemology and welcomes enquiries from students wishing to pursue research in these areas. 

Her research investigates the cultural and intellectual development of attitudes and theories about the senses. She is currently working on the development of Presocratic sensory theory, and its "afterlife" in the Hellenistic philosophy.  

Her work on ancient theories of perception inaugurated a broader interest in ancient sensory studies. Her contributions to the Senses in Antiquity Series (Routledge), explore the way ancient thinkers develop theoretical approaches to the senses, particularly those of sight and taste. Her recently published edited volume, Taste and the Ancient Senses (Routledge 2018), is the first of its kind to explore the ancient sense of taste. 


Kelli has extensive experience teaching ancient philosophy, Greek and Latin at all levels, and more general classics modules, with a special focus on Greek and Hellenistic literature and history.



  • Rudolph, K. (2012). Democritus' Ophthalmology. Classical Quarterly (New Series) [Online] 62:496-501. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0009838812000109.
  • Rudolph, K. (2011). Democritus' Perspectival Theory of Vision. Journal of Hellenic Studies [Online] 131:67-83. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S007542691100005X.
    Democritus' theory of vision combines the notions of images (??????) streaming from objects and air imprints, which gives him the resources to account for the perception of the relative size and distance of objects, not just their characteristics. This perspectival explanation of the visual theory accommodates important but overlooked evidence from Vitruvius. By comparing Democritus' theory with ancient developments in visual representation, my analysis provides a new approach to the evidence of atomist vision. I begin with the process of vision before turning to the Peripatetic objections, showing how a unified theory of vision takes into account all of the ancient testimony and provides possible atomist responses to the criticisms raised against it. I also identify the importance of vision via air imprints as an important metaphor for the conventionality of sensible qualities. Understanding these fundamental issues puts us in a better position to assess Democritus' place in the development of ancient optics and of atomist approaches to sense perception.

Book section

  • Rudolph, K. (2017). Tastes of Reality: Epistemology and the Senses in Ancient Philosophy. in: Rudolph, K. ed. Taste and the Ancient Senses. Routledge. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/Taste-and-the-Ancient-Senses/Rudolph/p/book/9781844658695.
  • Rudolph, K. (2015). Sight and the Presocratics: Approaches to Visual Perception in Early Greek Philosophy. in: Squire, M. ed. Sight and the Ancient Senses. Routledge, pp. 36-53. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/products/9781844658664.
    This volume brings together a number of interdisciplinary perspectives to deliver a broad and balanced coverage of this subject. Contributors explore the cultural, social and intellectual backdrops that gave rise to ancient theories of seeing, from Archaic Greece through to the advent of Christianity in late antiquity. This series of specially commissioned thematic chapters demonstrate how theories about sight informed Graeco-Roman philosophy, science, poetry rhetoric and art. The collection also reaches beyond its Graeco-Roman visual framework, showcasing how ancient ideas have influenced the longue durée of western sensory thinking. Richly illustrated throughout, including a section of color plates, Sight and the Ancient Senses is a wide-ranging introduction to ancient theories of seeing which will be an invaluable resource for students and scholars of classical antiquity.

Edited book

  • Rudolph, K. ed. (2017). Taste and the Ancient Senses. Routledge.
    The sense of taste is at once highly individual and deeply cultural. Taste is a functional sense, so closely tied with the physical necessity for food that it is frequently characterised among the lower, bodily sensations. Assumed to operate on a primitive, nearly instinctual level, taste requires intimate interaction with its objects of perception, which enter the mouth, pass through the throat and eventually become part of the perceiver. Taste and the Ancient Senses explores the use of taste metaphors in Graeco-Roman literature, which provides us with a window into their own theorising about taste. The values and meaning of tastes, food and eating are also revealed through cultural practices and habits which are accessible to us through the literary, historical and material record. It is in these contexts that we can examine the symbolic function and social values that surround the tastes the Greeks and Romans embrace and reject.


  • Rudolph, K. (2014). Review of Francesco Montarese, 'Lucretius and His Sources: A Study of Lucretius, De rerum natura 1.635-920'. Classical Review 65:114-116.
  • Rudolph, K. (2011). Review of W. Leszl, 'I primi atomisti: raccolta di testi che riguardano Leucippo e Democrito'. Journal of Hellenic Studies [Online] 131:264-265. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0075426911000863.
  • Rudolph, K. (2011). The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy: The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics, vol. 1 & 2. Bryn Mawr Classical Review 11.38:1-2.
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