Portrait of Dr Christopher Burden-Strevens

Dr Christopher Burden-Strevens

Lecturer in Roman History

About

I grew up in Ramsgate, on the south-east coast of Kent, and was the first person in my family to go to university. When I started teaching myself Latin aged sixteen I didn’t even know that Classics was a subject you could study at university. I fell in love with Latin. The mathematical beauty of the language simply made sense. I never feel more lucky to be in the company of Tacitus than when he is speaking to me in his own language.

After working up to A-level in Latin I took up Ancient Greek and French at the University of Glasgow. I had truly extraordinary lecturers who valiantly put up with me, and graduated in 2012 with a First Class degree. I was also awarded the Cowan Medal and the Ramsay Medal for coming top of my year, and the Coulter Prize in Classics for the best undergraduate dissertation in the Arts & Humanities. After failing my Eleven-Plus I was not encouraged to be academically bright at school, so Classics had a truly transformative influence on my life.

I was then awarded a scholarship to study an MPhil in comparative philology of ancient languages at Oxford University, but had the opportunity to move straight into my PhD. I joined the Fragments of the Roman Republican Orators research project at Glasgow as one of its funded Ph.D. students, seeking to uncover the forgotten words of the lost Roman politicians and speechwriters of the Roman Republic, and received my doctorate in 2015.

The Department of Classical & Archaeological studies at Kent took a chance on me in 2017 and I have loved working here ever since. It’s a privilege to work with our students on local outreach and schools opportunities, to get together with members of our students’ Kent Classics & Archaeology Society, and to look after our students who come to us through Clearing. 

Research interests

My main research specialism is the political history of the Roman Republic from its foundation to its transformation into an empire at the turn of the Common Era. My main avenue of approach to understanding that period has been through studying the histories written by Greeks and Romans in the centuries afterward, especially Cassius Dio, about whom I’ve just published my first monograph: Cassius Dio’s Speeches and the Collapse of the Roman Republic

To prepare that I had a residency at the Fondation Hardt in Geneva and spoke at conferences in Canada, Italy, and Denmark. I’m also interested in the very earliest days of the Roman Republic—an essentially mythical period shrouded in mystery—and in 2018 brought together scholars across Europe produce a collective work on Cassius Dio’s Forgotten History of Early Rome.

I’m also fascinated by Roman coins and regularly incorporate these into my teaching. I am currently working on an article exploring the ways in which younger politicians in Rome - people in their early twenties - sought positions at the mint and used their coins as a way of communicating with the public. This is due to appear shortly in an edited volume, Leadership and Political Initiative in Late Republican and Early Imperial Rome, which I am preparing with Dr Roman Frolov (Yaroslavl State University, Russia).

More generally, because of my background in classical languages I am interested in rhetoric - the art of persuasive speech - and the similarities between ancient and modern uses of speech by politicians; you can find my own take on Boris Johnson here.

I also peer review for several academic journals, including Histos, Historia, AthenaeumThe Journal of Hellenic Studies, Revue de Philologie, and The Classical Review, and review monographs and edited volumes for several publishers.

Teaching

In the lecture theatre or seminar room at undergraduate level you’re most likely to meet me on our Roman history curriculum. 

I convene and teach Introduction to Roman Civilisation (at first year), The Rise of the Roman Republic, 343–100 bce (at second year), and The Crisis of the Late Republic, 100–27 bce (at third year). 

I also teach Latin and Greek at all levels, and am always happy to help with these (or with any other aspect of your studies) during my office hours if you drop in. 

At postgraduate level, I train new postgraduate students in core research skills as convenor of Research Skills in Ancient History, which intends to familiarise the next generation of researchers in essential methodologies for combining and analysing the full range of evidence available and in preparing for doctoral study. 

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