Visiting Speakers

Fall – 2019 –

Dan-el Padilla Peralta (Princeton University)


My core research and teaching focus is the Roman Republic and early Empire. Blending social-scientific techniques with literary and material evidence, Divine Institutions (in progress; PUP) argues that temple construction and pilgrimage networks held the “imperial Republic” together as it expanded across Italy and the Mediterranean. In a happy case of superfetation, several shorter projects are gestating together with the book: articles on the religious world of Rome’s slaves, divination’s play with local ecologies, and families with quirky names are all in various stages of preparation. Two pieces on Varro—for whom I have a particular fondness—will see the light of publication soon; and a co-edited volume of essays on Roman appropriation (Empire of Plunder: CUP) is approaching the finish line. The common thread is an enduring concern with patterns of cultural and intellectual exchange; an interest in new approaches that can better illuminate those patterns; and an ecumenical attitude to the many different kinds of ancient evidence available to us.

I also work on classical reception in contemporary American and Latin American cultures. An essay on the politics of classical reception in Santo Domingo will appear in The Oxford handbook of comparative political theory, and I’m contributing to a volume on classical receptions in the Black Atlantic. The classical reception hat will stay on as I dig into a new project on conceptions and practices of citizenship across time. Another new project keeping me busy these days has as its major theme waste and its handling from antiquity (and as mediated by antiquity) to the present. Scratching the itch of my fascination with waste is taking me on a journey whose final destination is known only to the gods; early thoughts were distilled into a meditation on waste and funk for Liquid Antiquity, curated by my colleague Brooke Holmes.

Katharina Lorenz (University of Giessen)


I work on pictorial issues related to Greek and Roman-imperial antiquity, linked to questions of cultural and intellectual history, to the implications of digital technologies in humanities knowledge education and the knowledge transfer in museum contexts. My publications include the monographs Images Make Spaces: Mythical Images in Pompeian Houses (De Gruyter, 2008) and Ancient Mythological Images and Their Interpretation (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

My work in research and teaching includes activities both within my own discipline as well as in interdisciplinary cooperation with other humanities, social sciences and technology subjects as well as with non-university partners, in particular with museum collections.

Spring – 2019 –

Cornelia Horn (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg)


Cornelia B. Horn studied classics, philology, philosophy, Oriental languages, church history, computer-supported linguistic text analysis and theology in Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the United States. She also devoted much of her time to the study of the Arabic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Hebrew, Armenian, Georgian, and Coptic languages. In 2001 she obtained her PhD with a dissertation on the theological controversy surrounding Peter the Iberian in fifth-century Palestine. In 2011 Horn obtained her habilitation from the University of Tübingen for further work on the reception of this important early Christian ascetic and theologian, and for work on the role and experience of women and children in the cultural and historical framework of the Christian Orient. Following several university appointments in the United States, Dr Horn became a Humboldt Fellow at the Humboldt University of Berlin and the University of Regensburg. She began conducting research at the Freie Universität Berlin as a Heisenberg Fellow in 2014. The DFG has converted this fellowship into the Heisenberg Professorship “Language and Cultures of the Christian Orient” at MLU.

Svetla Slaveva-Griffin (Florida State University)

Svetla Slaveva-Griffin (Ph.D., Iowa) is graduate of the National School for Ancient Languages and Civilizations, Sofia and has a degree in Classical Philology from the University of Sofia, Bulgaria before she finished her Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. Her main research specialization is the history of Platonism with particular interests in the dialogue between literary form and philosophical content, the relationship of ancient philosophy with disciplines which are “outside of its box” (poetry, myth, religion, and medicine), Neoplatonism and its interaction with Eastern thought, ancient medicine, the development of the genre of medical philosophy in late antiquity and early middle ages.

She is recipient of a travel grant from the Wellcome Trust for the History of Medicine, University College, London, COFRS, Planning Grant, and FYAP from the FSU Council on Research and Creativity.

She has been nominated multiple times for university teaching and advising awards at FSU. She is recipient of FSU University Teaching Award in 2006 and recipient of University of Iowa Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award in 1996.

Dorothy Kim (Brandeis)

Dorothy Kim headshot

Dorothy Kim is an assistant professor of English at Brandeis University who specializes in medieval literature. Her work has explored Jewish and Christian interaction in the Middle Ages, digital humanism, and feminist discourses. Kim has been recognized as a Fulbright Fellow, a Ford Foundation Fellow, and a Frankel Fellow at the University of Michigan.

Erich Gruen (Berkeley)

Erich Gruen is an American classicist and ancient historian. Born in Vienna, Austria, he earned BAs from Columbia University and Oxford University, and a PhD from Harvard University, in 1964. He was the Gladys Rehard Wood Professor of History and Classics at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught full-time from 1966 until 2008. He served as president of the American Philological Association in 1992.

Gruen’s research focuses on identity and otherness in the ancient world. His earlier work focused on the later Roman Republic, later working on the Hellenistic period and on Judaism in the classical world. His many books include Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome, Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of the Jewish Tradition, Diaspora: Jews Amidst Greeks and Romans, and Rethinking the Other in Antiquity.

Gruen received a Rhodes Scholarship and the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, in addition to several teaching and faculty awards.

Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge (Collège de France and at the University of Liège)


After having worked as a Research Director of the Belgian National Fund of Research (F.N.R.S.) at the University of Liège, Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge has been elected Professor at the Collège de France, while maintaining an office at the University of Liège. Her main research interests are focused on ancient Greek religion and on how polytheistic systems operate, and also include the historiography of religions. She is the author of several works on Greek polytheism, its gods, its representations, its narrative traditions, its practices — especially its ritual practices — as well as on the travelogue of Pausanias, a particularly important source for the study of this religious system. With André Motte, she co-founded the journal Kernos, the only international journal devoted to the multidisciplinary study of ancient Greek religion. Under the aegis of the F.R.S.-FNRS, she has led the Collection of Greek Ritual Norms Project (CGRN), a digital republication of prescriptive inscriptions about sacrifice and purification which will be further developed over the next few years.

Fall – 2018 –

Osmund Bopearachchi (University of California, Berkeley)


Osmund Bopearachchi is the Adjunct Professor of Central and South Asian Art, Archaeology, and Numismatics, University of California, Berkeley and Emeritus Director of Research of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (C.N.R.S.-E.N.S. Paris) and former Visiting Professor and Member of the Doctoral School VI of the Paris IV-Sorbonne University.

Osmund Bopearachchi is a numismatist, historian and archaeologist. He has published ten books, edited six books and published 150 articles in reputed international journals. Going beyond the traditional approach of simply cataloguing coins, he has made an attempt to link numismatics with the sculptural and pictorial iconography. These attempts made him more and more interested in diverse art forms in ancient India. The exhibition catalogues that he has edited and co-authored, international colloquia that he has organised and published and numerous research articles that he has written are the outcome of his deep-seated interest in Central Asian and South Asian archaeology, art and architecture.

Jan Bremmer (University of Groningen, Emeritus)


Bremmer specialises in Greek, Roman, early Christian and contemporary religion, social history, and the historiography of ancient religion. His publications range from Greek and Roman Mythology and religion, the apocryphal traditions about Jesus’ apostles, life after death, ancient humor and magic to modern secularisation and contemporary New Age. His contributions to the field have been nationally and internationally recognised. He has been a Fellow of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington (1980-1981), a Member of the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton (2000), a Canterbury Fellow of the University of Christchurch (New Zealand: 2002), the Inaugural Getty Villa Professor at the Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles: 2006-2007), a Visiting Leventis Professor (Edinburgh: 2007), a Fellow of the Internationales Kolleg Morphomata (Cologne: 2010-2011) and the Inaugural Gastprofessor für Kulturgeschichte des Altertums (Munich: 2011-2012).

In the spring of 2006 his contributions to scholarship and university life (he was also very active in helping Chinese students feel at home in Groningen) were nationally recognised when the Queen appointed him Officer in the Order of Orange – Nassau, one of the highest Dutch distinctions.

Ann Marie Yasin (University of Southern California)


Ann Marie Yasin specializes in Roman and late antique art and material culture. She holds a joint appointment in the Departments of Classics and Art History and is a contributing faculty member to USC’s Interdisciplinary Archaeology Program. Her primary research interests include monuments and commemoration; social lives of ancient objects and buildings; material culture of ancient religion; and the history of collecting and displaying Roman and early Christian antiquities.

Spring – 2018 –

Andrew Sorber (UVA).

Solange Bumbaugh (American University).


Professor Bumbaugh earned her BA in Intercultural Studies at Simon’s Rock College and earned her PhD in Egytology at the University of Chicago. She has conducted research in Egypt and excavated at the royal cemetery of El-Kurru in Sudan.

Pierre Bonnechere (Montréal).

Pierre Bonnechere

My main interests have to do with the religion and mentalities of ancient Greece, in the Mediterranean world. I am interested in particular in means of communication between humans and gods, be it through animal sacrifices and the mythical corollary of human sacrifice, or through divination, i.e. ways of determining divine will. The physical context of rituals is also worth studying, in particular sacred woods and their imaginary aspects.

One of my projects is an extensive synthesis on the subject of Greek divination, since the previous one dates to 1879-1882. The Greeks were great believers in divination, and hence there are traces (some major, some minor) of this practice in such areas as politics, philosophy, war, medicine, poetry and religious rituals. Most of the students completing their MA or PhD degrees under my supervision opt (freely!) to study this especially fascinating theme, which incidentally bears some relationship to the current resurgence in superstition, reaching all the way to the political sphere. The theme studied, in recent years, concerns the gap between the literary image of oracles, with their supposedly omnipresent influence in high-level politics, and the epigraphic image that flatly contradicts it. This means reconsidering a large span of Greek history. The use of documents is quite difficult, but is a powerful intellectual and professional training tool. At the same time, I and my team are assembling a database of all the oracles’ predictions ever given in the Greek world, which is sure to be very useful in the study of divination.

Through religion and mentalities, I have also looked at the theme of garden history in general, but with an emphasis on antiquity.

Shatha Almutawa (Willamette).

Shatha Almutawa

Dr. Shatha Almutawa is a scholar of Islam and Judaism whose research has focused on the medieval period. She has focused on intellectual exchange between Islam and other religions, and her work employs literary, philosophical, and historical methods. In 2013, Almutawa received her doctorate from the University of Chicago, where she wrote her dissertation “Imaginative Cultures and Historic Transformations: Narrative in Rasa’il Ikhwan Al-Safa,” which examined philosophical allegories, parables, and tales written in tenth-century Iraq.

Almutawa also works on the contemporary period. Her report on women’s rights in the United Arab Emirates was published in Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Citizenship and Justice (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004). She recently received a grant from the Dr. Philip M. Kayal Fund for Arab American Research to work on an oral history project.

From 2009 to 2013 she was editor of Sightings, which is published by the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion, and in 2014 and 2015 she served as an editor of Perspectives on Historypublished by the American Historical Association. She has taught at Qatar University, where she was an assistant professor in the history department, Bradley University, where she was a visiting professor, as well as Cornell College, Lake Forest College and the University of Chicago. She served as Iraq Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA between 2009 and 2011.

At Willamette, she teaches Introduction to Islam; Religion, Peace, and Violence; Muslim and Jewish Philosophy; Women in Islam; and Islamic Sects and Movements.

Dmitri Gutas (Yale).


Professor of Arabic and Graeco-Arabic. He studies and teaches medieval Arabic and the medieval intellectual tradition in Islamic civilization from different aspects. At the center of his concerns lies the study and understanding of classical Arabic in its many forms as a prerequisite for the proper appreciation of the written sources which inform us about the history and culture of Islamic societies. He also has an abiding interest in the transmission of Greek scientific and philosophical works into the Islamic world through the momentous Graeco-Arabic translation movement in Baghdad during the 8th-10th centuries AD (2nd-4th Hijri). Within Arabic philosophy, Gutas has concentrated in particular on its greatest exponent, Ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in the medieval Latin world), on whom he wrote the fundamental Avicenna and the Aristotelian Tradition. Introduction to Reading Avicenna’s Philosophical Works (Leiden 1988)

Fall – 2017 –


Jessica Andruss (Assistant Professor of Religious Studies – UVA)

Professor Andruss earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2015. She has master’s degrees in Near Eastern languages and cultures from The Ohio State University, and in religious studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. At UVA, Andruss will teach courses in Jewish thought and literature, Jewish-Muslim relations, and the history of Jerusalem.

Studying medieval Jewish and Islamic intellectual history, Jessica Andruss focuses on Jewish literature and biblical exegesis written in Arabic, and their connections to both rabbinic and Islamic thought. Her research encompasses the linguistic, literary, historical, and religious dimensions of cultural exchange between Judaism and Islam in the Middle Ages.

In her book-length project, a study of a 10th-century Arabic commentary on the biblical book of Lamentations, Andruss explores the intersections between Jewish and Islamic modes of interpretation, homily, and historical thought.



Mary Bachvarova (Professor of Classics – Willamette University)

Professor Bachvarova earned her Ph.D. with honors from the University of Chicago in 2002, and her dissertation has now been published as “From Hittite to Homer: The Anatolian Background of Ancient Greek Epic”, published by Cambridge University Press.

She is the recipient of a ACLS Fellowship, conducting research to uncover the prehistory of key founding texts of Western literature by going beyond discussing parallels between ancient Greek literature and earlier texts from Mesopotamia, Syria, and Anatolia and taking on the questions of how, when, why, and where such parallels arose. It draws on methodologies from classics, Near Eastern studies, archaeology, gender studies, and the history of religion to make visible the processes of transmission and reworking of verbal art across time, space, and linguistic and cultural barriers. It focuses on archaeologically salient items and practices presented in the texts as effecting the gods’ movement to explain how descendants of Hittite prayers and incantations were able to influence the Greek tradition of cult song as found in, e.g., Sappho, Alcaeus, and tragedy via processes of cultural appropriation and negotiation between Greek settlers and indigenous populations.

Access Prof. Bachvarova’s pre-circulated papers under the following links:

From Hittite Mountain Man to Phrygian Mountain Mother

The Hittite Background to Hecate’s Appearance in Archaic Hexametric Narratives

Andrej Petrovic (Professor of Classics – UVA)

Having just completed an investigation of the concepts of inner purity and pollution in early Greek religion (i.e. purity/pollution of mind, soul, heart etc.), OUP 2016, Ivana Petrovic and Andrej are at the moment exploring these ideas in various intercultural dialogues and interactions within wider Mediterranean context —  Egyptian, Jewish, and Christian — of the Hellenistic and Imperial period. Professor Petrovic is particularly interested in normative aspects of Greek religion and in the so-called “sacred laws”, predominantly inscriptional texts which detail rules of various Greek rituals, from sacrifices to festivals, and in the cults and narratives concerning bound or otherwise impeded divinities.

He also has a long standing interest in Greek inscriptional poetry, a booming field which has over the past few years brought forth some truly spectacular new texts that have redefined many of our earlier assumptions about Greek literature more generally.

Henk Versnel (Professor Emeritus – Leiden University)

Emeritus Professor at Leiden University, Henk Versnel has published extensively on Greek and Roman myth, ritual, magic and religion, including two volumes on “Inconsistencies in Greek and Roman Religion.” His recent book, “Coping with the Gods: Wayward readings in Greek Theology,” has been referred to as “une véritable Summa theologica,” and shares many points with the lecture and the seminar talk he will deliver here.


Seminar Talk: “Polytheism and Omnipotence: incompatible?”

Summary: Jean-Pierre Vernant closed his portrayal of Greek gods and their society with the following line: “The law of this society of the beyond is the strict demarcation of the forces and their hierarchical counterbalancing. This excludes the categories of omnipotence, omniscience and of infinite power.” With this he represents a near total common opinion of the scholarly world. Is this truism true? To find out let us go ad fontes.


Lecture: Coping with the Gods: Implications and Complications of Greek Polytheism

Summary: Monolithic, one-sided or universalist claims in the field of Greek (and probably any) theology by their very nature tend to be misleading since they illuminate only part of a complex and kaleidoscopic religious reality. In many respects, for instance the infinite complexity of polytheism or the problems concerning divergent, yet simultaneous, concepts of nature, qualities, and actions of the gods, ancient Greeks  display an alarming capacity to validate two (or more) dissonant, if not contradictory, representations of the divine as being complementary rather than mutually exclusive.

They not only accept the validity of either one in its own right, but also may allow them to co-exist in such a smooth and seemingly unreflected manner that it often shocks the modern mind. This position constitutes both their similarity and their difference as compared to the modern reader, who recognizes the seduction of smoothing over logical dissonances, but is not able to really live with it.

All this will be illustrated through a discussion of three issues:





Antoine Borrut (Associate Professor of History – University of Maryland)

Antoine Borrut specializes in early Islamic history and historiography. He is the author of Entre mémoire et pouvoir: l’espace syrien sous les derniers Omeyyades et les premiers Abbassides (v. 72-193/692-809) [Between memory and power: the Syrian space under the Latter Umayyads and Early Abbasids (ca. 72-193/692-809)] (Leiden: Brill, 2011; winner of the Islamic Republic of Iran “World book award” and of the Syrian Studies Association book award). He also edited or co-edited several volumes: Umayyad Legacies: Medieval Memories from Syria to Spain (edited with Paul M. Cobb, Leiden: Brill, 2010), gathering the proceedings of an international conference that he co-organized in Damascus, Syria, in 2006; Écriture de l’histoire et processus de canonisation dans les premiers siècles de l’Islam [Historical Writing and Canonization Processes in Early Islam], Revue des Mondes Musulmans et de la Méditerranée (REMMM) 129 (Aix-en-Provence: 2011); Le Proche-Orient de Justinien aux Abbassides: peuplement et dynamiques spatiales [The Near East from Justinian to the Abbasids: Settlement and Spatial Dynamics] (edited with M. Debié, A. Papaconstantinou, D. Pieri, and J.-P. Sodini, Turnhout: Brepols, 2012); Christians and Others in the Early Umayyad State (edited with Fred M. Donner, Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 2016). This last book is the inaugural volume of a new series entitled Late Antique and Medieval Islamic Near East (LAMINE) that Prof. F.M. Donner and he are editing.

A current research project has been tentatively entitled Heaven and History: Astrology and the Construction of Historical Knowledge in Early Islam, focuses on the much-neglected genre of astrological histories and on the role of court astrologers in historical writing in early Islam. This project notably aims to shed a new light on the thorny question of lost sources in early Islamic historiography and on the various forms of historical writing that flourished in Muslim contexts. A preliminary evaluation of the material and a more detailed sense of the project can be found in my article: “Court Astrologers and Historical Writing in Early Abbasid Baghdad: An Appraisal,” in J. Scheiner et D. Janos (eds.), The Place to Go: Contexts of Learning in Baghdad, 750-1000 CE (Princeton: The Darwin Press, 2014), 455-501.