Professor of Ancient History, University of Bristol

My broad area of expertise is ancient Greek society and culture, with specific focus on ancient Greek religion and magic: among other topics, I have published on oracles, curse tablets and binding spells, concepts of fate, luck and fortune, and the social emotions surrounding ‘witchcraft’ trials in classical Athens; I am currently editing a volume on belief for a new series on Ancient Religion and Cognition commissioned by Cambridge University Press, and three special issues on ‘Narratives of Witchcraft’ for the journal Magic, Religion and Witchcraft.

I take an interdisciplinary approach to my research, employing cognitive and anthropological theories to investigate ancient evidence, and with particular interest in questions about social emotions, the concept of the individual and ideas of the self, network theory, and the socio-cultural power of narrative. I am working on a new project exploring concepts of change.

My interest in these areas of the ancient world is informed by a broader curiosity about how different cultures respond to not knowing about the future (raising questions about uncertainty, risk, and decision making). This is in part informed by my career before academia, when I worked as an editor and writer, specializing in scenarios and strategy for business, governments and international organisations, such as UNAIDS. I still work with some of my business and strategy colleagues on related questions—e.g., what makes a narrative about the future seem plausible.

Teaching: I am the recipient of a Philip Leverhulme award, so will not be teaching undergraduate modules during the period 2017/18-18/19. However, I am taking on research students during this period, so please email me if you want to discuss a project for an MPhil or doctorate.

Supervision: I currently supervise doctoral theses on the development and transmission of cults, the experience of visiting a sanctuary, and cognitive approaches to Dionysiac ritual.

I welcome applications from prospective postgraduate students with research interests in any aspect of archaic and classical Greek society and culture, particularly, but not limited to, ancient Greek religion and magic, myth, historiography, cognitive humanities, history of emotions.


  • –present
    Professor of Ancient History, University of Bristol


  • 2004 
    Oxford University, DPhil in Ancient History