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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History


Dr Elsa Giovanna Simonetti

Newton International Fellow in the Department of Classics and Ancient History

Contact Dr Elsa Giovanna Simonetti (email at


Before coming to Durham, I studied Philosophy in Alma Mater Studiorum - Università di Bologna (BA) and Università degli Studi di Padova (MA). During my doctorate, I spent a term as a Visiting Research Student at the Department of Classics of the Ohio State University. In 2016, I was awarded a Joint Doctorate from Università di Padova and KU Leuven. My dissertation, published in 2017 (A Perfect Medium? Oracular Divination in the Thought of Plutarch, Leuven University Press), examines the role of oracular mantic in the philosophical reflection of Plutarch of Chaeronea.


My current Newton Fellowship project (supported by the British Academy and the Royal Society) analyses the interactions between philosophy and theories of divination in the I-II centuries AD. The aim is to shed light on the reasons that might have led to that 'complete shift' affecting oracular and prophetic practices, attested from the III century onwards.


This academic year, I am teaching the MA module CLAS44230: Dreams in the Ancient World


I am organising a conference on Ancient Revelation: Divination, Prophecy and Epiphany, which will take place in Durham in June 2019. If you are interested, please contact me or follow the link! The site will be updated with further details.


Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Simonetti, E.G. (Forthcoming). Divination in Plutarch’s Life of Cicero. In Plutarch and the Ancient Religious Landscape: Paganism, Christianity, Gnosis, and Mystery Cults. Lanzillotta, L.R., & Hirsch-Luipold, R. Leiden-Boston: Brill.
  • Simonetti, E.G. (Forthcoming). Plutarch and the Neoplatonists: Porphyry, Proclus and Simplicius. In Brill's Companion to the Reception of Plutarch. Oikonomopoulou, K. & Xenophontos, S. Leiden-Boston: Brill.
  • Simonetti, E.G. (Forthcoming). Prophetic (?) Dreams in Plutarch. In Theories of Divination in Late Antiquity and Byzantium. Timotin, A., & Magdalino, P. La pomme d’or: Genève.
  • Simonetti, E.G. (Forthcoming). The Pythia as Matter: Plutarch’s Scientific Account of Divination. In Divination and Systems of Knowledge in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Addey, C. & Leonard, V. London: Routledge.
  • Simonetti, E.G. (Forthcoming). Who is the Best Prophet? The ‘Manifold’ Character of a Quotation in Plutarch. In The Dynamics of Intertextuality in Plutarch. Vamvouri Ruffy, M., Hirsch-Luipold, R. & Schmidt, T. Leiden-Boston: Brill.
  • Simonetti, E.G. (2017). La lampada di Ammone come eikôn dell’universo. In Immagini letterarie e iconografia nelle opere di Plutarco. Amendola, S., Pace, G. & Volpe Cacciatore, P. Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas. 223-230.

Journal Article

  • Simonetti, E.G. (2017). L’immagine del saggio nelle opere di Apuleio. Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 160: 371-392.
  • Simonetti, E.G. (2016). L'ideale politico di Plutarco di Cheronea. Tra umano e (semi)divino. Bollettino della Società Filosofica Italiana 218: 23-41.

Book review