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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History


Dr Alberto Rigolio

Personal web page

(email at

I work on the cultural and intellectual history of the Eastern Mediterranean world during the Roman and late antique periods. After my first degree in Milan, I went to Oxford for an M.Phil. and a D.Phil., and later held fellowships at the Harvard University Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, and at the Princeton University Society of Fellows (2015-18).

My current research focuses on the endurance and the transformations of the schools of rhetoric and philosophy, and literate education more broadly, in the Eastern Mediterranean world at the time of the diffusion of Christianity. My monograph on this subject, currently in preparation for Cambridge University Press, shows that Syriac literature, and in particular the translations of Greek secular texts such as those of Plutarch, Lucian, and Themistius, adds to what we know from Greek and Latin sources and will provide crucial insights into this field.

I have recently completed a book on Greek and Syriac literature in dialogue form by Christian authors during late antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2019). These dialogues, on religious, philosophical, and political subjects, show that the classical dialogue form did not disappear with the rise of Christianity but was instead transformed, and reinvigorated, alongside of cultural and religious change. This vibrant tradition of writing in dialogue form (at least sixty dialogues survive until the end of the sixth century CE, only in Greek and Syriac) attests to the emergence and the development of a particular culture of debate on theological and philosophical matters.

I am also interested in the translation of Greek texts into Syriac and Arabic, and, more broadly, in the reception of Graeco-Roman thought in early Christianity and Islam. I have published on the Syriac and Arabic translations of Aristotle’s Poetics, on a Syriac dialogue with Socrates on the soul, and on the Syriac translations of Ps.-Isocrates, Plutarch, Lucian, and Themistius. One of these texts surviving only in Syriac, a philosophical oration by Themistius known as On Virtue, may reveal Themistius’ lukewarm engagement with emperor Julian’s project of pagan restoration. 

My research has been supported by the American Philosophical Society (Franklin Grant, 2018), the Princeton University Society of Fellows (Behrman-Cotsen Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, 2015-18), the Harvard University Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (Junior Fellowship 2012 and Summer Fellowship 2010), the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research (Leventis Graduate Award, 2012), the Classical Association (bursary for research at the Fondation Hardt, 2012), the University of Oxford Faculty of Classics (Craven Scholarship, 2010), St. John’s College Oxford (Graduate and North Senior Scholarships, 2010-13), All Souls College Oxford (E.O. James Bequest Grant, 2009), the A.G. Leventis Foundation (Scholarship, 2009), and the Catholic University, Milan (ISU Prize, 2007).

In 2019-20, I serve as departmental Director of Joint Honours, Liberal Arts, Combined Honours, and Elective Students.


Areas of Doctoral Supervision

Greek Imperial Literature and Philosophy
Late Antiquity
Syriac and Arabic Translations from Greek


Current PhD Students

Alison Ewins (second supervisor): Religious Terminology in the Roman Near East, 63 BC - 284 AD.

Cesare Sinatti (second supervisor): The Mind Through All Things - Stoic Cosmic Psychology and its Role in the Unification of the Cosmos.


Office Hours and Academic Mentorship Hours

Office Hours: Wednesday 9am-10am (in teaching weeks)
Academic Mentorship Hours: Wednesday 10am-11am (in teaching weeks)

Please book a time slot at


Outreach and School Talks

I am very happy to give school talks and papers on topics related to the history of the later Roman empire, late antiquity, Roman religion, Syriac studies, and the Graeco-Syro-Arabic translation movement.



Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Rigolio, A. (Accepted). La "philosophie populaire" syriaque: un mode de vie? In La philosophie en syriaque. Fiori, E. Société d'Études Syriaques: Paris. Études Syriaques. 16: 1-10.
  • Rigolio, A. (Accepted). Syriac Sources. In A Companion to the Hellenistic and Roman Near East. Kaizer, T. Blackwell's: Oxford.
  • Rigolio, A. (Accepted). The Rhetorical Tradition in Syriac: Overview. In The Cambridge History of Rhetoric. Woerther, F., Ross, J., Copeland, R. & Mack, P. Cambridge University Press.
  • Rigolio, A. (2019). Plutarch in the Syriac Tradition, a Preliminary Overview. In A Companion to the Reception of Plutarch. Oikonomopoulou, K. & Xenophontos, S. Brill: Leiden. 361-72.
  • Rigolio, A. (2019). The Emergence of Syriac Literature. In How Literatures Begin: A Global History. Feeney, D. & Lande, J. Princeton University Press: Princeton.
  • Rigolio, A. (2018). The Syriac De Exercitatione: a Lost Edifying Piece Attributed to Plutarch (with English Translation). In The Afterlife of Plutarch. Mack, P. & North, J. ICS: London. BICS Supplement. 137: 1-21.
  • Rigolio, A. (2017). Erostrophus, a Syriac dialogue with Socrates on the soul. In Dialogues and Debates from Late Antiquity to Late Byzantium. Cameron, A. & Gaul, N. London: Routledge. 20-31.
  • Rigolio, A. (2016). Syriac Translations of Plutarch, Lucian and Themistius: a Gnomic Format for an Instructional Purpose?. In Education and Religion in Late Antique Christianity: Reflections, Social Contexts and Genres. Gemeinhardt, P., Van Hoof, L. & Van Nuffelen, P. London: Routledge. 73-85.
  • Rigolio, A. (2015). Some Syriac Monastic Encounters with Greek Literature. In Syriac Encounters. Papers Presented at the Sixth North American Syriac Symposium Held at Duke University (26-29 June 2011). Doerfler, M., Fiano, E. & Smith, K. Peeters: Leuven. 295-304.
  • Rigolio, A. (2014). Translation of Greek Texts in Late Antiquity. In Brill Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics. Giannakis, G.K. Brill: Leiden. 3: 436-441.
  • Rigolio, A. (2013). Plutarch in the Syriac Tradition, an Overview. In Gli Scritti di Plutarco: Tradizione, Traduzione, Ricezione, Commento. Atti del IX Convegno Internazionale della International Plutarch Society (Ravello, 29 sett. - 11 ott. 2011). Pace, G. & Volpe Cacciatore, P. DʼAuria Editore: Naples. 361-369.

Journal Article