Dr Alberto Rigolio
(email at email@example.com)
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). Since 2020, I am Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
My current research focuses on the emergence and development of Syriac civilization in the broader context of the Graeco-Roman Near East and the diffusion of Christianity. My monograph on this subject, in preparation for Cambridge University Press, focuses on the intersections of Syriac culture with Graeco-Roman civilization; it brings together literature and epigraphic and documentary sources both in Greek and in Syriac, and it focuses on education and schooling as the lens through which to assess and study the history of culture.
I have recently published 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. Academic reviewers describe this book as "a significant advance in scholarship" (JECS), "opening up the field" (BMCR), and "an opus magnum" (MEG). Read more here.
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 Award, 2007).
In 2020-21, I serve as departmental Director of Joint Honours, Liberal Arts, Combined Honours, and Elective Students. Information about these Degree Programmes is available at:
I am also a regular contributor to the Dumbarton Oaks/HMML Syriac Summer School. With the support of Harvard University and the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, this programme is designed for doctoral students and early career scholars who lack the opportunity to learn Syriac at their home institution.
Areas of Doctoral Supervision
Greek Imperial Literature and Philosophy
The Graeco-Syro-Arabic Translation Movement
Current PhD Students
Priscilla Buongiorno (first supervisor): Women's Prototypes: Iconography of the Feminine in Early Christian Rome.
Cédrik Michel (first supervisor): Mapping Roman Attitudes to Barbarians: from the Battle of Adrianople to the Visigothic Settlement.
Alison Ewins (second supervisor): Religious Terminology in the Roman Near East, 63 BC - 284 AD.
Lila Knight (second supervisor): Drafting an Empire: Palmyrene Manpower and Military Identity.
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: Tuesday 3pm-4pm (in teaching weeks)
Academic Mentorship Hours: Tuesday 2pm-3pm (in teaching weeks)
Please book a time slot at rigolio.youcanbook.me
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.
- Rigolio, A. (2019). Christians in Conversation: A Guide to Late Antique Dialogues in Greek and Syriac. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Wilberding, J., Trompeter, J. & Rigolio, A. (2018). Michael of Ephesus: On Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics 10 with Themistius: On Virtue. London: Bloomsbury.
Chapter in book
- 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. (2021). Syriac Sources. In A Companion to the Hellenistic and Roman Near East. Kaizer, T. Blackwell's: Oxford.
- Rigolio, A. (2021). Syriac. In How Literatures Begin: A Global History. Feeney, D. & Lande, J. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.
- Rigolio, A. (2019). La "philosophie populaire" syriaque: un mode de vie?. In La philosophie en syriaque. Fiori, E. Société d'Études Syriaques: Paris. Études Syriaques. 16: 129-138.
- 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. (2018). The Syriac De Exercitatione: a Lost Edifying Piece Attributed to Plutarch (with English Translation). In The Afterlife of Plutarch. Mack, P. & North, J. London: University of London Institute of Classical Studies. 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.
- Rigolio, A. (2013). Aristotleʼs Poetics in Syriac and Arabic Translations: Readings of Tragedy. Khristianskii Vostok n.s. 6: 140-149.
- Rigolio, A. (2013). From Sacrifice to the Gods to the Fear of God: Omissions, Additions and Changes in the Syriac Translations of Plutarch, Lucian and Themistius. Studia Patristica 64: 133-143.