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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Alberto Rigolio

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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

Late Antiquity
Syriac Studies
Early Christianity
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


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.



Academic Year 2021/22
CLAS3671 - The Late Roman World
CLAS44430 - Edessa: The Athens of the East

Academic Year 2020/21
CLAS2911 - Roman Religion
CLAS3671 - The Later Roman Empire
CLAS44430 - Edessa: The Athens of the East

Academic Year 2019/20
CLAS1101 - Early Greek Philosophy
CLAS1541/2541/3641 - Intermediate Greek A
CLAS2911 - Roman Religion
CLAS3671 - The Later Roman Empire

Academic Year 2018/19
CLAS3671 - The Later Roman Empire
CLAS40130 - Classical Research Methods and Resources



Authored book

Chapter in book

Journal Article