Profile picture for user Duncan MacRae

Duncan MacRae

Associate Professor of Ancient Greek & Roman Studies
duncanmacrae@berkeley.edu
Dwinelle 7213
Mon 3-4pm; Fri 10-11am (sign up link available on AGRS 28 bcourses page)

Research Areas

Roman history, late Republic to late Antiquity; ancient religions, including Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity


Biography

I work on Roman history from the period of the late Republic to Late Antiquity, particularly the entangled histories of religion and cultural life in the empire. I find myself particularly preoccupied by the history of religious change, the sociology of knowledge, and, increasingly, the history of temporality. These interests have led me to also write on the history of Judaism in antiquity and the history of ideas in early modernity.

My main current book project is tentatively titled Roman Futures: An Essay in Cultural History. Against standard accounts that assume that Roman culture (and all pre-modern cultures) worked only with an attenuated sense of the future, I am interested in how Romans devoted great energy to the calculation and imagination of time-to-come and the wider cultural consequences of these forms of prediction and anticipation. Religion is a big part of this story, but so are economics and "science".

My first book, Legible Religion, was published by Harvard University Press in 2016. It argues that learned books that were written in the first century BCE by intellectuals like Varro, Cicero, Nigidius Figulus and a cast of Roman elites played an important role in the formation of the concept of "Roman religion". As well as providing the first history of Roman books on traditional religion, I also address a much broader historical question of how we can understand the role of text in religion without relying on the concept of Scripture. I continue to work on the religious and intellectual history of the Roman world and the history of antiquarianism. I am committed to the idea that Roman history should involve deep engagement with both the textual and material evidence; Latin epigraphy, which is both, is a particular interest.

I was educated at Trinity College Dublin (BA Classics) and Harvard (PhD Ancient History). At Berkeley, I am participating faculty in the Graduate Group for Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology (AHMA) and a faculty affiliate of the Berkeley Center for Jewish Studies and the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion.

 


Publications

Book:

Legible Religion: Books, Gods and Rituals in Roman Culture. 2016, Harvard University Press.

Recent Articles and Book Chapters:

Ludibrium Paulinae: Historiography, Anti-Pagan Polemic, and Aristocratic Marriage in De excidio Hierosolymitano 2.4,” Journal of Late Antiquity 14.2 (2021): 229-256.

“Roman Hegemony and the Hasmoneans: The Construction of Empire,” The Middle Maccabees: Archaeology, History, and the Rise of the Hasmonean Kingdom, edited by Andrea M. Berlin and Paul J. Kosmin, Atlanta: SBL Press, 2021: 331-345.

“The Date of the Proem of Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica: New Epigraphic Evidence from Naples” Classical Philology 116.1 (2021): 119-125.

“Simon the God: Imagining the Other in Second-Century Christianity,” Geneses: A Comparative Study of the Historiographies of the Rise of Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism, and Islam, edited by John Tolan, Abingdon: Routledge, 2019: 64-86.

“Mercury and Materialism: Images of Mercury and the Tabernae of Pompeii” Tracking Hermes, Persuing Mercury, edited by John F. Miller and Jenny Strauss Clay, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019: 193-208.

“The Two Gentlemen of Trachonitis: A Story of Violence in Galilee and Rome (Josephus, Vita 112-113, 149-154),” Strength to Strength: Essays in Honor of Shaye J. D. Cohen, edited by Michael Satlow, Providence: Brown Judaic Studies, 2018: 219-234.

The Freedman’s Story: an accusation of witchcraft in the social world of early imperial Roman Italy (CIL 11.4639)” Journal of Roman Studies 108 (2018): 53-73.

 “Diligentissumus investigator antiquitatis? ‘Antiquarianism’ and historical evidence between Republican Rome and the early modern Republic of Letters” In Omnium annalium monumenta: Historical Writing and Historical Evidence in Republican Rome, edited by Christopher Smith and Kaj Sandberg, Leiden: Brill, 2018: 137-156


Books