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The University of Southampton

ERC Advanced Grant Funded Research Studentship 2014-2017 in the field of Roman Mediterranean Ports (2): Epigraphy

Published: 2 May 2014Origin: Archaeology
Avenue Campus, Humanities

This is one of three funded studentships that form part of the ERC funded project Rome's Mediterranean Ports (RoMP) directed by Simon Keay in conjunction with Pascal Arnaud.

 The aim of this particular PhD studentship will be to develop furthering our understanding of the epigraphic evidence relating to Roman ports.

Scope of Studentship

Our knowledge of the layout and organization of Mediterranean ports under the Roman Empire relies mainly upon archaeology. However, the identification of most of their features and the way that they actually worked are still very unclear. This is a field, however, to which the study of Latin and Greek inscriptions can make an important contribution. This advert is for a three year funded studentship that focuses upon the epigraphic evidence for ports.

Port epigraphy consists mainly of honorary, funerary and commemorative inscriptions, and to a much lesser extent to regulations. Inscriptions were created by and for individuals or groups whose sociological relevance was the key to our understanding of why they displayed writing in public. Epigraphic evidence is for that reason selective. Inscriptions never clearly describe the way a port actually worked or its constituent parts because these were issues with which they were all familiar and, thus, implicit. As far as we know, no more than four inscriptions mention individuals involved in different levels of administration of ports other than Portus. Studying harbour societies, therefore, opens up a wider field of investigation, although as a single topic this would be far beyond the scope of a single PhD. This PhD will focus upon epigraphic evidence in order to understand the common elements and particular features of the “cultural landscape” of Roman Mediterranean ports. It will aim to inscribe human activities and buildings relating to ports within space of the harbour area as well as that of associated cities or towns. It will seek to compile a catalogue of epigraphic references to infrastructure, buildings and other architectural features, as well as the people involved in their management; it will also explore human activities, functions and different kinds of infrastructure within the port.

This PhD will first try to understand the material aspect of the harbour. Parallels with the iconography of ports will be essential to help make the distinction between common ground and particular features. The joint presence of pilae and honorary columns on the waterfront is generally thought to be a particular feature of the iconography of Puteoli. The inventory of such items in other harbours will make it possible for us to know whether this was a particular feature of Puteoli or part of port landscapes in general. It will then try to shed light upon aspects of the organization of activities (occupations, collegia, loading and unloading, storage, customs, trade activities, etc…) within ports, in terms of logistics, spatial organization, management, decision-making and individual initiatives.

The University invites applications for this research studentship. The precise choice of research issues to be addressed will lie with the student, although the final choice will be made in liaison with Professors Arnaud and Keay to ensure that it addresses the overall project aims. A necessary first step in the research, however, will be the creation of an inventory of the port vocabulary and its primary sources, after which the student will need to address issues relating to their meaning, including the evolution of terms and contaminations between Greek and Latin terms, and the reconciliation of these with available archaeological evidence. The student will also contribute to the annotated catalogue of ports mentioned by literary sources of the Imperial period and the compilation of the archaeological resource for c. 30 ports, both of which are key outcomes of the project.

All of the material necessary for this research has been published, and is partly available on line. Languages are Latin and Greek. A good knowledge of the iconography of ports would also be very advantageous.

The studentship will be held in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Southampton under the supervision of Prof. Simon Keay, in conjunction with Prof. Pascal Arnaud of the University of La Lumière Lyon, as part of a joint supervision arrangement. The PhD is tenable for a maximum of three years commencing September 2014, at an annual maintenance stipend of c. £15000. Fees, at the UKEU rate, will also be covered. Preference will be given in the selection of the successful student for an applicant who can read and speak English and French. It is envisaged that the student will need to spend a period of time at the University of Lyon. There will also be termly seminars at the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford.

For further details contact: Simon Keay ( or Pascal Arnaud ( as soon as possible and in no case later than the 21st May.

Entry requirements: The minimum of a good 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) and a Masters in a relevant discipline.

Application: Please complete the online University of Southampton application form and arrange for two academic references to be sent independently by the deadline.

In addition we need you to submit two further documents: a 500-600 word research proposal outlining the project, methodology and indicative bibliography; and a personal statement of no more than 400 words explaining how your project fits the scheme.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited for a SKYPE interview on the 27th May.

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